The saloon roars back thanks to new BMW
On road or track, this 3-Series makes the spirit soar, writes Campbell Spray
So now it can be said: the new BMW 3-Series, due in showrooms at the beginning of March, is one of the finest drives I have experienced in a long time.
Whether I was in the driving seat or my co-pilot, Eddie Cunningham, was throwing it around corners during two days of tests in southern Portugal, the car felt totally confident, safe but exhilarating.
It was what driving should be about when roads are empty, cars are finely tuned and the dynamics are superb. The adrenalin rushed, the spirit soared and it was good to be alive.
Not everything is perfect about the car - many people do not like the over-chunky steering wheel, voice-recognition control system or some of the looks and a price that starts at €43,570 - but just get into the driving seat of this superbly balanced car and thoughts of SUVs and sensible plodders are thrown out of the window. Enough said.
At a time when the traditional saloon is under threat across Europe, the BMW 3-Series gives a real kickback. It's pretty clean, so go for petrol cars although the diesels do give a lot of fun too.
While we were out testing the 3-Series, we had an exciting drive over the mountains to the Autodromo Internacional Algarve racetrack at Portimao. It is a very plush site which has hosted Formula One and we had the opportunity to go for a few stomach-churning laps in the very fast camouflaged prototypes of the BMW M340i xDrive.
If that sort of thing appeals to you or someone you know and love, you can do much the same at Ireland's own racetrack at Mondello with the ultimate driving experience people never forget.
A gift voucher for the BMW and Mini Driving Experience offers a chance to unleash the power on Ireland's only international racing circuit.
It gives customers the chance to experience BMW's iconic M2 and M4 cars and all courses include training laps behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper S with a professional instructor alongside you at all times to help you make the most of your experience.
You then progress into the BMW M2 and M4 models in the ultimate BMW experience package. Participants must be over 18 and hold a full Irish driving licence or equivalent. Vouchers begin at €169. For more information, go to www.mondellopark.ie/bmw-driving-experience