On Tuesday, BMW used the Paris auto show to debut an all-new 3 Series. When it goes on sale in 2019, it will be the seventh model to wear the badge, adding to the more than 15 million 3 Series that BMW has sold since 1975. The 3 Series is one of those cars that defines an entire sector—in this case the small sporty sedan. But it's a sector that's dying out, as customer tastes shift to the convenience of the crossover. So BMW has sharpened up the attributes that made the 3 Series a name in the first place.
There's a lot that's new about the latest version, known to BMW nerds as the G20. The first to arrive on these shores next March will be the $40,200 330i (in rear wheel drive and xDrive all-wheel drive variations), both powered by a new iteration of BMW's 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged engine. (No, BMW's naming scheme makes no sense anymore.) With 255hp (190kW) and 295lb-ft (400Nm) of torque, it's a little more powerful and a fair bit more torquey than the outgoing engine.
Spring 2019 will see the arrival of the six-cylinder 3 Series, the M340i. With 382hp (284kW) and 369lb-ft (500Nm) of torque, this would zip past an M3 of just a few years ago, making me wonder just how many horses the Bavarians will manage to cram under the hood of the actual-for-real G20 M3 when it finally shows up. For those whose tastes are more serene, a plug-in hybrid 330e will go on sale in 2020.
BMW has sold a lot of metal over the years by proclaiming itself the true home of the driver's car, and it says it's done a lot to ensure the new 3 Series is engaging to drive. The weight balance is 50:50 front-to-rear, and the body is 25 percent stiffer than before as well as being a little lighter. Weight has been taken out of the suspension with the use of aluminum, particularly in unsprung components. And there are M Sport and Adaptive M suspension options for those whose commute might include a quick detour around the Nordschleife.
The new 3 Series styling shouldn't startle any potential customers and is recognizably "3 Series." It has grown yet again, both in overall dimensions (2.9 inches longer, 0.5 inches taller, 0.6 inches wider) and in wheelbase (1.6 inches) and track (1.7 inches front, 0.8 inches rear). But it's slipperier than before, with a drag coefficient (Cd) of just 0.26.
In addition to the now-expected advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like adaptive cruise, pedestrian detection, collision detection, and so on, the G20 also gains what BMW is calling the "Intelligent Personal Assistant." BMW says this will learn your routines and habits so it can be helpful, responding to commands like "Hey BMW, I'm cold" by turning up the cabin heat.
I can already hear many of you rolling your eyes at that, but it seems like almost every automaker is working on in-car AI, so you might as well get used to the concept. Plus, the natural language processing in BMWs might be the best we've encountered. And hey, iDrive was pretty rubbish in its first incarnation before turning into a fine infotainment system.
Listing image by BMW