Why has the BMW 3 Series remained so popular for so long?For decades the BMW 3 Series has waved the banner for attainable dream cars. Carfection looks in depth at what has kept it so evergreen.
[MUSIC] This is a BMW 3-series. It's about as common on UK roads as they come. It's a premium German car for people who want to lead premium German lives. They want comfort, technology, toys, speed, a great drive. But they don't want to spend too much on fuels. And that's why this 320d is probably the one to go for. The 320d will do naught to 62 in a little over seven seconds, and its top speed is north of 140 miles an hour. According to BMW, in UK money It'll do over 65 mpg as well. Essentially it's the kind of car for the person who wants a whole Black Forest gateaux and to eat it all. The 3 series is a BMW [UNKNOWN] that used to be the entry to the range. The one estate agents and sales reps dreamed of being in. The kind your mother would kill over because it's one of those posh German cars In 2015 the 3 Series turned 40, a milestone in anyone's book. So here's a potted history. [SOUND] In 1975 the legendary 2002 was replaced with the E21 3 Series. It was faster and Better and more driver focused than the car that preceded it. And it has a cheeky little face. In 1982 though the E 30 appeared. It was a car that the UK's auto car magazine described as being perfect for yuppies. And it was also the first car to bear that M3 badge. The E36 came along in 1990. It came with fresh, [UNKNOWN] suspension, and a new very 90's face. I can't say I'm a fan of its look but there you go. It was followed in '98 by the E46. For me, the definitive three series. They've aged remarkably well and the M3 variant hasn't quite succumbed to the [UNKNOWN] proper Yet, it was the best selling three series as well. 3.3 million of them were shifted. In 2005, the E90 appeared, and as well as being better than the car it replaced, as is the norm, there were a couple of big bits of news. The N3 got a v8 and the convertible got a rag top it was no longer a folding hard top. Something BMW stuck with for the now four series because they got all name changey. The number cars for for people who like granite work services the odd numbered cars are more family stuff. Even though it was more luxurious and dynamically better Better than the E46, it wasn't much of a looker. I couldn't even like the M3, I just didn't find it that pretty. Anyway, in 2012, BMW brought out the S30 and [INAUDIBLE] in 2015. The three series' fourteenth anniversary and that's the car we're driving right here. ANd as usual, of course, It's better, in every way, than its predecessor. Especially on the looks front. Before I get to the bit where I make funny faces, let's have a think about how the 3 series got to where it is today. There was a time in the UK when having a family saloon was a thing people did. They had a four door vox, or even a rover. They were shaped like three boxes stuck together, and the little letters on the back held great meaning to people who sold toilets day to day. Then something funny happened. All of a sudden, cars that were cool, that were okay to own, well, they weren't. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes were making cars that were, they were the same size as the Fords and what have you, but they just had a better image. They gave you more kudos in a service station car park. Their parent company sees making cars with utmost luxury and efficiency and reliability whereas cars made on British soil, well they were falling short in the eyes of the drivers. Where once having a Vauxhall Carlton with fuel injection was the pinnacle of automotive excellence if your car wasn't German You lost a lot of space. Tony Blair's phrase for the every man worker was, Mondeo man. Now he's become, In Sport man. The BMW became the attainable green car. I mean, how many times have you spent hours thinking up your dream spec for that very special Vauxhall insignia? If this thing is supposed to be so special Has been at the top or near it for so long. What's it like to drive? Well I'll tell you what, I spent a couple hundred miles in it and it's lovely. It's a really nice thing. This isn't the Usual fare for us. But it's surprisingly quick. It's got 180-odd horsepower. It'll do naught to 60 in a little over seven. But it's the in-gear torque. Because of that two liter diesel engine. It's loads of go. You can sit on the motorway in second and if you see a gap, just gently rest your foot on the throttle in comfort mode and you'll just breeze into the gap. My favorite mode is obviously. Sports because I'm a child. The steering. You get decent feedback from it. You feel engaged, you feel involved with the car, with the drive. It's not too heavy, it's not too light. It is just right. The software response, again it's really sweet. It's not overwhelming. If you flip it a little bit, it won't tear you into the distance. You can rest on it. You can gently manipulate it. It, and you can feel the car working with you. The rear wheel driveness of the 3 series, it works. You can feel the setup of this car. You can feel the engineering prowess that's gone into it. 40 years, well more than, at this point, of trying Of making this car something that the people can own, they can enjoy. They can have as their attainable dream car. That's what the three series is. The gearbox again, we've got the manual here, you can get an auto. But it doesn't feel out of place in this car. It really doesn't. It's a nice smooth Sure action. Yes, it's not the cheapest car in the market. It's not the cheapest car of its size. But when you get into it, you just feel like it's that little bit better. You feel If you owned it, you've achieved something to get this far, to get this car, to have this as your daily ride. And it will do everything. It will be fun and it will be fast if you need it to be. But it'll also lug, say A family and all its stuff up and down the country to see Grammy. The three series name is still quite comotive something that C class and A4 I don't think have quite reached. It's one of those cars in it's class that you say it and you know exactly what kind of car you're talking about like the Volkswagen golf, or like The Ferrari. You know Ferrari is a fast car, you know a Golf is a small hatchback and you know a three series is assorted luxury executive loony thing. I understand why people like these. I understand why the three series has been going on for 40 years, and I'll bet you any money You'll be going on for many decades more. I often hear journalists saying the 320D is all the car you'll ever need, and while that's an enormous cliche it is right. It's little wonder the three series has become quite this popular as it is. After 14 years of excellence it really is hard to argue with. To think about it like this, if each new series is better than the car it succeeds then how good is this thing gonna be in another 40 years? [MUSIC]