BMW confirms its new front-drive models will get three-cylinder turbo engines

Future BMWs will use new turbocharged three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, the company’s development boss, Klaus Draeger, has confirmed.

The frugal new engines have a 1.5-litre capacity; each cylinder is 500cc, in line with BMW’s modular production processes. Contrary to recent comments from other high-level officials, Draeger says the three-pot engines are not planned for the next BMW 3-series, set to be unveiled in saloon guise in October and on sale in the UK early next year.

See Autocar's rendering of the third-gen BMW 1-series

“They are not a priority for the 3-series,” Draeger told Autocar last week. “We’ll start with the front-wheel drive architecture and more price-sensitive models.”

That is a reference to the new front-wheel drive platform structure that BMW is developing for the third generation of the modern-day Mini and new entry-level BMW model that will form part of an expanded second-generation 1-series line-up.

Draeger revealed that the petrol version of the engine, known internally as N37, has the potential to match the maximum 54bhp-per-cylinder rating of the firm’s recently introduced turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder N20. This suggests range-topping versions of the new triple will develop up to 160bhp.

Draeger also hinted that the compact powerplant, which is set to be produced at BMW’s Hams Hall factory in the UK, is capable of achieving C02 emissions of 95g/km, although he refused to specify in which car this is achieved.

The key to the new engine’s efficiency, says Draeger, is its
capacity-to-surface-area ratio, 
which he describes as being better than any existing BMW 
engine for thermal performance.

In a bid to dispel the idea that three-pot engines are used for cost-saving, Draeger said, “The three-cylinder engines are not cheap. They are every bit as hi-tech as our four and six-cylinder engines.”

Greg Kable

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