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Paris show: BMW’s new-gen 3 Series uncovered

Loads more tech, fresh design and M Sport variant for all-new BMW 3 Series

2 Oct 2018


BMW has ripped the covers from its highly anticipated seventh-generation 3 Series sedan that ushers in massive changes under the skin, a fresh design, lighter chassis, upgraded cabin and safety technology and a warmed-up M340i performance variant.
Revealed at the Paris motor show this week, the all-new 3 Series will hit Australian showrooms in about March or April next year, just a few months after the start of its European rollout.
The new-generation model will spawn a Touring (wagon) body style that is likely to be revealed next year, as well as two- and four-door 4 Series versions and a hardcore M3 variant down the track.
As well as the expected mainstream variants, BMW will offer a spicy M340i that will compete directly with the Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43 mid-sizers. It will be the first 3 Series M Performance model to be offered and will arrive in Australia after the first wave.
The new 3 Series is a critical model for BMW Australia, with sales of the outgoing sixth-generation model dropping off in recent years and regularly trailing the dominant Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
However, to the end of August this year, 3 Series sales have increased by 16.7 per cent to 2177, compared with 3723 and a 34 per cent drop for the C-Class, which has just switched over to a newly upgraded model. 
BMW Group Australia product communications manager Adam Davis said the 3 Series was still considered a core model for the car-maker, despite the unstoppable rise of SUVs.
“It has traditionally been (a core model),” he told GoAuto in Paris. “It is still the leading passenger vehicle for us and it has always had that reputation. 
“You look at that segment as well and you look at the competitors and they are all doing pretty well. Anything larger than that sized vehicle can struggle a bit, but I still think that segment is pretty strong.”
BMW Group Australia general manager of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher added that the company was expecting an uptick in sales for the model when it rolls into dealerships next year.
“Traditionally when there is a new model introduced, you will always see renewed interest in the vehicle,” she said. “So, yes, we do expect the 3 Series will certainly spark interest. 
“It has a really loyal following as well. It has that reputation of being the driving machine and that has continued throughout its entire life. And I expect we will see that with the new model as well.” 
Ms Fletcher said that BMW’s focus was on ensuring it had an appealing offering for its consumers, rather than chasing segment leadership.
“If everybody had their way in the world everybody would be number one with everything wouldn’t they? But we have really focused on our own strategy and that is to continue to provide these vehicles as soon as possible and with very attractive prices and specifications.” 
Built on BMW’s CLAR platform that underpins the 5 and 7 Series and the new X3 and X5 SUVs, the 3 Series is 85mm longer than its predecessor (4709mm), 16mm wider (1827mm), 1mm taller (1442mm) and has a 41mm-longer wheelbase (2851mm). 
The front and rear tracks are 43mm and 21mm longer respectively, which BMW says has had a positive effect on the car’s “poise and agility”.
The new exterior design includes elements such as a new-look kidney grille framed by a single surround with wide split bars, a new take on the quad headlights (LEDs are standard) and an L-shape daytime running light signature. 
It has a pair of character lines running the length of the sedan and the familiar Hofmeister kink is now integrated into the C-pillar which gives the rear doors a glass edge.
Depending on the market, the 3 Series will be offered in Advantage, Sport Line, Luxury Line and M Sport design themes.
Ten metallic paint colours, including new Portimao Blue and Vermont Bronze metallic, will be offered as well as two non-metallic hues.
BMW has improved the aerodynamics and the new 3 Series is slipperier than before, with a drag coefficient of 0.23, down from 0.26Cd. BMW says this has been aided by the inclusion of active air flap control, ‘air curtains’ and an almost completely sealed underbody.
Inside, rear visibility has been improved and there is more shoulder and elbow room up front, while the rear seats are easier to get into and have more legroom.
Cargo space in the boot is 480 litres, which is the same as the outgoing 3 Series sedan. 
BMW has detailed the initial European line-up for the 3 Series, which is made up of six engine variants including four-cylinder petrol, four-cylinder diesel and six-cylinder petrol and diesel powertrains.
From launch, the entry-level variant is the 320i, which is powered by a 2.0-litre TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine offering up 135kW at 5000-65000rpm and 300Nm from 1350-4000rpm, representing a 30Nm boost over the current 320i.
It hits 100km/h from standstill in 7.2 seconds, consumes 5.7-6.0 litres per 100km and emits 129-137 grams of CO2 per kilometre. The 320i is fitted with a particulate filter and meets Euro 6d-TEMP standards.
The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-pot 330i delivers 190kW from 5000-6500rpm and 400Nm from 1550-4400rpm and sprints from 0-100km/h in 5.8s, consumes 5.8-6.1L/100km and emits 132-139g/km.
If BMW Australia uses a similar line-up to the outgoing model, the 320d will be the only diesel offering.
Its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo pumps out 140kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm at 1750-2500rpm, enabling a 0-100km/h time in 7.1s, a 4.4-4.7L/100km economy figure and 115-122g/km of CO2.
In Europe, BMW will offer a more powerful 195kW/580Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder 330d diesel – as well as an xDrive version of the 320d and an entry-level 318d – but given the downturn in diesel passenger car sales in Australia, they are unlikely to be offered.
However, Mr Davis said BMW was committed to diesel powertrains for the foreseeable future, adding “there will be available diesel in the next generation; it is still an important part of the overall (global) CO2 strategy”.
The M340i will be the most performance-focused 3 Series when it lobs after the initial variants, until the expected arrival of the full-fat M3 sedan further down the track.
Following its recent form of offering all-wheel-drive versions of some of its performance sedans, the M340i is likely to be offered with xDrive all-paw traction Down Under, following the M5 and the M760Li.
The M340i uses a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine punching out 275kW and 500Nm, ensuring a 0-100km/h sprint in 4.4s, fuel consumption of 7.5L/100km and CO2 emissions of 199g/km.
Mercedes-AMG’s similarly positioned C43 uses a 287kW/520Nm 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6, while the 3.0-litre turbo V6 in Audi’s S4 offers up 260kW/500Nm.
As with the outgoing model, BMW will also offer a plug-in hybrid 330e iPerformance variant down the track that will launch in Europe midway through 2019.
It has an electric driving range of approximately 60km, while BMW says fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are down by 20 per cent and 39g/km respectively compared with the outgoing PHEV.
The eDrive system connected with the eight-speed Steptronic transmission – which is standard on all variants – combine to provide “bursts of dynamic acceleration” by delivering an extra 30kW for short periods, ensuring a 0-100km/h dash time of 6.0 seconds.
BMW engineers have cut 55kg of overall weight from the 3 Series compared with the outgoing model, while overall rigidity has improved by 25 per cent.
The double-joint spring strut front axle and five-link rear axle have been tweaked, while new shock absorber technology and changes to the dampers have improved ride comfort and acoustics, according to BMW. 
The Driving Experience Control system features various driving modes including Comfort, Sport and Adaptive. Adaptive M Suspension will also be offered as an option.
BMW says it has placed a greater emphasis on “driver focus and refined premium interior ambience” by using clear controls, high-quality materials and standard LED interior lighting.
It features a new sports leather steering wheel, a new gear shifter and control panel in the centre console, a new location for the stop/start button and an electric park brake.
The 3 Series also comes with newly designed front seats and “optimised” seating comfort in the rear, while noise, vibration and harshness measures have been improved thanks to foam-filled A-pillars and acoustic glass for the windscreen.
The revised display system includes a larger 8.8-inch screen (up from 6.5 inches), a 5.7-inch instrument cluster display (up from 2.7 inches) and an optional 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch Control Display.
It uses the new BMW Operating System 7.0 and has wireless device charging as an option. 
The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant makes its debut in the new 3 Series and responds to the command, ‘Hey BMW’, similar to Mercedes’ MBUX that responds to ‘Hey Mercedes’.
The system learns the driver’s habits and preferences for settings and can even answer questions not relating to the car, such as ‘Hey BMW, what’s the meaning of life?’
Users can ask it how particular functions work in the car, too. 
The 3 Series will also be offered with an expanded range of active safety gear, including the ‘collision and pedestrian warning with braking’ system as standard.
Optional features include Driving Assistant Professional with active cruise control (with Stop & Go function), steering and lane control assistant, lane-change warning and lane-departure warning system, side collision protection, evasion aid, cross-traffic alert, priority warning and wrong-way warning systems. 
BMW Connected Drive is offered with an expanded number of digital services, including a parking space assistant that helps locate a spot, a digital key operated through a smart phone and remote software upgrades. 
While the new 3 Series will be produced in Germany and Mexico, as well as China for that market, Australian examples are expected to be sourced from Germany.

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