BMW 3-Series 2012 320d Luxury Plus - User Experience Review
Expert Reviews : DesignUser Experience Performance Safety
User Experience Review of BMW 3-Series 2012 320d Luxury Plus
Last Updated at 11:58 am, May 20, 2013Rating :
The new 3-series is bigger in all respects and packs quite a few class-leading features.| Photography: Eshan Shetty
The new 3-series is wider and longer than the outgoing model. The increased dimensions are not only evident when you look at the car, but also when you enter it. Let us start with the backseat space and comfort – one of the most ridiculed features of the earlier 3. The rear seat now has better knee room and foot space. Like the earlier model, there are recesses in the front seats to improve the knee room further. The under-thigh support too is better than the outgoing model. Though the 3-series does start in the price band of a top-end Skoda Superb or a Volkswagen Passat, don’t expect similar room at the back – because the 3-series is still a compact sports sedan and not a luxury saloon. Being a rear-wheel drive car, the 3-series only allows two adults to sit comfortably in the backseat as the transmission tunnel creates quite an intrusion in the floor. The back bench gets a centre arm-rest and pair of air-con vents as well. The rear seat comfort feels better than the earlier model and should make the chauffer driven type buyer happy.
The front seats have a comfortable cushioning too and the leather isn’t too hard. The seats get adjustable height, reach, recline, headrests, and even under-thigh support. Most of the adjustments are electronic and the driver’s seat also gets a memory function. However the seat-mounted controls aren’t as convenient as the door-mounted controls that you get in the C-class.
If you are an enthusiast driver, you’ll particularly like the design of the cockpit – unless you are like a Sagittarian who likes everything to be roomy. The entire cockpit wraps around the driver with a tilted dashboard, a high-rise centre console and an almost upright steering wheel. However, the pedals are placed in such a way that you need to sit closer to the steering wheel in order to reach them properly – unless of course you are a fairly tall person. But that said, the driving position is such that you’ll enjoy the car to the fullest when you are driving it around corners.
The interiors of the Luxury line we tested came with black and beige colour combination with real wood trim. The interiors look and feel premium as compared to the Sports line – however, I would have liked perforated leather on the seats than the plain texture. The dashboard also gets a 23cm high resolution LCD screen for the infotainment system. Though it sticks out of the dash, it doesn’t hamper vision in anyway.
The screen displays the new iDrive interface. Speaking of which, the evolved iDrive interface not only pulls off all the usual wizardry like controlling the various electronics in the car, displaying all sorts of information that the onboard computers are analyzing and displaying the album art from your music files, it now also features a new ConnectedDrive interface. Through an app on the iPhone, the car can help you read news and connect to your social networking apps like Twitter and Facebook and get all the updates on the screen itself. The new iDrive also comes with a fully functional satellite navigation system even on the Indian spec 3-series. The same iDrive interface is also available on the entry-level 3-series models, albeit with limited functionality and a smaller, 16 cm screen. The audio and telephone interface gets additional controls on the steering wheel with rollers and buttons doing the job.
The centre console continues to use a simplistic layout with all the basics in place. You have a CD / DVD loading slot, controls for the audio and controls for the dual-zone climate control system all stacked up cleanly. The lower part of the console houses a couple of storage compartments and cup holders. The gear knob, like the cockpit, is driver-centric and twisted towards the driver for better ergonomics. The interface of the shifter needs a little getting used to as the ‘Park’ mode is button operated while the shifter needs to be used like a joystick to navigate through the rest of the modes viz. Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Next to the shifter are switches for toggling the traction control and selecting the driving modes like Eco-Pro, Comfort and Sport. Last but not the least is the trademark jog-dial for the iDrive interface with the shortcut buttons for the navigation, audio, phone etc. laid around it.
Overall, the new 3-series packs some segment leading features like a satellite navigation system and limited internet connectivity while also packing other essential features which all sum up to give it an edge over the competition. The design of the interiors feels more functional than outright luxurious. The interiors do not feel as tightly packed as Volvo S60 but don’t feel as snobbish as the C-class or the Audi A4 either. Though I like it that way, the luxury seeking buyer may not.
First Published on 12:23 pm, September 03, 2012