Living up to legendary status is a monumental challenge.
Take the BMW 3 Series. Being handed the project management role for that one is almost like a poisoned chalice.
For more than 40 years it has been a trail blazer, lauded the world over for its dynamic driving prowess.
Recently updated, we took the turbo diesel 320d for a spin to find that evolution once again has proved a worthy line to tread against a new tide of premium competition.
Tweaks and minor changes see this latest derivative remain close to the BMW interior blueprint. Basic yet functional, operationally things are straight forward once the pivotal iDrive console dial is mastered.
That dial provides access to everything from the sat nav through to the radio and phone controls, with buttons for the menu shortcuts sitting around the circumference. One annoyance is the "radio" button is hidden on the outer side of the dial and can be hard to find when first used, but owners would become accustomed to its position.
The 3 Series dimensions are unchanged, yet there still remains reasonable space to handle four adults. Things can be tight in the back in terms of knee room and those in the front need to be mindful.
On the road
Accomplished is an understatement. The 3 Series proves itself adept whether in city traffic, on the highway or being pushed on rolling rural roads.
The four-cylinder diesel has some lovely grunt at the ready, making overtaking or slinging the saloon out of a bend simple.
While electric has replaced the hydraulic steering of old, there's still enough enjoyment there for those who enjoy the driving experience. BMW aficionados may lament the hydraulic departure, but there is still enough communication when sawing left and right with the beautifully honed chassis for fun to be had.
Various drive modes are available depending on the terrain and driver mood, tightening the body control and altering the acceleration response, yet even the firmer Sport option manages to do a good job of soaking up road deficiencies.
The new eight-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters is a cracker, and never "hunts" or struggles to find the right cog.
What do you get?
Standard gear is reasonable, including a rear-view camera, head-up display which projects speed and navigation instructions onto the windscreen for the driver, cruise control, lane-change warning, driving assistant, surround view, LED headlights, automatic parking, access to ConnectedDrive range of products and services, real-time traffic information, auto transmission, 18-inch wheels, electric front seats, adaptive M suspension and digital radio.
Typical of the luxury genre, you can customise with a range of options. Ticking several boxes will quickly add to the bottom line, and the various packages available offer the best bang for buck.
Key rival is the Mercedes-Benz C200d ($64,900), along with the Audi A4 TDI ($59,900), Infiniti Q50 2.2d S ($57,900) and Volvo S60 D4 ($56,990).
Finishing a gruelling week with an average consumption of 5.8 litres for every 100km - that's more than one litre heavier than the official figure - but still it's impressively frugal terrain.
Maintenance costs depend heavily on how hard and how much you drive, and BMW does offer an all-inclusive servicing deal for a one off payment. Parts and servicing are at the top of the scale, but that's the rub in the premium sector.
One of the key benefits of driving a compact sedan is less cost of brakes and tyres. For those living in hilly terrain, drivers certainly pay a much heavier maintenance price for the more weighty SUVs.
The 60-40 fold rear seats enabled the 320d to swallow an adult-size bike, along with bags and various other equipment on a lengthy road trip.
Despite its aesthetic limitations inside, the cabin's common sense approach that includes dual cup holders, centre console, and door pockets (which can handle drink bottles) is to be applauded for ease of use and passenger comfort.
This latest iteration was hardly bold in terms of changes and design. Subtle alterations ensure it remains quintessentially 3 Series from all angles, with new bumpers and revised LED lights providing extra muscle.
Sporting luxury is the legacy maintained by the latest derivative.
Fun to drive and boasting a wonderful ride, the 3 Series just feels premium and well put together. It's a car you feel happy to plant your backside within.
Model: BMW 320d.
Details: Four-door rear-wheel drive luxury sedan.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel generating maximum power of 140kW @ 4000rpm and 400Nm @ 1750rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 4.4 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance 0-100kmh: 7.2 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $63,800.
What matters most
What we liked: Beautiful to drive in varying conditions, interior ergonomics, real-world economy.
What we'd like to see: Some additional internal glamour, button positional changes to computer shortcuts.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is conditioned based where the vehicle informs when servicing is required. Five years/80,000km BMW Service Inclusive package for $1240.
Driving experience 19/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 18/20
Style and design 16/20
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