The 3-Series has been the yardstick to measure the performance quotient of all entry-level luxury sedans with sporty aspirations. Regulars here would remember our excitement back when we got behind the wheel of a 2016 BMW 320d M Sport. The 3’er is known to deliver on days you need maximum performance, and it delivers it in spades. In India, however, most of these premium executive saloons are revered for the high luxury they have on offer, and it’s really rare to find your typical boy-racer indulging in traffic light GPs in any of these mighty Teutons. Hence, we decided to forget about the 3’er’s sporty credentials for a moment and spend a few days with a 2016 BMW 320i, in the top-end Luxury line, to see if the cheapest BMW sedan in India is at least as high on luxury and comfort as it is on sportiness and the fun-to-drive quotient. Our 2016 BMW 320i test drive review will take you through all there’s to know about this petrol-sipping Bimmer.
Also See- BMW 320D M Sport Test Drive Review
Design & Styling
Over the years, the BMW 3-series sedan has showcased both the sporting abilities and the grandeur of BMW sedans. The current generation 3’er is longer, wider and taller than its last iteration. Yet, it looks as athletic whilst looking all the more premium. The car’s wedge-like silhouette and a wide track play a key role in giving this car a really dynamic stance.
The base design of the 320i is much like that of the 320d we drove earlier, which means you get a really well-sculpted overall form with bold creases and taut surfaces. The 320i, however, doesn’t come in the tasty M Sport trim. Hence, it misses out on a sporty body kit and many M3-like bits. Instead, the 320i Luxury line brings you enough chrome accents and distinctly classy multi-spoke alloys to validate its ‘luxury’ credentials. Basically, it’s a tux versus racing overalls of the M Sport trim.
Instead of the black and tan colour theme of the 320d M Sport’s cabin, the 320i Luxury Line offers a Beige and Black combo with the lighter colour tone taking a precedence over the black bits. The predominantly beige-coloured cabin, along with quality materials, gives you a high sense of luxury. That said, the cabin still isn’t as plush as that of the latest Mercedes C-Class. It also doesn’t feel anywhere as modern as the new Audi A4’s cabin; yes, the interior of the 3-Series has started showing signs of aging. However, in spite of missing out on the M Sport line, the 320i’s cabin, other than being reasonably luxurious, continues to impress with its driver-centric layout and highly ergonomic seats. The seats are really comfortable and the chauffeur-driven are sure to appreciate the decent amounts of legroom on offer.
The interior of the 320i, especially in the Luxury trim, comes loaded to its brim with comfort & convenience features. Of course, there’s the excellent iDrive, which now comes paired to an 8.8-inch screen. The infotainment unit offers 20 GB of internal storage capacity and a nine speaker audio system. Other than this, you also get leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting for the cabin, electric sunroof, electric front seats, memory feature for driver’s seat and a Sport+ drive mode. The car also offers steering-mounted paddle-shifters.
Engine & Performance
Think again if you ever thought the 320i is any tamer than its siblings! The 2016 320i is powered by a 2.0-litre inline-four turbocharged petrol engine that outputs 184 HP and 270 Nm. Make no mistake, the 320i does not have a twin turbo setup. The ‘TwinPower Turbo’ on the engine cover refers to the car’s twin scroll turbocharger. Basically, the 320i and the 328i use the same 4-cylinder motor. The 328i has a higher power output owing to a different turbocharger and exhaust system.
Back in the good ol’ days, the 328 came with a 3.0-litre straight six and the 320 with an inline-four 2.0-litre. Even some of the older 320s had straight six motors. However, the new four-cylinder engines for the 3-Series pay homage to the origins of the 3’er – it was with high-strung four-bangers that the 3-Series was born back in the 70s.
On the go, the 320i, in spite of having a power disadvantage over the 328i, exhibits a strong acceleration. While we couldn’t time the car on a VBOX, I’m pretty sure it can dismiss 100 KMPH from standstill in roughly 8.5 seconds. But it’s not just the numbers game that this car is good at. Akin to its Diesel-sipping sibling, the 320D, the 320i impresses with the linear power delivery. The power and torque curves are so linear that you might almost get fooled into believing that it’s a normally-aspirated motor under that long hood. The mid-range is really strong and the engine can rev till 6,800 RPM. Thanks to a refined yet punchy engine with enough performance throughout the rev range, the 320i scores highly when it comes to the proverbial ‘waftability’. There’s also a really sweet exhaust note to boot.
Ride & Handling
The current generation 3s offer a good mix of sporty handling characteristics and ride quality. Underpinning this core value is an avant-garde chassis that benefits from usage of lightweight components. BMW has used sophisticated axle kinematics and a really precise steering system. In the ‘Sport+’ mode, the steering gets really talkative and weighs up well with speed. Also, thanks to a rear wheel drive (RWD) layout, there’s no torque steer during quick bursts of acceleration.
The ride quality is pretty good, too. True, the suspension has a touch of stiffness to it and the ride gets a tad firm over broken surfaces, but the 320i stays pliant even when going over speed humps and undulations. Also, a slightly firm ride is a really small price to pay for the elan this car exhibits in the corners.
We’ve always liked the current, F30, 3-Series for the driving pleasure and brand image it offers. However, as we discovered during the time we spent with the 320i, there’s definitely more to the 3-series than just outright driving performance. The 2016 BMW 320i, while not being as wild as its decidedly sportier siblings, offers just the right mix of luxury, comfort and driver-involvement. There are really not many other cars that can so effortlessly manage to blend luxury and sportiness.
True, the 320i comes with the least powerful engine in the 3-series range, but the overall package it offers is hard to ignore. You get the almost unparalleled driving dynamics along with a fairly powerful engine, but that’s not all. The cabin comfort level is quite high, the chauffeur-driven should love the comfortable seat and leg-space on offer. True, the cabin doesn’t have the ultra-modern touch of some of its rivals. However, it still impresses with overall comfort levels, high level of equipment and the slightly driver-centric layout. The 320i is the car to buy if you’re in the market for a petrol-powered entry-level luxury sedan whose cosseting rear seat will keep you happy when being chauffeured to the office, while you’ll love to drive it on your trips to the golf course.
So, what do you think of our 2016 BMW 320i review and test drive details? Do let us know by penning down your thoughts in the comments section below. Stay tuned for more such test drive reviews.