BMW reveals first pictures and details of the new 3 Series, the sixth generation of the world’s best-selling premium saloon. The 3 Series Saloon is the heart of the BMW brand, responsible for one-fifth of the company’s global sales.
The new BMW 3 Series Saloon features a stiffer body and an all-new chassis based on a longer wheelbase (now 2,810mm, an increase of 50mm on the previous model) and wider tracks (by 37mm at the front and 47mm at the rear). Increased in overall length by 93mm, it has the characteristic BMW design proportions of short overhangs for maximum agility. All-independent suspension is by aluminium torque struts, wishbones and swivel joints at the front and an improved and refined version of the proven five-link arrangement from the previous 3 Series Saloon at the rear.
Improved proportions, pronounced wheel arches, headlamp units which blend into the double-kidney grille to form a continuous band across the front of the car and air inlets beneath the headlights visually stretch the width and make the new 3 Series Saloon look low, wide and sporty. This is echoed by the strong horizontal design language at the rear and the forward-pressing nose, long bonnet, rising swage lines and large wheels visible from the side. At the same time, the coupe-like profile, distinctive double round headlights, L-shaped rear light units with LED light bars and the decorative trims chosen for the grille and around the windows.
The wedge shape of the new 3 Series’ silhouette and its wider track (+ 37/47 mm at the front/rear) underline the sporting appearance of the new BMW. By clearly accentuating the width of the car, the multi-faceted surfaces of the expressive front end give the BMW 3 Series a sportier face than ever. A wide, squat interpretation of the upright, slightly forward-slanting BMW kidney grille emphasises the stance of the new BMW 3 Series. LED accent lights positioned like eyebrows above the striking twin headlights with corona rings (if xenon headlights are specified) lend an extra intensity to the classic BMW focused look. The headlights now extend up to the frame of the kidney grille, merging the headlights and grille of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan into a single stylistic unit and adding further emphasis to the car’s broad-set stance. The BMW 3 Series replaces the central air intake of its predecessor with two larger intakes, which are positioned underneath the headlights to the outer edges of the front end and add extra depth to the car’s sporty styling. On the far left and right of the main ducts are small vertical intakes which help create the “Air Curtain”. This new technology improves air flow around the front wheels, enhancing aerodynamic efficiency and reducing fuel consumption at higher speeds.
The closely spaced, squat openings of the kidney grille, with their eye-catching surrounds, form the most prominent element of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan’s front end design. This is also where the precise lines of the heavily contoured bonnet finish. The result is a front end that appears lower-slung, giving the BMW 3 Series a clear sporting edge when viewed head-on.
Precise lines produce a stretched silhouette and enhance the car’s dynamic impact. Powerfully taut surfaces with sweeping lines dominate the side view of the BMW 3 Series Sedan, stretching the car visually and lending extra verve to its dynamic stance. The flanks of the car are shaped by an eye-catching “double swage line” made up of two character lines running alongside each other. The higher swage line emerges out of the low-slung front end and flows over the front wheel with an understated sweep, in a nod to the sedan’s fleetness of foot. The second swage line develops lower down behind the front wheel and follows a delicately arching path towards the rear. Together, they reinforce the dynamic wedge shape of the car’s flanks and create vivid light and shade effects below the swage line, which draw further attention to the car’s wide track.
The striking interpretation of the hallmark BMW Hofmeister kink at the base of the C-pillar injects the silhouette of the new 3 Series with even greater élan. Alongside it runs a fine contour line from the roof into the boot lid, giving the roof an even lower appearance from the side. The resultant sense of sporty yet elegant lightness spreads all the way down the sedan’s sides, with the slightly rising shade line low down on the heavily contoured side skirt adding further emphasis. The large light surfaces above the side skirt serve to enhance the lightness of the car’s flank lines.
Contrasting light surfaces imbue the rear with brio and energy. The strong horizontal lines of the rear – including rear lights in customary BMW L-shaped design positioned at the outer edges of the back end – accentuate the broad face of the wheels and wide track of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan. The low-set reflectors on the far edges guide the vertical lines flowing out of the greenhouse over the rear lights to the wheels, lending visual emphasis to the car’s consummate road presence. A traditional BMW 3 Series design trait are the two lines below the rear spoiler and above the bumper, which frame the rear stylistically. Richly contrasting light surfaces give the rear end of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan a fresh dynamic flair, underlined by the interchanges between smoothly flowing surfaces, precise lines and defined edges.
The interplay of surfaces and lines fills the interior with life. The interior of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan is straight out of the BMW design handbook. The driver-focused cockpit wraps around the driver and puts all the important controls within easy reach. The cockpit is angled towards the driver by seven degrees. The surfaces and lines flow over the instrument panel towards the front passenger side of the cabin, where they form a smooth, protective border. In the driver’s area all the lines converge on a single point behind the steering wheel and guide the eye towards the road.
The cockpit’s four circular dials (fuel gauge, speedometer, rev counter and oil temperature gauge) come with a black panel display. Positioned on the horizontally-structured instrument panel, the freestanding standard-fitted iDrive monitor with high-resolution display recalls the latest flatscreen televisions normally found in living rooms rather than cars. The monitor has no folding mechanism or binnacle, allowing the entire dashboard to retain its flat, smooth lines and giving the interior a lighter, more dynamic feel.
On the driver’s side of the deliberately asymmetric centre tunnel, a different trim surface and graining mark out the active driving elements of the interior, while the trim surface on the front passenger side exudes a pleasingly elegant air. Positioned centrally on the centre console within easy reach of both the driver and the front passenger is the standard iDrive Controller. Underneath the armrest – with optional fore/aft adjustment – between the front seats, meanwhile, is a compartment for mobile devices (e.g. mobile phones, MP3 players and smartphones), which also contains a USB/AUX-IN socket.
All engines in the new 3 Series Saloon feature BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. They include a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol unit, developing 245hp and 350Nm of torque, in the 328i. It replaces the six-cylinder 3.0-litre engines in the previous 325i and 330i, with inherent advantages for weight and fuel consumption, yet with a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds in manual form, it is quicker than either. Efficiency is also significantly improved and both manual and automatic versions of the 328i have fuel economy of more than 44mpg and CO2 emissions below 150g/km. The new unit features High-Precision Direct Injection, BMW’s new TwinScroll turbocharging, Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing and VALVETRONIC variable valve opening technology.
The 328i is one of four engines that will be available at launch, three of which are familiar from the outgoing model. The other petrol engine on offer is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder TwinPower Turbo unit in the 335i. Demand for diesels will be catered for by an improved 2.0-litre 184hp 320d and the acclaimed 163hp 320d EfficientDynamics, which features longer gear ratios, reduced friction components and revised electronics to generate an outstanding 68.9mpg fuel consumption and just 109g/km CO2. Previously only available as a manual, the 320d EfficientDynamics is also now available with the new eight-speed automatic transmission – whilst retaining the same 109g/km emissions level.
Less than a month after launch, three new engines will be added. There will be 316d and 318d diesels, powered respectively by 116hp and 143hp variants of the 2.0-litre diesel engine, plus another version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. This will slot into the new 320i, and will be tuned to deliver 184hp and 270Nm of torque, with the same free-revving, supremely flexible character of all other BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engines.
The new 3 Series Saloon will appear in public for the first time at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2012. It is scheduled to go on sale in the Europe a month later, on 11 February 2012.