BMW has begun slowly lifting the sheet off its seventh-generation 3-Series.
Along with images of a camouflaged mule testing at the gruelling Nurburgring, the German maker has added specific details of its newest rival to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4.
The new model sits on platform architecture underneath the 5-Series and 7-Series, with a stiffer body, wider track, reduced noise and weight savings of up to 55kg. The car will also have a 50:50 weight distribution and a lower centre of gravity, all helping the M3 and M4 performance models gain an edge.
Steering response and feel sees an overhaul with a new variable ratio steering setup, more camber and 10mm lower ride height via optional M suspension dampers. New lift-related dampers will be fit to all models and are said to improve compliance and comfort while still providing a stable footing for sporty driving, at least according to head of driving dynamics Peter Langen.
"We're using the lift-related dampers as an active set-up element so as to create supreme driving properties in all conditions," he said.
"With short spring travel, a sensitive damping response ensures comfortable vibration compensation. When the car passes over large bumps, the body movements are controlled by increased damping forces."
In addition to the new dampers will be a new optional M sport differential in the rear – though the CLAR platform does also support all-wheel drive.
Under the bonnet in some models will be the most powerful engine developed for a BMW 3-Series yet, mated to a variation of the current ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, giving a roughly five per cent more efficient fuel consumption rating.
“It is the most powerful four-cylinder engine ever to be fitted in a BMW series production model,” the Bavarian maker said in a statement.
“Yet its fuel consumption figures are still some 5 per cent below those of the predecessor engine: one contributing factor here is the further developed 8-speed Steptronic transmission.”
BMW has not announced when the vehicle will make its debut but it’s likely to hit the stage in October during the 2018 Paris motor show. Australia will see the model arrive next year and the flagship M3 won’t be here until at least 2020.