Spy shots have clued us in to a new 3 that will shrink the formulas used by the 5 Series and 7 Series, and get a much better interior. With the move to the CLAR architecture, Autocar reports that overall length grows by about 2.4 inches, the wheelbase stretched by 0.8 inch, width also fractionally larger. The length and wheelbase remain a touch shorter than those of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Additional magnesium and high-strength steel are expected to lower weight by roughly 88 pounds, and a new chassis layout confers a 49/51 front/rear balance.
Sleeker headlight clusters hook up with a wider kidney grille and house squarer angel eyes. A camera sits between the grille and a radar unit below, the kidneys hiding active shutters to promote fuel economy. New bumpers sit front and rear, connected by character lines along the flanks, plus a new rear diffuser and an integrated decklid spoiler. We hear designers aimed to enhance the “sportiness and visual appeal” of the nameplate that’s given up some ground to seriously sporty rivals. At the same time, the G20 is the first 3 Series model to get the ultimate wind tunnel treatment. Autocar says the most aerodynamic body registers a 0.22 coefficient of drag.
The performance case gets new help from two M Performance versions mimicking revisions in the 5 Series line. The M340i is said to send 380 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels, according to BMW Blog. Autocar believes the M340i will get 360 hp and rear-wheel drive, but the other recent M Performance offerings are all-wheel drive, as are the Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic and Audi S4 quattro rivals.
Telling the hotter sedan from its siblings will be easy with upgraded bits like silver side mirrors, better brakes and blue calipers, and exclusive alloys. BMW Blog notes that Portiamao Blue and Blue Ridge Mountain extend the color palette. An M-tuned suspension, M differential and variable steering will address dynamics. After seeing a 3 Series prototype with a taped-off roof, BMW Blog wonders if a carbon roof will join the options list. The M440d xDrive uses a diesel 3.0-liter inline-six getting 320 hp and “tons of torque.” You can forget about manual transmissions in all but the 320i and lower trim models.
Overall, the gas engine lineup will get horsepower bumps of between 15 and 20 hp, but will emit 5 percent less CO2 courtesy of changes like a tweaked belt system, more efficient cooling, and particulate filters. Diesels will run more pressure in their common-rail injection systems, two-stage turbocharging, selective catalytic reduction filters, and AdBlue tanks. The plug-in hybrid 325e gets bumped to 230 hp, the 330e rises to 282 hp. This seventh-gen sedan might also welcome the long-rumored all-electric model.
BMW should bring the standard 3 Series to Paris, the retail launch to happen around March 2019. The M Performance versions could follow up to a year after that.