► Lower, longer, lighter – and more efficient
► Enhanced voice input, more connected driver and safety tech
► On sale March 2019, prices starting from £33,610
Here it is – the wraps have come off the seventh-generation BMW 3-series, codenamed G20. The new car continues the evolutionary design philosophy that’s underlined every new 3 Series introduced since the launch of the first one, back in 1975. With more than 15 million sold since then, it’s clearly a recipe that’s worked for BMW.
It’s vitally important for BMW. With the traditional saloon and estate car under attack from the SUV on all scores, the new 3–series will need to maintain huge volumes while maintaining profitability for the company.
So, although BMW talks about ‘revised styling, superior driving dynamics, exceptional efficiency and innovative features,’ but it’s actually a conservative effort, with the cutting-edge technical innovations reserved for under the skin. The 2018 Paris motor show has been our first official sight of the car – save yesterday’s leak.
New BMW 3-series: design and engineering
As you’d expect, with the Bavarians are keen not to upset the design apple cart; it’s instantly identifiable as a 3-series, and although the styling needed to move on, as insiders have repeatedly admitted, it’s pretty much business as usual.
What helps in this department is the highly flexible new architecture known as CLAR – short for Munich’s ‘Cluster Architecture,’ which now forms the backbone of all future rear-wheel drive BMWs. There have been some notable tweaks to the 3-Series’ dimensions – new car is 85mm longer (4709mm), 16mm wider (1827mm) and all-but identical in terms of height.
The most notable change is that the wheelbase has grown by 41mm (to 2851mm), which should benefit the rear legroom – traditionally a 3-series weakness. These tweaks don’t make a massive difference, but subtly sportify the car’s overall stance.
The new 3-series also gets a widened track front and rear track, while increased body torsional rigidity (up by 25%) and uprated suspension mountings are all bound to improve dynamics. Most importantly, the new 3-series is up to 55kg less than its predecessor. Aerodynamics are massively improved, too, with the drag coefficient falling from 0.26 to a Mercedes-Benz-rivalling 0.23. So, expect tighter handling, a higher maximum speed and more efficient motorway cruising.
So, it’s business as usual, are we disappointed?
Not necessarily. The tweaks include a larger, flatter BMW kidney grille, which is now framed by a single surround, which rather like the new BMW X5, is split by wide bars linking the headlights. There are more prominent feature lines in the front, which strengthen the car’s look.
There’s some clever going on up front, which is worth talking about – the both the front foglights, for instance, have air curtains, which should do a half decent job of keeping them clean in murky weather. BMW hasn’t hailed the return of the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) duct vociferously enough in our opinion.
Needless to say, the 3-series retains the ‘Hofmeister kink’ in the rear windows, but the trailing edge of the side window is now integrated into the C-pillar, giving it a smoother, more flush-glazed, appearance.
New BMW 3-series: engines and transmissions
The G20 3-Series is all set to undercut the 100g/km CO2 emission mark by continuing introduction of the three-cylinder engine to the premium segment, as kicked off by the Mercedes-Benz C 200 h. While the new 316i will be powered by the 136bhp 1.5-litre unit we know from the 218i, the 316d shares its 122bhp diesel with the Mini Cooper D.
One rung up, the modular 2.0-litre fours are going to account for the lion’s share of future 3-series sales. These Efficient Dynamics-branded engines will form the cornerstone of the
big-selling BMW 330i and the BMW 320d. A new six-speed manual gearbox will be introduced alongside the updated eight-speed Steptronic transmission. As an alternative to rear-wheel drive, the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system will also be available for the new BMW 320d at launch.
The TwinPower turbo now includes multi-stage turbocharging, which brings an improved power output of 187bhp and a peak torque of 400Nm for the diesel. Performance figures aren’t too shabby, with BMW claiming that the 320d will get from 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds. The BMW 320d cuts that down to 6.9 seconds.
BMW says that the 3-Series’ average fuel consumption is as impressive as ever, claiming 64.2mpg for the 320d and 62.8mpg for the 320d xDrive. The 320d’s CO2 emissions are 115g/km while the 320d xDrive’s CO2 emissions are 118g/km. More details will be released nearer the launch date.
Details of the upcoming larger 3-Series drivetrains
- 3.0-litre sixes Gain approximately 30bhp in power and 30Nm in torque over the current vintage
- 328i Rated at 260bhp
- 340i Six-pot good for 365bhp
- 330d and 340d Remain loyal to the classic straight six
- M3 and M4 Straight six, e-chargers and water injection for 500bhp
- As far as electromobility goes, we should see at least two plug-in hybrids: a 1.5-litre version with a 60kW e-motor good for a 30-mile range, and a 2.0-litre model with a 90kW e-motor permitting a 50-mile radius.
New BMW 3-series: handling and driving
We’ve already driven the 3-Series in pre-production form, but won’t know how successful BMW has been in maintaining its position as dynamic class leader until we get to try it on UK roads alongside its key rivals.
M Sport models won’t necessarily be hampered by over-firm suspension. BMW’s Adaptive M suspension, which means selectable damping rates – encompassing Comfort, Sport and Adaptive modes – will be available as an optional extra on the M Sport Plus models. These models also get larger, uprated brakes.
The M Sport rear differential is available as an option for the BMW 330i and BMW 330d models in M Sport Plus form. Expect this electronically-controlled, fully variable locking diff to be a hit with lead-footed car journalists – but unlikely to be specified by too many fleet managers. Also new are the second-generation active steering and a new torque vectoring system which piggybacks ABS and DSC.
Unlike the Mercedes C-class rival and the latest 5-series big brother, G20 will not be offered with optional air suspension from launch. Also on the cards are adaptive elastokinematics including track and camber modulation, and xDrive AWD with faster torque distribution. The upcoming 420bhp M350i MPA (M Performance Automobiles) model will make best use of XDrive, while M3 and M4 may again stick with two-wheel drive.
New BMW 3-series: improved tech and equipment
The new 3-Series closes the gap with the new class-leaders, the latest Mercedes-Benz C-class, with a new instrument cluster and Control Display. They are formed from a large surfaced screen grouping, which are complemented by additional controls that are arranged in logically-structured function panels.
Displays and buttons for the air conditioning are at the centre of the instrument panel while the light functions are operated via a panel of buttons next to the steering wheel.
The 3-Series range is much simpler than before, with even the entry level SE getting a heavily improved spec list. For your 3-Series gateway, you get included:
- LED headlights with cornering
- Ambient Lighting with up to 11 colour settings
- Reversing camera, with latest-generation reversing assistant
- Enhanced acoustic glazing
- BMW Live Cockpit plus, with its 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.
In the Sport, you can add:
- High-gloss Shadow Line trim
- High-gloss Black interior trim
- Sports seats
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.3-inch central instrument cluster and BMW’s ID7 operating system
New BMW 3-series practicality – it’s improved
The cabin is bigger and offers increased comfort. Shoulder room in the front has been increased, and passengers in the rear benefit from more legroom. The distance between the front and rear seats has been extended by 11mm, and all occupants have more headroom.
Boot capacity is a decent 480-litres, which is up from 444. Optional electric boot opening and retractable towbar complete the picture of a car with which BMW’s targeting families.
A new smart key can tell if it’s in your pocket (so always transmitting) or put down (in standby mode).
Speccing up the new 3-series
A multitude of accessories and specs such as a 3-series M Sport derivative will allow buyers to personalise their saloon; part of the range’s appeal is the ability to endlessly tune it to allow for workplace car park posing and hierarchy, after all.
But to close the gap to the competition, BMW must invest in better materials, enhanced specification and higher-quality details such as carpets, rubber seals and sill covers. While G20 will again offer a choice of equipment packs, this time it is safe to expect more content as well as more variety and better value for money.
Vernasca leather upholstery is new to the 3-Series in Sport and M Sport models, while a restyled leather sports steering wheel with multifunction buttonswill add showroom appeal. A larger electric glass sunroof is offered, too.
More tech, easier to use
BMW’s simplified range means combined equipment packages. The Technology pack brings Head-Up Display, wireless charging and gesture control, while the Comfort package adds heated steering wheel, comfort access, automated boot, and storage compartment package. The Premium package adds electric seats with memory, lumbar support and the electric glass sunroof.
All cars get speed limit information, lane departure warning and collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function along with cruise control with braking function. The Driving Assistant Professional pack adds Active Cruise Control with Stop and Go, steering and lane control assistant, lane-keeping assistant and wrong-way warning systems (really).
The most interesting addition is BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. The system, which rivals Mercedes’ MBUX for voice input is said to be an intelligent, digital character that responds to the prompt ‘Hey BMW’. It will learn favoured settings, and frequently-used navigation destinations, as well as being more human in its understanding of your commands. We’ll see how that works in time.
Finally, BMW Connected Package Plus brigs real-time traffic information to your navigation, additional concierge services and Apple CarPlay integration – the latter is standard across the range.
And what about the Touring estate?
The new BMW 3-series Touring wasn’t shown at Paris, but don’t expect to wait too long to see it in the metal. We’ve already spied its more practical sibling, the new 2019 3-series Touring estate in pre-launch testing. Our latest pictures capture disguised prototype wagons on public roads testing in Germany.
As expected, it’s very much a baby 5-series Touring, right down to the shape of the side glass and the separate, pop-up glass tailgate (letting owners drop small bags of shopping into the luggage compartment without having to lift the boot).
Now the price: what will the new BMW 3-series cost?
Full prices are yet to be finalised, but we do know that it goes on sale in the UK on 9 March 2019, priced from £33,610. Expect full UK pricing and spec details to be announced in late 2018 soon after its Paris debut.
First up is the new 3-series saloon, which goes on sale in March 2019, while the Touring estate and other bodystyles (including two-door 4-series coupe) won’t be seen until later this decade.
And if you’re interested in the high-performance BMW M3 derivative, codenamed G80 and on sale in 2020 – don’t miss our separate detailed M3 scoop here. It’s designed to bring the fight to the Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS4.