BMW update: Three months in a Series 3
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The BMW 3 Series Sports Edition is Driven's long-term test car. Tony Verdon explains how the headlights can be set to automatic dip mode
One of the most intriguing and yet practical features of the BMW 320d Sports Edition are its adaptive headlights, which automatically avoid blinding oncoming motorists with a full-beam blast.
Instead of merely dipping the full beam of light, these lights sense oncoming traffic and divert the light beam sideways, retaining the advantages of full beam without annoying other road users.
Initially it sounds like another gimmick but in practice it has become one of the most useful night-time driving functions on our long-term test car - once we gained the confidence to use it.
We have the 320d Sport Edition for three months, and part of the testing has been a weekly commute from Whangarei to central Auckland, starting each Monday morning in total darkness.
The trip provides a great opportunity to test the adaptive headlight function, but until you use it, the danger of dazzling an oncoming truck driver with full-beam mode and causing a crash is a worry.
When the low-beam headlights are switched on, high beam assistance can be activated by pressing a button on the end of the left-hand steering stalk.
A light on the stalk comes on when the system is activated, although it is obscured by the steering wheel.
The system effectively fades out the part of the front light beams that would dazzle oncoming drivers, and broadens the beam so the advantages of high beam light are retained.
The process operates through a sensor on the front of the interior rear-vision mirror, and avoids the stress of having to constantly dip the lights manually.
That may not sound like much of an advantage, but in practice it makes night-time driving much less stressful and a more enjoyable exercise. The BMW driver can use the manual dipping function at any time, but once you have seen the automatic version operating it quickly becomes the preferred option.
The only circumstance where it doesn't function effectively is during heavy fog or monsoon-like rainfall, or when the windscreen in front of the sensor is obscured. However, the BMW is also fitted with front fog lights that can help illuminate the way ahead.
The lights are dipped manually through the usual steering column stalk like those in the majority of modern cars.
As you would expect in a car selling for just shy of $80,000, the front halogen lights throw out an exceptional beam of light and we have used them in good and bad weather during the last few months.