The sixth-generation BMW 3 Series will be launched in South Africa next month and it's one of those cars for which we could easily use the 'improved' cliché in just about every sentence - except the styling, you might argue.
Longer, wider and more spacious yet 40kg lighter than the car it replaces, the new Three also brings a raft of new technologies to the line-up.
Yet having found the pricing and specification chart, we can also tell you that those improvements also double as extra rungs on the price ladder. Without further ado…
320i - R363 052
320i AT - R380 539
320i SAT* - R387 639
320d - R390 500
320d AT - R408 500
320d SAT* - R415 600
328i - R440 979
328i AT - R458 808
328i SAT* - R465 908
335i SAT* - R543 000
* SAT = Sports Automatic Transmission
This latest 3 Series takes a leap into the modern age with the entire line-up being turbocharged.
Rather than downsizing to the 1.6-litre turbopetrol found in the new 1 Series, the baseline 320i petrol has a 2-litre engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger. It produces 135kW at 5000rpm and 270Nm between 1250 and 4500rpm.
BMW reckons this one will run from 0-100km/h in just 7.3 seconds (7.6 for the automatic) and sip 6.1 litres per 100km/h on the combined cycle.
An even more frugal option that matches the aforementioned power output but thumps out 350Nm of torque, and sips just 4.4 l/100km in automatic form, is the 320d. This 1995cc turbodiesel will also run from 0-100 in 7.5 seconds, says BMW.
The 328i uses a more powerful version of the 320i's 2-litre turbopetrol, with 180kW at 5000rpm and 350Nm from 1250rpm allowing a 5.9-second 0-100 and 6.4 l/100km/h consumption penalty. The 335i flagship produces 225kW from 5800rpm, 400Nm from 1200rpm, takes 5.5 seconds to 100km/h and consumes 7.2 l/100km.
The 335i comes standard with BMW's eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is optional on the other three engines (a six-speed manual 'box being standard) but one thing that all versions do come with is a fuel-saving idle-stop system is standard on all models.
STILL A DRIVER'S CAR
Of course those traditional 3 Series institutions like rear-wheel drive and 50:50 front to rear weight distribution are still in place, but engineers have sought to improve its cornering ability further with retuned suspension that makes abundant use of light alloy components.
Although the pricing might seem a bit steep at first glance, considering that the entrance fee has jumped from R318 540 to R363 052, there is a more generous helping of standard equipment.
All models come with Dakota leather seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control with brake function, iDrive with 6.5-inch colour display, keyless engine start, automatic lights and windscreen wipers and a multifunction leather-covered steering wheel. Safety kit includes front, side and curtain airbags, the latter also catering for rear passengers, and Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction control are also part of the package.
Not surprisingly, there is an options list as long as all of our arms put together and you might need to buy your bank manager more than just a few drinks to have him fund the R21 500 19-inch wheel option, R22 350 surround view system or R14 700 full-colour head-up display to name just a few. Unfortunately, your health insurance is not going to subsidise any of the nifty safety features, like the lane changing warning (R8650) or adaptive headlights (R15 050).
NEW EQUIPMENT LINES
Just like the latest 1 Series, BMW offers a convenient way to dress up your 3 Series to make it a bit more unique than the standard model. Each boasts a long list of unique trimmings outside and in.
The Sport Line, most notable for its high-gloss black invasion, will set you back an extra R18 100 on the 320i and 320d, R17 400 on the 328i and R14 200 on the 335i.
Taking a more blingy approach, you'll notice the Modern Line pack for its abundance of matt chrome. This option adds R12 900 to the price of a 320i or 320d, R10 900 to the 328i and R7600 in the 335i's case. Finally, the Luxury Line can be had for an extra R14 400 (320i and 320d), R10 900 (328i) and R7600 (335i.)
PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN
Like all but the first generation, the new 3 Series is being built at our Rosslyn assembly plant north of Pretoria but this one comes with an even bigger export contract than the previous two generations.
Representing a R2.2-billion investment into South Africa's economy, production of the new 3 Series will create 600 new jobs.
About 85 percent of the cars produced here will be exported and the plant's capacity is expected to grow from 55 000 a year to more than 90 000.