BMW 3 Series long-term test: report 2

Our Executive Car of the Year, the BMW 3 Series, faces its toughest assignment yet: everyday life. Will it prove to be a corporate titan or quickly lose its shine? We have six months to find out...

BMW 3 Series with people standing next to it

The car BMW 3 Series 320d xDrive M Sport Run by Darren Moss, deputy editor

Why it’s here Having clinched the title of Executive Car of the Year at the 2019 What Car? Awards, the all-new 3 Series must now prove itself a champion in daily life

Needs to Be comfortable for long journeys and the weekday commute, offer exceptional fuel economy, and function as a mobile office when needed

Mileage 4950 List price £39,825 Price as tested £48,185 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 44.4mpg

7 June 2019 – Holiday hero

Every two years, my theatre company puts on a show at the open-air Minack Theatre in Cornwall. Unfortunately, that's 276 miles away from where I live, but more positively, the route down – with its mixture of motorways, dual carriageways and eyebrow-raisingly narrow Cornish roads – provided the perfect testing ground for my new BMW 3 Series.

With the boot full to bursting with suitcases, costumes and enough hairspray to give all of the South West a new 'do, we set off. Setting the sat-nav was as easy as telling the car my destination, because this 3 Series comes with a Siri-style personal assistant that has so far been highly adept at recognising my voice commands.

On the motorway, the 3 Series felt well at home, as mile after mile passed by in a comfortable haze. My passengers appreciated the four USB charging ports available, too, which meant we could all stay topped up. And I liked the fact that I could keep my phone connected via Apple CarPlay while someone else’s phone was put on music duty, because apparently a 30-hour musicals playlist gets a bit grating after a while. Honestly, some people...

BMW 3 Series next to BMW 4 Series

As has become custom, I did the trip in convoy with a mate, Tom, who also drives a BMW, although his is the svelte 4 Series. Lining the two up side by side in the car park of Exeter services, we could see some clear evolution at work on my car, especially around its front grille, which I think looks fantastic in the blacked-out paintwork of M Sport trim.

As the dual carriageways became country B-roads, and as they eventually gave way to the kind of single-track lanes you might associate with an English Heritage picture postcard, I was pleased that the 3 Series isn’t a huge car.

You see, the last time I did this journey I was in an Audi Q5 large SUV, which while being luxurious and powerful did cause me to wince every time the snout of another car rounded a bend in front of me, because plainly one of us was going to have to edge into the rock-strewn passing place and pray that our paintwork remained intact. In the 3 Series, though, such fears never came, and whenever an adventurous local came towards me, I simply darted into the nearest passing place with inches to spare.

Darren driving a BMW 3 Series

When there wasn’t anyone coming, I flipped the switch on the centre console to put the 3 Series into its Sport mode. This changes the dials to an angry shade of red and sharpens the gearbox, steering and accelerator responses. And goodness it’s fun. In fact, the roads just outside the sleepy town of Porthcurno could almost have been built for hillclimb racing. That is if there weren't the ever-present threat of a busload of day-trippers rounding the next bend to worry about.

The biggest compliment I can pay to the 3 Series, though, is that after a journey of almost seven hours with only two comfort breaks (one to take coffee on board, the other to get rid of it again), I emerged from the driver’s seat without any aches, pains or tiredness. And any car able to do that deserves praise in my book.

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