It’s hard to believe at first, but BMW’s popular 3-Series is now in its seventh generation, the first model bowing to the public back in 1975. Each iteration has seen significant improvements to the design, drivetrain, chassis, and other components, but the essence has always been the same: a driver’s car. And with the German automaker’s engineering philosophy that the chassis should be up to the task of maximizing the power of the engine, the 3-Series has been the sports sedan of choice for individuals who cherish pure driving pleasure.
In the 318i Sport, the enjoyment starts with the styling. The 3-Series has grown through the years, but it still looks trim and strong. A subtle bulge on the hood hints at the power underneath, and the roofline gracefully sweeps back toward the tail. Character lines on the flanks evoke the muscles of an athlete, while the 45-series tires on their lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels show that it has serious grip.
In recent years, engineers have proven that you no longer need large-displacement gas-guzzling engines to provide an enjoyable ride. Advancements in technology now provide reliable and smooth power from smaller, fuel-efficient units. This is the case with the 318i, whose 2.0-liter in-line-four TwinPower Turbo mill uses an advanced, twin-scroll turbo to provide 156hp and 250Nm, delivered to an eight-speed Steptronic transmission.
In normal, everyday motoring, the engine is quiet and efficient, consuming just 6.7L/100km in city traffic and an impressive 4.4L/100km on the highway. But step on it for some enthusiastic driving and the powertrain impresses. Acceleration is smooth and strong from low revs all the way to the redline, helped in part by a very responsive gearbox.
Adding to the driving enjoyment is BMW’s famed chassis engineering. The steering is sharp and precise, giving valuable feedback through the tiller. The suspension is taut and predictable in its responses, letting you maximize the rear-wheel-drive layout and exquisite 50:50 weight distribution. Stopping power from the large disc brakes is superb and easily modulated, so you can press deeper into the corners before the onset of ABS.
Drivers who love twisty mountain roads, and who love to control a car through both steering, throttle and brake inputs will appreciate the involvement that the 318i Sport brings to the table. Zero to 100km/h is pegged at eight seconds, and top speed is well over 200km/h, but more than those numbers is the drivability of the car.
With the engine and transmission mode set to Sport, eyes focused on the next apex, fingertips and seat of the pants attuned to what’s happening underneath the tires, it’s a vehicle that feels and responds as if it’s wired directly to your brain. There’s just enough power to get you moving briskly, but it’s never overwhelming. Getting the most out of it is about mastering energy conservation like a fighter pilot, timing your late braking and rolling back on the throttle for a smooth and fast exit.
BMW has similarly never apologized for making its cabins driver-centric, and the 318i is no exception. The dashboard center stack is slightly angled toward the driver, who sits in a multi-adjustable seat to provide the perfect driving position. Aside from the usual fore/aft and seat-back rake, the side bolsters can be widened or narrowed, and the cushion can also be extended to support longer thighs. With a low cowl and an instrument panel that’s instantly readable at a quick glance while falling out of one’s peripheral vision when scanning the road ahead, it gives you everything you need to place the car exactly where you want it.
The instrument panel sticks to tradition with its analog gauges and a discrete information display, while supplementary information is shown on an 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen managed by BMW’s Live Cockpit system. The design aesthetic is minimalist, and scrolling through the menus reveals a wealth of information, ranging from phone contacts and music playlists and various vehicle systems at work. Using all this data is easy and intuitive; nothing more than a few clicks away so as not to distract from the business of driving.
Even for a driver-focused car, passengers in the 318i aren’t given short shrift. There’s ample legroom and headroom, and the triple-zone climate control will keep everyone comfortable. The leather Sensatec upholstery is supple and luxurious. Trunk capacity is a generous 481L and has a pass-through system to accommodate long items. Small luxuries like an automatic trunk closer/opener, front and rear Park Distance Control sensors, and a hi-fi sound system make owning a 318i more enjoyable for day-to-day usage.
And for a special price of P2,990,000 for a 318i Sport until November 30, never has the 3-Series been as compelling as it is now. It’s spacious and luxurious as you’d expect a luxury car to be, yet at its core, it is still the ultimate driving machine for enthusiasts who want to be one with their car.