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BMW 3-Series in-depth

The upgraded 3-Series features the much improved, second-generation iDrive system, but there's much more tech lurking around in BMW's most popular model.

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Derek Fung
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1 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Hey good lookin'

The upgraded 3-Series features the much improved, second-generation iDrive system, but there's much more tech lurking around in BMW's most popular model.

Once you're done browsing all the pretty pictures here, don't forget to check out our comprehensive 3-Series review to find out why we gave it an Editors' Choice award despite being on the wrong side of lethargic. There's also an in-depth iDrive review.

Maybe it's a sign that we're getting on in years, but we actually find the 3-Series wagon to be a more handsome vehicle than the sedan upon which it's based. We'd still pick the coupe as the looker in the 3-Series family though.

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2 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Watcha lookin' at Willis?

The driving lights form distinctive light rings around the main beam (left) and high-beam (right). LED lights are used for the orange side marker, as well as the turn indicators. Bi-xenon headlights, an AU$2200 option, provide a searing beam of white light and can be specced up so that they'll swivel to help you see around corners (AU$940).

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3 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Tripping the light fantastic

BMW continues to do great things in terms of lighting design. The face-lifted 3-Series range all feature LED indicators, as well as driving lights shaped like a bent neon sign.

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4 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

On the rack

Black roof rails are included as standard with all 3-Series wagons, but they're almost useless without the optional roof racks.

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5 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Lift me up higher and higher, part I

The rear windscreen can be lifted up separately from the rest of the tailgate. As superfluous a feature as this seems to be, it's almost a necessity due to the tailgate's heft. It's a great way of throwing shopping or backpacks in the boot. The windscreen is connected to the rear luggage blind, which will zip backwards and reveal all whenever the windscreen is lifted up. You'll have to reset the blind manually before closing the screen though.

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6 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Lift me up higher and higher, part II

There's ample space in the boot, most of the time. The rear seats also fold flat to increase carrying capacity, while there's an assortment of luggage hooks and nets to keep things in place.

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7 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Sorry ma, I left a puddle

Unlock the doors and the door handles' puddle lights will switch on briefly. Very elegant, but we can't remember the last time we couldn't find the door handle.

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8 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

New iDrive controller

This new iDrive controller is present on all sat nav equipped 3-Series models. Beware though, opt for the cheaper Business Navigation system and you'll have to put up with a mind-bendingly bad first-gen iDrive system. The considerably more expensive Professional Nav system not only features the new iDrive, but also has a bigger screen, 80GB hard disk for faster navigation in 3D, as well as music ripping, TV receivers and voice control.

For an in-depth look at the new generation iDrive system, check out

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9 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Fade to black

As with most new cars nowadays, the BMW's interior lights slowly fade to black when you exit.

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10 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Two zones are better than one

A dual-zone climate control system is standard, but the centrally located door lock is a bit of a hassle to reach.

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11 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

8.8 inches baby!

The Professional Navigation system's 8.8-inch screen is bright, clear and easily viewable even in bright Aussie sunlight. In this picture you can see the new iDrive system's split-screen mode, with menu surfing happening on the left and sat nav instructions on the right.

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12 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Everybody move to the centre

The centre console houses a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, as well as a USB port, for connecting your favourite MP3 player. The lining not only prevents rattles but should keep iPod scuffing to a minimum. There's space too for a pair of sunnies and keys.

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13 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Welcome home

The interior may be a little bit austere in parts, but it does feel well built and the materials are first rate — especially the rubberised hand grips, soft touch plastics and optional brushed metal accents. Also, the leather has a wonderfully earthy feel to it, although we're not so keen on the tan colour.

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14 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Grrrrrrr

With the bonnet open, the headlights and grille have a menacing visage. Unfortunately it's not backed up by the 2.0-litre engine, which is not particularly powerful and has 1460kg of vehicle to haul around. If you can afford the 325i's 2.5-litre six-cylinder engine, do it.

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15 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Fencing

A flexible net clips into the wagon's ceiling to protect passengers from any flying objects in the boot.

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16 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

We don't talk like we used to

The Professional Navigation system comes standard with a voice recognition system. Press the talk button, utter any menu item (exactly, mind you, and without any background noise) and you can control the iDrive system without taking your eyes off the road. The system also makes a decent stab at recognising names in your phone book. If that's all a bit much, call your best mate via the car's Bluetooth hands-free system and settle in for a nice, long chat.

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17 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Thank God for America

You're not a luxury car maker these days if your cup holders don't spring forth out of nowhere with a beautifully articulated dance that would make the Bolshoi Ballet weep.

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18 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Shift to sport

The six-speed automatic allows for sequential gear selection and has a Sport mode, which brings marginally improved performance and greatly reduce mileage.

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19 of 19 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

The not key

Although there's a real key hiding within the fob, chances are you'll never have to use it. Just insert the fob into the slot in the dashboard and press the big red Start button.

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