Turbocharged engine is refined
The BMW 3 Series is one of the most desirable cars in the premium sector, and with a range of body styles available there is something to suit all tastes and needs. A key success for the previous generation model was the Coupe, and to complement the current 3 Series Saloon and Touring models, BMW has introduced an all-new Coupe.
Despite being clearly related to the 3 Series Saloon and Touring models, the Coupe version actually shares almost no exterior panels and details with its stable mates. The most notable differences are the larger kidney grilles, taller bonnet with power bulge and the rounded shoulders at the rear. It also uses different LED lights at the rear, and the overall effect is a car that is attractive but sufficiently different from its sibling models.
Mechanically the 3 Series does share much of its make up with the saloon version, although it has also benefited from an increase in the number of engines available. The range-topping version is a 3.0-litre twin turbocharged straight six, which has one small turbocharger working with three-cylinders each. This reduces the response time of the turbos, and although it means a smaller output compared with a larger version, it makes the car much more responsive to drive.
Inside the Coupe again shares much of its make up with the saloon version, although there are some subtle differences. In the rear the bench seat from the Saloon and Touring models are replaced with a pair of seats, while the centre console runs from the front of the car to the rear and between the seats, providing storage for rear seat passengers.
The long single door on each side of the car makes access easier for front seat passengers, and to aid entry to the rear, the seats can tilt forward and also slight electrically at the touch of a button. A further help is the seat belt helper, an electrically powered arm which pushes the seat belt towards the passengers, allowing for the mounting point being further back.
As a driver's car the 3 Series Coupe is highly impressive, and is likely to satisfy the most demanding driver. Even so, it remains composed and comfortable, and its impressive features combined with attractive design and styling make for an impressive overall package.
Running costs for the 3 Series Coupe will be relatively high due to the performance on offer, though fuel economy is respectable. Although the purchase price is relatively high it should retain a good proportion of its value in the long term.
For a car of this size, arguably there should be more passenger room in the cabin, although it is certainly not cramped. Front seat passengers are well catered for, as are those in the rear, although headroom is more restricted in the back. There are some areas for storing oddments, but not enough for a car designed to carry four passengers and their luggage.
The 3 Series Coupe in general has a superb cabin layout, with clear and attractive buttons and displays which work with a satisfying action. The possible exception to this is the iDrive controller, which operates a number of functions through the central display. It takes some time to grasp its functions and operation, though once mastered it is an intuitive device.
The seats in the Coupe are very good, offering a wide range of adjustment and excellent support. Those in the rear are also comfortable, and the impressively low noise levels also contribute to comfort levels. Only the wide tyres can produce some road roar at higher speeds.
The 3 Series Coupe benefits from a comprehensive security package, including an engine immobiliser, alarm system and remote central locking. It also has no ignition barrel, instead using a cartridge type key for added security.
The BMW is packed with numerous safety features designed to improve occupant safety. One of the most notable features is the DSC+ system, which amongst other features keeps the brake pads dry in wet weather by gently applying the brakes automatically, and can also account for brake fade in extreme conditions.
Even in 2.5-litre form the Coupe provides an impressive driving experience, but the muscle of the 3.0-litre twin turbocharged version is even more enjoyable. The use of two small turbochargers acting simultaneously removes any noticeable trace of turbo lag, resulting in huge torque at low engine speeds. Higher up the rev range there is still plenty of power, and the firm change of the six-speed gearbox makes it easy to access the performance. Just as impressive is the handling, which is sharp, controlled and a great deal of fun. Despite this firm set up the ride quality is very good.
The Coupe is less well suited to family duties than the Saloon or Touring models, but even so it has enough room for passengers and luggage to make it usable in this role. The most likely downside is the restricted access to the rear seats.
The 3 Series Coupe is unlikely to make an ideal first car, given its high performance, expense, rear wheel drive configuration and heavy controls.
The quality feel of the 3 Series Coupe is one of its chief appeals, and from outside to inside it feels like a high quality car. Its image also builds on this quality feel, and its dynamic and sporty appearance combined with its renowned driving pleasure give it a very strong image.
Getting into the Coupe is made easy thanks to the long doors, which give plenty of access to the front seats. Rear access is helped by the tilting and electric sliding function of the front seats, while electric seat belt arms push the belt forwards towards front seat passengers to avoid the long stretch back to the B-pillar.
A radio/CD unit is fitted as standard as is an auxiliary input connector. The sound quality is very good even from the standard system, while the steering wheel controls make it easy to operate.
With leather trim fitted on higher specification models, the choice of colours can dramatically alter the appearance of the cabin. A traditional cream colour scheme looks smart, but one alternative of red leather and black trim is more dynamic and attractive. The materials used throughout are of a very high quality.
Parking the 3 Series is made much easier with the fitment of the parking sensors, which provide and audible and visual proximity warning, taking the stress out of parking. Even so, the clutch and steering are a little heavy at slow speeds.
Run flat tyres fitted as standard to all models.
Engine options: 2.0-litre petrol (193bhp), 2.5-litre petrol (218bhp), 3.0-litre petrol (272bhp), 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol (306bhp), 2.0-litre diesel (163bhp), 3.0-litre diesel (197bhp, 231bhp and 286bhp). All Coupe models are fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. Trim levels are concurrent with the engine size, with equipment increasing with capacity and power output.