BMW reveals new 3-Series
BMW has unveiled its largest and most technically advanced 3-Series yet.
The all-new seventh-generation model, which made its public premiere in four-door sedan guise at the Paris motor show on Tuesday ahead of a planned start to Australian sales in early 2019, has been re-engineered from the ground up in a program that aims to propel it back ahead of key rivals such as the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class in a toughly fought premium brand segment.
As with its predecessor on sale since 2011, it will be offered with the choice of four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines as well as a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain – all of which have been updated with new exhaust filter technology among other changes to make them cleaner and more efficient than the engines used today.
But in a move that marks a return to its roots, BMW says the new 3-Series is a more sporting proposition than the model it replaces, with sharper driving traits and more agile handling characteristics among a list of development goals revealed by the German car maker.
Reflecting these efforts BMW has confirmed it will add an M340i M Performance sedan model to its new 3-Series ranks in mid-2019. To be priced below the next-generation M3, it runs a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine developing 275kW and 500Nm of torque.
This is sufficient, according to BMW’s own performance figures, to propel the new Audi S4 and Mercedes-Benz C43 rivalling 3-Series model from 0 to 100km/h in 4.4sec and to a limited top speed of 250km/h in combination with a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox and fully variable four-wheel drive system.
Developed under the internal codename G20, the basis for the new 2019-model-year 3-Series is BMW’s multi-faceted CLAR platform, which also underpins the larger 5- and 7-Series. Claimed to contribute to a 55kg reduction in kerb weight in at least one of the initial five launch models, it also brings a more contemporary electrical architecture which has allowed BMW to provide its new four-door with new suspension technology that sees variable dampers made available for the first time.
It also gets a raft of new driver assistant features, including standard lane departure as well as a collision and pedestrian warning with a city brake function.
Following the lead of other recent new BMW models, the new 3-Series sedan takes on a bolder look with a significantly larger and more heavily framed grille, shapely new LED headlamps and smoothly shaped bumpers providing it with clear visual differentiation from its predecessor.
Apart from the new look front end, the new four-door also adopts a more prominent shoulder line as well as a longer roof, a new interpretation of the classic Hofmeister kick within the C-pillar and distinctive new L-shaped tail lamps.
Like each 3-Series sedan before it, the new 2019 model has grown. Length, width and height are up by 76mm, 16mm and 1mm at 4709mm, 1827mm and 1442mm respectively.
This makes the seventh-generation model 23mm longer, 17mm wider and exactly the same height as its closest competitor, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan.
Much of the increase in length comes through the adoption of a longer wheelbase, which has been extended by 41mm to 2851mm.
Additionally, the front and rear tracks have been widened by 43mm and 21mm front and rear to provide the new BMW with a larger footprint than ever before.
Despite the increase in size, BMW claims its new four-door boasts a drag co-efficient of 0.23 in 320d guise, making it the most aerodynamically efficient model it has ever placed into series production. Among the measures taken the achieve this are so-called active air control flaps behind the grille and an almost completely flat underbody to smooth airflow.
Along with the four-door model shown in Paris, BMW has revealed it plans two further variants of the new 3-Series, including replacements for the existing GT and Touring. The latest model also forms the basis for successors to the 4-Series coupe and cabriolet as well as the M3 and M4.
Inside, the latest incarnation of the 3-Series adopts a higher quality interior than its predecessor, with new digital infotainment and connectivity functions along with greater accommodation and versatility.
The interior styling is similar to that of the latest 5-Series, but despite claims of greater shoulder and elbow room for front seat occupants and greater leg- and headroom for those in the rear, BMW says the boot is no more commodious than that of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class at 480-litres.
BMW has confirmed three turbocharged engines in an initial five-strong line-up of new 3-Series models, although it has yet to reveal just which are bound for Australia.
Included in the European line-up is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit with 135kW and 300Nm of torque in the 320i and 190kW and 400Nm in the 330i.
In a clear statement that it has no plans to abandon diesel engine anytime soon, the German car maker has also announced it will offer the new car with an upgraded version of its existing 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel featuring two-stage turbocharging with 110kW and 320Nm in the 318d and 140kW and 400Nm in the 320d.
The sole six-cylinder engine from the start of production will be a 3.0-litre diesel with 195kW and 580Nm in the initial range-topping model, the 330d.
As tradition dictates, drive in each of the new 3-series models is channelled to the rear wheels. Both 318d and 320d come with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 320i, 330i and 330d feature with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The sole four-wheel drive model from the outset is the 320d xDrive, which receives an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.
With an otto particulate filter used on the petrol engines and the latest in selective catalytic reduction filter technology adopted by the diesels, all engines achieve EU6d-Temp certification under newly introduced WLTP emission regulations.
The performance leader of the initial line-up is the 330d, which boasts an official 0-100km time of 5.5sec and limited 250km/h top speed, while the economy champion is the 318d, with combined cycle consumption of 4.2L/100km and average CO2 emissions of 112g/km.
Together with the new M340i M Performance, BMW has also confirmed it will add a new 330e to the 3-Series line-up in 2019. With a claimed electric range of up to 60km, it uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor, which develop up to a combined 215kW for a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.0sec and average consumption of 1.7l/100km.
Underpinning the new BMW is a new suspension featuring variable damping control for the first time. Fitted to both the standard and optional M-sport suspension, it adjusts the firmness of the dampers according to spring travel in a move claimed to significantly reduce body roll and improve ride comfort in comparison with the old 3-Series.
At the heart of BMW’s engineering efforts with the new 3-Series is a stated return to the sporting attributes that shaped the appeal of earlier models. To achieve this, it has provided the 2019 model with a new body structure that is claimed to provide a 50 per cent improvement in rigidity in certain areas.
The improvement in rigidity has allowed BMW to redesign the suspension mountings and increase the spring rates by up to 20 per cent in models running the optional M-Sport suspension – all without any loss in ride comfort, according to the German car maker.
Kable is one of Europe's leading automotive journalists. The Aussie expat lives in Germany and has some of the world's most powerful executives on speed dial.