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Friday, September 17, 2021

The BMW 3 Series is still the benchmark premium sport. Sedan?

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It’s still vivid to me that I remember running home from school in order to get Motor Trend, Car and Driver and Road and Track magazines. They were waiting for me at my house every month. Although I read each page for every magazine several times, my first pages were all comparisons.

It was important to me to understand which cars are better than others. Reading about the characteristics of winning cars helped me to form my own idea of what makes a great car. BMW 3 Series was always, and I don’t mean ever, the winner of comparison tests. For as long as my memory allowed, it seemed like there was no other car.

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But, it has been so far. The 3 Series has never lost comparison tests like it did since the F30. BMW was in a strange spot when its F30 arrived on the roads. Its car had more problems than it ever has and the competition caught up.

A 3 Series win has not been an automatic result since then. It’s won some races, and it hasn’t completely lost behind. But it is still not the dominating force that it was once.

So, at this point, is the BMW 3 Series even the benchmark anymore? Is the 3er even the car that other premium brands use as their target when they built their own sport sedans? I’m not so sure anymore.

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Two reasons were behind the dominance of previous-gen 3 Series models. Their steering was the other. All of them had superior steering and they were all equal in that regard. Old-fashioned hydraulic steering racks were the best combination of weight and feel. They also had an off-center buildup.

It was possible to feel how heavy the load was and what speed you were able to push it. The previous 3 Series models were almost telepathic. The current G20 3 Series, however, is not the best-selling segment steering model — it is the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

Another reason for this was the ride balance that 3 Series’ have always had. For example, take an E46 3 Series or E90 3 Series. Both glided smoothly down the roads with grace. They have the luxury of smoothing out bumps but also feeling sporty and premium. The new 3 Series is a great car, but not as a benchmark. However, it does ride well, and the Giulia is a worthy contender. The Jaguar XE, which is often forgotten, rides even better.

Sure, the 3 Series has the best engines in the segment, the best powertrain calibration, among the best technology, incredible build quality, and probably the best performance. To be fair, the 3 Series is among the very best sport sedans in the world overall.

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But cars such as the E46 and E90 3 Series’ are cars I see that stand out above others in the market. These cars looked down upon their competition. This new car isn’t much different from its competitors, and it’s very nice. It’s actually worse in certain categories.

I think we all need to accept that the 3 Series is no longer the benchmark in the segment. Actually, I don’t think any car is the benchmark in the segment. We’re sort of at this standoff between great brands all vying for the top spot and all making great cars.

The Alfa is the car that captured the joy of E46 and E90 3 Series cars. It has a poor engine and a subpar interior, but the Alfa steers, rides and handles better than any other car.

It is still flawed, however.

The 3 Series, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Genesis G70, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4 are all seriously good cars at the moment and I’m not sure there’s one that anyone can look to as the unquestioned leader of the segment.

Publited at Sun, 01 August 2021 17:54.50 +0000

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