The BMW 3-Series is the Munich automaker's volume seller, for several reasons. For one, its size and its features make it the ideal sedan for the Filipino affluent family of four (or five), with tastes that only the nouveau/old/filthy rich can afford. Second, its engine and drivetrain layout, especially its E46 version, makes it the ideal luxury sport compact car, suited even for circuit racing.

But with its E46 version out in the market for quite a long time (nearly six years), BMW deemed it fit to introduce a newer and refined version. Dubbed the E90, the newest BMW 3-Series offers features such as four new engines (three gasoline engines, one diesel engine), six-speed gearboxes, VALVETRONIC technology, its trademark Active Steering technology, push button ignition and a new exterior design. Also, the E90 comes with a three-year warranty that covers almost all potential problems with the vehicle. "With BMW and our dealerships covering almost everything with the E90, all the customer has to worry about is buying gasoline. This warranty makes sure that our customers will be satisfied with our product for a very long time," said Lito German, BMW Philippines corporate communications manager.

Under the hood

As mentioned earlier, the E90 totes four engine variants. Unfortunately, the Philippine market (as of this writing) only gets the gasoline variants – namely, a three-liter inline six cylinder (found in the 330i, 258 hp at 6650 rpm, 221 lbs ft at 2500-4000 rpm), a two-liter, four-cylinder variant (found in the 320i, 150 hp at 6200 rpm, 147 lbs ft at 3600 rpm) and a 2.5-liter inline six cylinder (found in the 325i, 218 hp at 6500 rpm, 184 lbs ft at 2750-4250 rpm). On the other hand, BMW Philippines is mum about the launch of the two-liter, four-cylinder, diesel-powered variant found in the 320d (163 hp, 251 lbs ft at 2000 rpm).

For the top-end 330i, it is interesting to note that its engine uses magnesium for the crankcase, crankshaft bearings and cylinder head cover. This reduces crankshaft/crankcase weight by nearly 30 percent and total engine weight by nearly seven percent over the aluminum-lined, top-end E46. This not only improves power (12 percent more hp than in the E46 325i) but also improves fuel consumption (a 12 percent better km/l rate than in the E46 325i).

In keeping with engine weight reduction, BMW engineers lightened the 330i's camshafts by 600 grams, designed valve travel to be chain-driven and pushed for single-belt drive for all ancillary sources. This reduces weight even more and helps reduce wear and tear (and potential trips to the nearest BMW dealer) on the engine.

The 330i also offers BMW's second-generation VALVETRONIC throttle-free load management system, ensuring infinite control of the opening and staying times of the intake valves, as a function of the gas pedal position. On a conventional engine, output is controlled by the throttle butterfly that "limits" the flow of intake air, gradually losing power in the process. With VALVETRONIC, the E90 reduces load change resistance to a minimum, thus guaranteeing very efficient use of the fuel supplied and a much better engine response.

Of slushboxes and start (engine) buttons

All E90 models are equipped with tailor-made six-speed gearboxes, all utilizing an a/t platform that features closer increments between gears and a wide range between first and sixth gear. This makes the driver adjust the gearshift process perfectly to engine and road speeds, with smooth upshift and downshift transition. This comes in to play especially in everyday driving, thanks to the gobs of torque provided by each gasoline engine.

Also, all E90 models utilize a push-button engine start feature, thanks to rapid-action, six-volt spark plugs that support the start-up process (even in cold weather) by operating as the driver opens the door. In addition, the E90's six-volt spark plugs warm only the tip to peak temperature as the driver opens the doors, saving electricity consumption.

Active Steering

First seen in the current-model BMW 5-Series, the 330i is the first of the E90 models to receive Active Steering, essentially an additional electronically-controlled motor that can override the mechanical transmission within the steering column. This function is geared to various sensor signals such as the rotational speed of the wheels, the steering angle, yaw rate and lateral acceleration.

Under regular driving conditions Active Steering modifies the steering lock of the front wheels determined by the driver as a function of road speed and without any repercussions on the steering wheel. Given the small steering angle, the car becomes even more agile and easier to handle, especially at 100 kph and above.

In city traffic, Active Steering ensures optimum motoring comfort wherever you go, lock-to-lock operation of the steering wheel at a standstill dropping from more than three to less than two full turns of the steering wheel. This means that under everyday conditions the driver is hardly required any more to cross over his hands on the steering wheel; therefore, he/she is able to operate the steering wheel buttons much more conveniently.

Exterior design

The BMW 3 Series has always had a unique agile, dynamic and light appearance, a look the car's driver and occupants will certainly experience on the road. So it is appropriate to say that the 3 Series offers perfect concept harmony in its effect and reality. This is borne out in particular in the new 3-Series Saloon through the car's classic three-box design, its coupé character, as well as the authentic visualization of BMW's typical drive concept with the engine fitted lengthwise at the front and transmitting its power to
the rear wheels.

The three-box design – engine compartment, greenhouse, rear section – so typical of a classic saloon is particularly elegant on the new 3-Series thanks to the car's unique, flowing lines. The coupé-like impression is borne out above all by the greenhouse appearing small and light in relation to the overall body of the car, with its roof line softly tapering out at the rear. A further touch of dynamism is added once again by the typical "Hofmeister kick", the signature curvature at the bottom of the C-pillar found on all fixed-roof BMWs.

Perfect interaction of the powerful engine and rear-wheel drive promises su¬perior dynamics and sporting performance. This drive concept so char¬acteristic of BMW is visualized by the long and slender engine compartment lid, the distinctive powerdome, the greenhouse moved far to the rear and the centre of gravity lying optically in the C-pillar behind the rear axle. Further highlights are the clearly contoured rear end as well as short body over¬hangs, 10 percent shorter than the overhangs on the E46.