BMW's new 3 Series at the launch in Munich
The sixth generation of the BMW 3-Series has been unveiled with the new saloon in Ireland on February 11th. Prices start at €34,180 for the new entry-level 316d ES (€35,030 on the road).
Featuring the styling of the current 5-Series, the new car will come initially with four-engine options, including a version of the 320d with emissions of just 109g/km for €38,710. These will be joined by the entry-level 316d and 318d by March next year. A hybrid version will be added to the range late next year.
New options for the model include heads-up display, a new sports suspension and for those who opt for automatic transmission, the new car will be offered with BMW’s recently launched eight-speed gearbox. The eight-speed transmission will be available on all engine variants. Previously most 3 Series owners opted for manual gearboxes, but the automatic may prove tempting as it promises better fuel economy and lower emissions than the manual.
While the overall design will not come as any great surprise – being an evolution on the current theme – it does feature a new look front nose with flat headlights that run along the front as far as the latest iteration of the firm’s iconic kidney grille. The bonnet seems slightly more bulging than before and dips down to the lower-set front grille, a slight nod towards the nose of the new 6-Series as well.
The sixth generation has grown in size compared to its predecessor, with its wide track and increased length (up by 93 mm). A longer wheelbase also means better rear seat legroom. Despite the increased size, the car is 40 kgs lighter than its predecessor.
Inside the 6.5-inch colour screen for information is free-standing, more like a docked tablet computer than what has gone before.
Four engines will be offered from launch. In addition to two diesel powertrains and the six-cylinder petrol unit from the current model, there is a new turbocharged four-cylinder variant in the BMW 328i.
But the star performer for Irish buyers wishing to mix power with 320d EfficientDynamics version offers 163bhp with a fuel economy of 4.1 l/100km (68.9mpg) and emissions of 109g/km, giving it an annual motor tax bill of just €104.
All engines in the new 3-Series 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. Despite the drop in size, it still manages to be quicker from standing start to 100km/h, managing it in a time of 5.9 seconds, while emissions fall below 150g/km. The other petrol engine on offer is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder unit in the 335i.
|Initial model variants (to be joined by 316d and 318d in March)
||0 – 100km/h Seconds
||CO2 Emissions g/km
|BMW 320d SE
|BMW 320d EfficientDynamics
|BMW 328i SE
|BMW 335i Modern
(Figures for automatic version in brackets)
New 3-Series: side profile more sporting but BMW trademarks are clear
In terms of diesel powertains, the new car starts with an improved 2.0-litre 184bhp 320d alongside the 163bhp 320d EfficientDynamics version, which features longer gear ratios, reduced friction components and revised electronics to generate its impressive fuel economy and emissions. Previously only available as a manual, the 320d EfficientDynamics will be 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 116bhp and 14b3hp 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 184bhp and 270Nm of torque.
Towards the end of 2012 BMW will introduce four-wheel-drive and hybrid powertrains to the 3 Series. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been available on the 3 Series in some markets previously, and has now been engineered for right-hand-drive cars. It will be available with selected petrol and diesel engines.
The ActiveHybrid 3 will arrive at roughly the same time, and will use the powertrain recently announced for the ActiveHybrid 5. This pairs the 335i’s 30b6hp six-cylinder petrol engine with an up to 40kW electric motor.
The new car will be offered with ES, SE and M Sport versions, but there will also be Sport, Modern and Luxury models. Even the trim on the key fobs differs between the various versions.
New 3-Series interior
According to BMW Ireland spokeswoman Claire Mulcahy: “With a broader choice of trims, 3 Series Saloon customers can better tailor their vehicle to reflect their personalities, attitudes, tastes and lifestyles.”
All models including ES (which is only available on 316d), will come with light alloy wheels (16-inch on 320d EfficientDynamics and 17-inch on the rest), automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth, BMW Professional radio with 6.5-inch colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, USB, a multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening.
SE is available with all engines except the 335i, and adds, among other things, different alloy wheels, rear Park Distance Control, two-zone air conditioning and a rain sensor with automatic light activation.
Sport models feature slightly different exterior and interior design cues. Sport versions feature different light alloy wheels, black high-gloss air intakes in redesigned bumpers and matching bars in the double-kidney grille, and a black chrome tailpipe finisher. Red stitching adorns the sport seats and leather-rimmed sports steering wheel. The interior is in high-gloss black with a red finisher, the instrument cluster has red highlighting and there is extended and switchable interior lighting with exclusive colours, chrome rings around the climate and radio controls and ‘Sport’ insignia on the door entry sills. Sport also comes with an additional ‘Sport+’ mode on the Drive Performance Control and is available on all four-cylinder models except the 328i and 320d EfficientDynamics.
The new Modern specification features switchable interior lighting colours, the extended lighting package and matt chrome trim detailing and signature door sills. The standard seats are in part cloth and part leather, whilst there is a two-tone Oyster finish on the dash, with Dark Oyster on the instrument panel and multi-function leather steering wheel.
Luxury specification features 18-inch light alloy wheels as standard. Inside, the detailing is also chrome, while the upholstery is Dakota leather with an exclusive stitching pattern and the dash and door capping are in Anthracite wood with a Pearl Chrome finisher.
Finally M Sport versions will have lowered and stiffened sports suspension, unique aerodynamic body styling and ride on 18-inch M light alloy wheels and a shortened gearshift.
Other options available include Park Assist, which allows the car to parallel park itself, with the driver controlling the accelerator and brake. A Reversing Assist camera and Surround-view cameras, which even let the driver see the car from above and the sides can also be chosen. Practicality can also be increased with a new 40:20:40 split-folding rear-seat option.
New safety options include a full-colour Head-Up Display which shows current speed limits, the car’s current speed and turn-by-turn instructions when a BMW navigation system is fitted.
In terms of sporting features optional Variable Sport steering and Adaptive M Sport suspension with electronically variable dampers will also be available as options.
During the launch at the BMW manufacturing plant in Munich, to the factory’s employees and motoring media, there was a welcome from local employees to the decision to retain production at the plant, which employs more than 10,000 employees, which are safeguarded because of the new 3-Series. The presentation reached new levels of hyperbole from a couple of sycophantic presenters who quizzed watching employees as to whether this was the highlight of their life, and told us that “nothing like this has been seen in the world before”. As they spoke seven of the new cars drove past employees at less than 10km/h.
Nevertheless the importance of the 3-Series to BMW cannot be under-estimated. It’s the biggest volume seller for the brand.