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Motoring: With a new name, BMW upgrades

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | April 20th, 2009

Over the last few years, BMW has not changed much about their best selling model, probably because it didn't need much changing. However, for the 2009 model year, they have tweaked some things about it.

The new sedan gets revised headlamps, a new hood, a new grille, a new bumper and new taillights. Oh and it also gets a badge. Now, the all-wheel drive versions are not badged “Xi”, instead they have badges on the side that read “xDrive.”

Why the silly new badges are beyond me, but the rest of the changes do make the 3-series look better than last years model.

Plus, BMW has not messed with its driving dynamics, and trust me on this, the 3-series is one of the best sedans on the market when it comes to driver satisfaction.

I recently spent time with a 335i xDrive to reacquaint myself with this beautiful car. As soon as I stepped inside, the car felt right. The seats are excellent, if only all cars had BMW seats. The driving position is spot on, and everything falls easily at hand. BMW has even altered the position of the power window switches, so now they are easier to access.

There is plenty of room in the front, and while the rear seats do lack some legroom, it isn't any worse than most cars in this category.

Only area BMW can improve on with the 3-series is the look and feel of some interior panels, areas such as the housing of map lights and sunroof switch looks cheap, and the interior from an aesthetics point of view is not as amusing as most of its rivals.

Aside from that, everything works very well. The 3-series also benefits from a new i-Drive system, but my test car wasn't equipped with that option so I can't comment on how improved the new system is.

I can comment on what a pleasure it is to drive, thanks especially to its wonderful engine. While the 3-series can be had with a variety of engines, possibly the best one has to be the 335i. This version gets a 3-litre, inline six-cylinder engine, which has two turbo-chargers. This engine produces 300 hp, but more importantly, it also produces 300 lb/ft of torque at just 1400 rpm. That means this is a very quick car at any speed, in any gear.

Speaking of gears, you have a choice between a six-speed steptronic automatic or a six-speed manual, as was in my test car, which made it even more fun. For those performance number crunchers out there, it will sprint from 0-100 km/h in 5.6 seconds, and onto an electronically limited top-speed of 210 km/h, fast enough for most occasions I think.

Along with the speed comes the handling. The 3-series has always been a great driving machine, and thankfully that hasn't changed. I love how the steering feel works with the chassis, suspension and tires to give you an exact feel of what the car is doing underneath you. This helps greatly in informing the driver how far he or she can push it before it ends up in a ditch, and trust me, with its electronic stability control system and a reactive all-wheel drive system, you have to be an absolute idiot to crash it.

As a driving tool it is fantastic, but what comes as an even bigger surprise is how comfortable the car is to ride in. Honestly this car is more comfortable than most limo's I have been in. It glides over bumps, potholes, railroad tracks and manhole covers as if they aren't even there.

You can drive this car all day, everyday, and you won't feel tired. While the new BMW 3-series might not be the prettiest car in its class or have the most luxurious looking interior, it does fight back with an amazing ride, almost flawless handling, and performance that will put a smile on your face every time you lean on the throttle.

The current 3-series range starts at $34,900 with the base 323i. The 335i xDrive, like the model I tested starts at $51,500. Some might think over $50,000 for a 3-series is a lot of money, but trust me on this one, just drive it and it'll make all the financial sense in the world.
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