The Shanghai motor show is traditionally awash with long-wheelbase versions of saloon cars for the Chinese market, and this year is no different. For those that can’t afford a full-fat Mercedes-AMG saloon there’s the new stretched A35, and now for any member of the Chinese public without the funds for a 5 or 7 Series, there’s the new BMW 325Li.
You see, a sign of success in China is being able to afford a chauffeur to drive your car for you – and seemingly this is more important than having the most expensive vehicle on the road.
For example, 80 per cent of Chinese buyers of the previous generation 3 Series opted for the stretched version (the first of its kind). This new one, then, was an inevitability.
The 325Li is built in China and is 11cm longer than the standard saloon offered in the rest of the world. That means the back seats in the Ultimate Driving Machine designed for passengers gain a whopping 43mm of extra legroom.
That extra length doesn’t harm the looks, though. In fact, the extended wheelbase arguably helps the 3 Series look slightly more elegant. It’s all about the inside, of course. BMW says that the rear pew has been given ‘special shaping and pampering upholstery’ – whatever that is - while a panoramic glass roof and three-zone climate control comes as standard.
There is also a series of new driver assistant features on board to help pave the way for automated driving. Perhaps soon you’ll be able to sit in the back without even needing to pay for a chauffeur. It’s the Chinese dream.
For now you’ll have to stick with a helpful man or woman to operate all those levers, wheels and pedals for you, and they’ll have a four-cylinder turbo engine at their disposal in this launch version.
So, internet, should stretched saloons become a thing in the rest of the world, too?