Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
The BMW 3 series has long been at the very center of BMW’s core‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ philosophy, and the benchmark executive compact sedan for over 40 years. The current sixth generation 3 Series, designated F30, already improves on its predecessors in nearly every way, but the M Sport packagetakes an all-time favorite to another level altogether. Let’s dig deeper and find out why.
Subtly aggressive styling
The 3 Series has grown in length over the years, now with a wheelbase length roughly equivalent to that of an E39 5 Series from 20 years ago, while keeping its actual length decidedly compact. This results in a fine balance between riding out bumps comfortably while maintaining a sense of agility without having to deal with the extra metal of a longer body. In keeping with its tight proportions, the 3 Series’ silhouette, is of course, incredibly handsome and svelte, with a sweeping hood, short front overhang, and fluid character lines.
The M Sport package gives and added athleticism to the 3 Series without going overboard. The M Aerodynamics package includes a larger, more gaping front air intake, sportier front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and dark metallic diffuser inserts. Its profile is enhanced even further by large 18-inch alloy wheels and 255/40/R18 low profile Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season tires. To our eyes, the 3 Series M Sport is undoubtedly the best looking of the 3 Series line, boasting just the right amount of added muscularity that stirs a sense of excitement just from glancing at it.
The added flair of the M Sport package carries over to the interior, with the aluminum trim highlights grabbing your attention first. The contrast provided by the blue, white and black color schemes extend to the door panels, giving the interior its own unique character. The M leather steering wheel is a joy to hold, and provides one of the most comfortable steering grips in its class. The red rings added to the dials of the instrument cluster finish off the sporty touches. The sport seats are designed to keep you in place during enthusiastic driving, completely clad in leather to make you feel at home at the track or at the country club.
The added length to the F30 from the previous E90 contributes to a more spacious rear, capable of seating three large adults comfortably with legroom to spare, though the middle passenger will have to contend with a high center tunnel. However, rear passengers do get their own air-conditioning vents to keep themselves cool during the hottest of summers. While the 3 Series M Sport can double as a sporty family car, the driver undoubtedly benefits the most, as finding a comfortable driving position is extremely easy with the multitude of adjustments, resulting in near perfect ergonomics.
When it comes to the 3 Series, our engine of choice has always been the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. With an output of 190 hp and 400 Nm of torque, the 320d delivers unrivaled throttle response and usable low-end torque perfect for city driving. On long stretches, the 320d easily provides ample overtaking power even at speeds above 120 km/h. BMW claims an acceleration of 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 230 km/h, which we fully believe the 320d is capable of.
Best of all, the diesel engine returns excellent fuel economy. Leaving the Driving Experience Control setting on the middle COMFORT mode, we achieved an average of 13.5 kilometers per liter on mixed highway and city driving. BMW claims an improvement of up to 20% driving on the much thriftier ECO PRO mode.
The 320d M Sport also takes corners very well, and thanks to its rear-wheel drive bias, becomes tremendously fun to drive spiritedly. Adaptive M Suspension allows you to select three modes: COMFORT, SPORT, and SPORT+, with varying degrees of damping stiffness.
An intact legacy
With unquestionable refinement and build quality, handsome styling, and exceptional driving characteristics, the 320d M Sport is a car you’ll always look forward to driving after a long day at work. While its competitors come extremely close, the 3 Series continues a strong tradition of leading the compact executive sedan segment, with the M Sport package making an already great car even better.