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BMW 3 Series faces up to German rivals

Revamped: A new face and a host of under-skin upgrades differentiate the revised 3 Series sedan from the current model.

BMW has pulled the wraps off its facelifted 3 Series sedan line-up

27 Jun 2001

THESE are the first images of the updated BMW 3 Series sedan due to supersede the existing model by the end of the year.

It is the first comprehensive update for the sedan since the E46 range made its international debut in 1997 (we didn't get it until September, 1998).

BMW Australia corporate communications general manager John Kananghinis says the revised 3 Series sedan is likely to make its first local appearance at October's Sydney motor show - but deliveries will not start until December.

The car's new-look face is complemented by a range of under-skin modifications claimed to sharpen its dynamics.

But perhaps the most significant upgrade is the introduction of a much more potent engine in the volume-selling 318i.

The new 2.0-litre engine features BMW's Valvetronic technology and delivers 105kW and 200Nm - a useful improvement on the current 1.9-litre unit's outputs of 87kW and 180Nm.

The powerplant is claimed to produce far lower emission levels and BMW quotes fuel consumption figures of 7.2 litres/100km for the EU combined test cycle.

As for pricing, Mr Kananghinis suggests the new line-up is likely to retain a sub-$50,000 entry point.

"We haven't determined pricing but our intention is to stay in the same competitive market position," he said.

Pricing currently starts at $48,975 for the 318i manual, rising to $90,700 for the range-topping 330i. The gap is filled in by the 320i (from $61,400) and 325i (from $67,405).

External changes to the 3 Series sedan endow it with a look not too dissimilar to its larger 5 Series sibling.

The new-look face features a slim-line headlight cluster and a wider, more squared-off twin-kidney grille. In addition, the front spoiler has a smoother, simpler design than the intricate item used currently.

There is also a new bonnet with creases that branch out towards the A-pillars rather than straight back, as is the case now.

Mr Kananghinis said the new look was part of "a deliberate policy to create more differentiation between the sedan, coupe and convertible models".

"This (new) look is for the sedan only," he said.

Under-skin changes include tweaks to the steering and suspension to bring the car in line with the 3 Series compact launched in Europe earlier this year.

The 3 Series has been a strong sales performer for BMW, regularly placing at the top of the prestige and luxury car segments.

The updated model will be a timely arrival for BMW given that its German counterparts have stocked their arsenals with fresh rivals - Mercedes-Benz's all-new C-class has fared well since its launch last November while Audi's revamped A4 joins the fray next month.

Jaguar will also weigh into the battle with its X-Type in October.

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