The 5th generation 2013 BMW 3 series is a luxury compact sport sedan and a reincarnation, in a newer and bigger way, of the styling, performance and handling attributes of the legendary 3rd generation 3 series BMW E36 (1990 - 2000).
Like its older sibling, the E90 3 series BMW was a best seller compact sport sedan. BMW released the 5th generation 3 series as a coupe (E92), convertible (E93), Wagon (E91) and sedan (E90).
The E90 BMW has been heralded for its excellent improved looks and powerful efficient turbo charged four and six cylinder engines mated with eight speed transmissions.
Some critics have faulted the E90 3 series for being less involving and inspiring compared to its follow up current 6th generation 3 series BMW F30. My pick for the test bed was the petrol 328i E90 M Sport with a turbo charged six-cylinder straight engine.
The BMW E90 3 series’ first impression is set by its poise and bolder upscale front end looks. The kidney grille is wider and consorts well with the tear drop bi-xenon head lights which curve around the corner and smartly sit on the chiseled curves of the front bumper.
A walk around the car confirms that the sculpted flanks and gently bulging engine bonnet aerodynamically flow backwards with the higher door belt lines to emphasise this BMW’s more aggressive and athletic intentions. The doors with wider windows improve visibility and give the car a more spacious look.
Interior and convenience
The E90 comes with three trim levels: Luxury, Modern and Sport. My pick had the Sport trim with red accents and blacked out finishes. The horizontal high tech dash board and instrument panel declutter the cockpit space. For the techy junkies, the E90 offers the iDrive electronics interface which needs a tutorial but helps one to customise different features.
The leather steering and upholstery feels luxurious. Convenient features include auto dimming rear view mirror and memorable eight-seat position adjusting. With car key in your pocket, you have keyless access to the doors and can move your foot under the rear bumper to open the trunk lid when both your hands are holding shopping.
Trunk space is sufficient and can do a one person Entebbe airport pickup. The seats in the sedan have better contouring for a comfortable and supportive ride. Legroom is ample for front and rear passengers although a six foot plus person will feel cramped up in the rear seats during long journeys.
Performance and handling
When it is time to get cranky, the E90 BMW 328i delivers instant and gratifying engine performance from the six-cylinder straight engine, thanks to the double VANOS variable valve timing, fuel stratified direct injection and the twin scrolling turbo charger.
Turbo lag is minimised as the engine delivers instant low end power when you floor the gas pedal. When the lights turn green on the Entebbe Expressway, the BMW 328i’s 2.0 litre engine obeys its 230 HP to sprint from 0-100 KPH in 6.2 seconds.
One cannot help notice the impressive low to mid-range peak torque at just 1,250 rpm, as you floor the accelerator and tap the paddle shifters to engage the fast shifting eight-speed auto transmission.
Safety, practicality and ownership cost
The prestigious US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Euro NCAPP all give the E90 good overall safety ratings for frontal crashes, side impact crashes and roll overs.
The convertible E90 gets the lowest safety test results for side impact crushes from IIHS. Ultra tensile strength steel is used to build the sedan cabin while head restraint airbags for front and rear passengers compliment the frontal and side airbags.
Safety tech like blind spot monitors and lane departure warning assist the camera based frontal collision warning system. The BMW E90 3 series sedan is a suitable car for use on good sealed roads such as the Ugandan network of new highways.
The low profile makes it tricky to drive on suburban gravel or marrum roads. Routine maintenance and repair parts are readily available with Motorcare the main BMW dealer or independent garages or parts stockists. What is not available can be ordered from Europe or Middle East in a few days. Repair tooling and skill set is also sufficient both at the dealership and selected independents.
Purchase cost of the 2013 E90 on the internet is about $15,500 (about Shs58.3m). Delivery and local Taxes may cost you another $10,000 (about Shs37.6m). Routine oil and filter change service will cost about Shs350,000.