If there is ever a car that we all have a relationship with as a black person from the townships or the rural areas, it’s the BMW 3 series. It takes me back to the ’90s in Alexandra and the cool guys would be driving the E30 325is and they would always be in vibrant colours. I think there was a competition with regards to how far you could take it with colours, I think my favourite one while growing up was a peach 325is – in the township, we used to call them Intelligent Student.
I think the first goldish car I saw was a BMW 325i, man the guys really got creative with the colours. I grew up at 12th avenue Selborne road in Alexandra, there was a guy named Pedro – he was notorious in the hood but that’s not the point – Pedro had an E30 M3, we thought we had seen all kinds of 3 series in the township until Pedro introduced us to the M3. We didn’t even know what it was because it didn’t have the M3 badge. It was left-hand drive, oak steering wheel with a knob on it. Pedro only took the car out for a drive on Sundays and it would be an event for us as kids seeing the BMW that was extra special. The body kit was just better than the 325is and for the fact that it was left-handed drive, it made it even more special.
Whether at home they drove another car make, you would always marvel at the 3 series in those days and what the car could do as well. Like I said, from there colours to how the guys would take care of these cars, they were always clean or at the carwash. I never got to understand the fascination with this car as a kid, besides the fact that it’s fast and when the national team won the African Cup of Nation it was a BMW by the corner that was spinning. When it was time for me to attend the new 3 series media launch in Cape Town I was interested in what the new BMW had to offer this time. We stayed at The Bays Hotel in Camps Bay and I really had a nice view of the pool and the ocean. As soon as we landed we headed to the hotel and did a meet and greet with everyone and we picked our cars. I started with the 320d because what I have figured out with car reviews is that the diesel model is always a best of both worlds package, it has everything you need but it’s not top of the range, nor is it an entry level model – it’s just there in the middle and it’s good on fuel as well.
The first thing you notice is the design change, I’ve seen pictures of the new design and I wasn’t really convinced until I saw it live and I didn’t mind it, after all, also it’s really nice in red or dark charcoal. What you notice first as you enter the car is that the dashboard is new and what I really like is that the iDrive display now looks like part of the dashboard compared to before when it stuck out and it looked out of place. Everything is just cleaner and simpler in the BMW style – they haven’t lost the essence of the brand. I just love the upgrade. The gear area has also changed, it looks more 850i like. We went on our first drive and the one thing I like about BMW is that no matter the series or model, you will enjoy the drive, the steering wheel is rather thinner compared to the 5 series. The 320d is not as fast as the 330i, but it moves when it has to – this is the ride for those who are looking for luxury and comfort and not really much for speed fanatics. Cape Town or George are ideal places where one should be test driving these beasts, on a long distance trip I would definitely take the 320d because of comfort and fuel. Also, for a diesel engine, the car is not as loud as you imagined. We got a chance to enter the 330i as well and that is a different beast altogether, I love the noise it makes when you press the accelerator and it inspires you to take it on the open road and give it a go and see what the people pf BMW have created.
An interesting approach by BMW is that they priced both these models the same and I get it, while others at the launch didn’t understand – I think the approach is brave and I’m interested to see the results of this approach as they both cost R649 000. BMW 330i Sedan(3): Fuel consumption in l/100 km (combined): 6.1–5.8 CO2 emissions in g/km (combined): 139–132. BMW 320d Sedan: Fuel consumption in l/100 km (combined): 4.7–4.4 [4.5–4.2] CO2 emissions in g/km (combined): 122–115 [117–110].