BMW 3 Series long-term test: report 3

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 front cornering

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 5802 List price £39,825 Price as tested £48,185 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 44.4mpg

26 June 2019 – One step forward, two steps back

My 3 Series is packed with clever features, but I’ve avoided trying out the Reversing Assistant until now for fear of it going wrong. On the face of things, the system appears to be very clever indeed – it can remember the last 55 yards of your driving, and then repeat the process backwards at a top speed of 22mph. In practice, that means that if you find yourself at the end of a narrow street and need to reverse back up it, the car can do this for you.

To test it out, I ventured to a sparsely populated industrial estate (you know, just in case) and laid out a 55-yard test course for the BMW, including steering inputs to the left and right to avoid a parked car in my path. Next, I moved the gear selector to reverse, at which point the parking camera activates on the iDrive infotainment touchscreen, and selected the Reversing Assistant.

Relinquishing steering control to the car (acceleration and braking were still down to me), the car started to repeat my test course in reverse, with the sort of precision that would make a brain surgeon blush. It was impressive to witness, and left me feeling confident that a tight street should be no trouble from now on. You can see how I got on in another test of the system in the video below.

If only all of the 3 Series’ technology were so brilliant. BMW is one of the few car makers to offer wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity, meaning I don’t need to connect my phone with a USB cable in order to use it on the move. Again, on the face of things, this sounds ideal. Trouble is, the connection is woefully unreliable. Sometimes it will connect straight away, other times it will take a few minutes, and sometimes it won’t connect at all, and this is adding stress to my commute when the whole idea of Apple CarPlay is to remove it.

BMW 3 Series interior with mobile phone

Now, you might argue that I should use BMW’s own iDrive system more often, but since so much information is being relayed to me through WhatsApp these days, staying in touch means having that functionality, and that means using Apple’s software rather than BMW’s. Perhaps a wireless software update can make the connection more reliable in future.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more on our long-term BMW 3 Series >

See more long-term test reports >

Also consider