Over 15 million. That’s how many 3 Series BMW has sold since the model’s introduction in 1976. So to call this, the seventh generation, an important new model is an understatement.
BMW took the wraps off its latest 3’er — internal name G20 — at the Paris Motor Show earlier this week. Both larger and lighter (by up to 120lb) than the car it replaces, the new model is also stiffer. The company claims the bigger dimensions aren’t only for more interior volume, but to improve the dynamics. It will slip through the air easier too, thanks to reduced drag coefficient as low as 0.23 Cd.
This being a 3 Series, there will be a wide range of propulsion choices too. From launch in March 2019, European markets can expect both petrol and diesel four-cylinders, plus a derv straight-six. North Americans will have just one option at launch: the 255hp 2.0-liter 330i. BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system will be available as an option.
Soon after the family will expand in both directions. A three-cylinder model will anchor the lineup, while the sporty M340i will take its place at the top of the pile. This model boasts an updated version of BMW’s familiar 3.0-liter turbo straight-six, kicking out 382hp and 369lbft. With xDrive (and launch control) the M340i will reel off an estimated 4.2 second 0-60mph sprint, making it faster than the M3 was only a decade ago.
The M340i will exclusively feature an eight-speed Steptronic transmission. In fact, all G20 3 Series in North America will be auto-only. Europeans will have a six-speed manual as standard on the smaller-engined models.
Of course, there’s a full suite of tech inside the G20 as well. The transmission alters its shift strategy based on driving route and situation. If the car is equipped with the nav system, it will also take that into account in conjunction with the Active Cruise Control. A similar approach was first used in sister company Rolls-Royce.
Auto start/stop and coasting features are both standard. There are multiple driver-selectable drive modes, plus the option for the Adaptive M electronically controlled dampers. Also on the options list (or standard for the M340i) is an M Sport electronic differential.
Outside, the G20 adopts the family design language of its bigger brothers, 5 and 7 Series. An enlarged kidney grille and a new take on the Hoffmeister Kink lead the charge. It’s still recognizably a 3 Series, though the front bumper varies in fussiness depending on trim level. The biggest departure is out back, where BMW has seemingly made off with a shipment of Lexus’ L-shape taillights.
The interior is much cleaner. An 8.8-inch display pairs with iDrive 6.0, while the optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional bumps that to a 10.25-inch touch screen with iDrive 7.0. This upgrade also brings a full 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay, and WiFi.
As ever with the 3 Series, this is only the beginning. BMW will bolster the lineup with a Touring station wagon next autumn. By the end of 2019, the new 4 Series coupe will break cover. Most intriguing is an all-electric addition to the BMW i lineup based off the 4 Series, dubbed i4 (of course).
Replacements for the hot M3 and M4 are in the pipeline too. We expect them to use a refreshed version of the existing turbocharged 3.0-liter six. It makes 425hp in the stock M cars and up to 500hp in the limited-run M4 GTS — figure somewhere in the middle for the G80.
The new 3 Series will go on sale March 2019. The 330i will start at $41,245 in North America. Meanwhile the lineup will start at £33,610 for the rear-drive 320d in the UK.