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Smooth operator

The updated 3-series model is softer than before and shows off additional features in an attempt at widening its appeal to Indian buyers.

Nothing much has changed since I last drove the legendary in-line-six petrol BMW 325i. The new 325i is just as silky smooth and free-revving with the same linear power delivery as before. So what’s the catch?

I must admit that I’ve become spoilt by the immediate and explosive surge of modern diesels, the 2-litre 177bhp in the 320d not the least of them. And compared to its diesel-sipping cousins, the 215bhp producing 325i feels considerably less fervent.

The mid-range is feeble and below 3500rpm, there isn’t any action really. It picks up pace with increasing urgency as you approach the 7000rpm rev limit but you really have to flog this engine to get the best out of it.

However this, in no way, is a bad thing because the motor feels just as relaxed at 7000rpm as it does at 700rpm. This magnesium-alloy engine with incredible noise isolation is so smooth and builds power in such a linear manner that you simply don’t notice your speed.

The 100kph mark is breached in a modest 9.03 seconds but you get to 150kph in a very impressive 20.01 seconds. A drive to the nearest hill station, unfettered by traffic, is the best way to enjoy a high-revving motor, especially if there is a chassis to match it.

The latest 3-series cars have a softer set-up and none of the bone-jarring ride of the earlier ones. The suspension’s ability to deliver a supple yet flat and consistent ride on an undulating and uneven road surface is astonishing.

BMW’s trade mark 50:50 weight distribution, along with an incredibly accurate steering and a competent chassis, flatter drivers so much that they’re tempted to go faster than they normally would. Switching off the traction control completely allows you to adjust the cornering line with the throttle, providing an enhanced fun experience.

However, unlike the 320d in which power slides are easy, it’s hard to unstick the grippy rear 225/45 R17 tyres; there just isn’t enough torque. Over broken surfaces and sharp ridges, the ride is less impressive and shocks, via the hard shoulders of the run-flat tyres, filter through to the passengers. Another minus is the steering at low speeds, which gets quite heavy.

The latest interiors have a simplified version of the iDrive control, now surrounded by four buttons for direct access to the sub-menus. The 325i gets steering-mounted paddle shifts with BMW’s strange configuration of push/pull paddles on both sides of the wheel.

I find this an unnecessary duplication, which could complicate its basic functioning. Why can’t manufacturers stick to the conventional pull left to downshift and right for an upshift, pattern?

Externally, there are a few delicate changes like the gorgeous ‘power bulge’ on the bonnet, mildly-tweaked grille, headlamps, tail-lamps and a new alloy wheel design.

Priced at Rs 38.63 lakh, is the 325i worth it? Considering how modern diesels have progressed by way of refinement and accessible performance, the 325i, which can only be enjoyed completely on a quiet road, is losing its relevance. Purists however may still want the magically seamless and smooth flow of power that only BMW’s in-line-six petrol motor can provide.

SPec check

BMW 325i

Price: Rs 38.63 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
L/W/H: 4531/2013/1421mm
Kerb weight: 1460kg
Engine: 6-cyls in-line, petrol; front longitudinal, rear-wheel drive
Power: 215bhp at 6500rpm
Torque: 25kgm at 4000rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
Suspension (F/R): Independent, upper and lower wishbone/ independent five-link
Tyre size: 225/45 R17 run-flat

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