The reveal campaign begins: BMW has released the first preview of its crucial new 3 Series, due in the UK next year
19 September 2018

The upcoming BMW 3 Series has been officially shown by BMW in a new image released ahead of its official launch in 2019.

BMW's first preview of the car shows the outline of the 3 Series under a sheet, with the car's distinctive daytime running lights highlighting extra details. The image first surfaced on BMW forums, but the brand confirmed that the preview is genuine. 

The upcoming Mercedes-Benz C-Class rival was most recently spotted in Touring guise, being put through its paces at the Nurburgring ahead of its launch early next year.

Spy photographers captured this camouflaged test mule undergoing high-speed testing, with extra panels riveted in place towards the rear end to disguise the cargo area. It is also sporting the redesigned headlights and taillights that will set it apart from the outgoing model.

The Touring is expected to go on sale shortly after the saloon, which BMW is due to reveal at the Paris Motor Show. Other variants should follow later in the year, with a plug-in hybrid model completing the line-up.

Our Verdict

BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series' outstanding performance and handling makes it a complete and consummate all-rounder - but then the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Guilia arrived

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

This latest sighting follows photos of a '330e' plug-in hybrid model, which looks like a regular 3 Series but has “Electric Test Vehicle” written on each side. 

Further clues include a small lump in the C-pillar disguise, exactly where BMW has traditionally placed the ‘eDrive’ badge on its plug-in models. The car was also seen later on the same road with its kidney grille blanked off, suggesting an active aerodynamic shutter system may feature on the new car. 

First Drive: BMW 3 Series 330i M Sport prototype

Unusually, the 330e was spotted testing alongside a Tesla Model 3 on tow. A fully electric 3 Series is not expected, with that car instead set to be part of the 4 Series lineup. It’s a sign, however, that BMW is benchmarking its car’s all-electric mode with a similarly-sized full EV. 

As such, expect a substantial increase in electric range and a minor performance boost with the next 330e, which could arrive early next year. The current car combines a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an 87bhp electric motor, promising an all-electric range of 25 miles and a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds. 

The 330e is set to become a more crucial model in the range thanks to the drop in demand for diesel models. It’s popularity has increased steadily since its introduction to the range in 2017, with more company car buyers opting in thanks to strong efficiency claims and low Benefit-in-Kind payments. 

There is even potential for BMW to offer a lower-powered, even more efficient version to plug the fleet-biased gap in the range historically filled by the 320d. That powertrain could use the new three-cylinder engine that’ll feature in the 318i and build on it with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. More variants of the 3 Series will go on sale throughout 2019 after its initial launch. 

Previous spyshots had captured a disguised version of the 3 Series Touring testing on public roads in Germany, hinting at how the most practical variant of the G20-generation car will look when it hits roads next year.

Both the Touring and saloon versions of BMW's future model are being engineered to offer even more comfort but not to the detriment of handling. This means the whole range — even sportier versions such as the just-spotted M Sport variant — should be more forgiving on rough surfaces than before.

The motivation for this more comfortable model comes from hot competition from Mercedes-Benz and its rivalling C-Class. Although the 3 Series stands strong as BMW's best-selling model, it's fallen short of the hot-selling C-Class, which sold in 176,915 units to the 3 Series' 129,053 in 2017.

As such, BMW engineers have been tasked with broadening the 3 Series's reach and fighting the C-Class at its own, more comfort-focused game.

Multiple powertrains expected:

The future 3 Series will also be offered with more variants, including new M-fettled versions that feature generous boosts in performance.

The first variant will be the rear-wheel-drive M340i M Performance, which will feature a 360bhp version of BMW’s twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine. It will be followed by a four-wheel-drive M340d xDrive M Performance, which is set to receive a 320bhp version of the company’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder diesel engine.

Key to the expansion plan for the seventh-generation 3 Series is the addition of two new M Performance models powered by six-cylinder engines. In a strategy mirroring that undertaken with the latest 5 Series, the new M Performance variants will go on sale shortly after more mainstream versions of the new 3 Series are launched in both saloon and estate bodystyles. The new derivatives will be offered as either a petrol or a diesel and will bridge the gap in the line-up that presently exists between standard six-cylinder models and BMW M’s range-topping M3 saloon.

The new performance-oriented 3 Series models will be targeted at the likes of the Audi S4 quattro and Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic. They will have individual styling touches, their own unique chassis tuning and relatively high equipment levels. Autocar can reveal they will also form the basis for the two-door M440i M Performance Coupé and M440d M Performance Coupé models, which will arrive in showrooms in 2020.

Significantly, the decision to launch the M340d xDrive M Performance model underpins plans by BMW to continue to equip the 3 Series with a full range of three, four and six-cylinder diesel engines, despite increasingly tight emissions legislation across Europe, including the spectre of regional bans on diesel cars from entering city centres (some of which may be implemented in Germany).

“The diesel is a critical component in our efforts to reach the 2020 climate targets,” said BMW chairman Harald Krüger. “It is very important in improving the overall efficiency of our future models.”

BMW benchmarks C-Class for new 'G20' 3 Series

BMW is pulling out all the stops to ensure the new 3 Series, which goes under the internal codename G20, possesses the stylistic appeal, performance credentials, dynamic ability and overall technical prowess it needs to claw back the gains made by its keenest executive class rivals, most notably the C-Class, which officials have described to Autocar as the clear benchmark.

Prototype saloon versions of the new 3 Series spied testing on the roads around BMW’s engineering headquarters in Munich recently indicate it will continue the company’s tradition of evolutionary design change, with an appearance that leans heavily on that of the larger 5 Series, as well as influence from the X2 SUV. The car has a more naturally sporting stance to mirror the changes beneath.

Credit for the design of the new model rests with former BMW brand design boss, Karim Habib, who moved to Infiniti last year.

As the first 3 Series model to be fully honed in BMW’s Munich-based wind tunnel, the G20 is also claimed to match the aerodynamic efficiency of the 5 Series. The most slippery body style is said to have a drag co-efficient of 0.22.

The new 3 Series has grown in most key dimensions. Nothing is official, but Munich insiders suggest overall length is up by 60mm to around 4703mm. Some 20mm of this is said to be concentrated within a lengthened wheelbase, which has increased to almost 2830mm, up from 2810mm. By comparison, the current C-Class is 4696mm in length and has a 2840mm wheelbase.

The new 3 Series is based on BMW’s latest CLAR (cluster architecture) platform — as used by all recent BMW models — and features a longitudinally mounted engine. In keeping with developments already seen on the larger 5 Series, it benefits from a range of weight-saving initiatives, including the greater use of hot-formed high-strength steel within the main body structure, to cut the already highly competitive kerbweight of today’s sixth-generation model by up to 50kg, despite the larger dimensions.

The volume of 3 Series sales rules out the use of carbonfibre, so there’ll be no Carbon Core structural developments like those seen on the headlining 7 Series.

However, BMW’s body construction specialists suggest the G20 will feature a much larger number of cast aluminium components and a greater percentage of magnesium in load-bearing areas. All told, the weight-saving developments are expected to give the lightest variant in the range, the three-cylinder 318i, a kerb weight of about 1425kg.

Together with the reduction in weight, the CLAR platform is also claimed to bring an improvement in structural rigidity that, in a move similar to that undertaken with the 5 Series, forms the basis for a change in philosophy for the chassis tuning. Recognising a growing customer desire for additional ride comfort, BMW is looking to provide standard versions of the new 3 Series with more compliant properties, in a move aimed at matching the smoothness of the C-Class.

See what we make of the current generation BMW 3 Series saloon

Expected developments include the adoption of rear air springs on more upmarket models. However, BMW is thought to have ruled out the active four-wheel steering system (that countersteers the rear wheels at lower speeds and parallel steers them at higher speeds in the name of agility), even though the 5 Series is equipped with it.

In a continuation of the Efficient Dynamics programme that has seen successive reductions in consumption and emissions across the 3 Series line-up over recent years, BMW plans to bring a series of upgrades to the petrol engine line-up of the new model.

BMW officials have confiredm an extension of the strategy in use today, with both three and four-cylinder units serving volume-selling 316i, 318i, 320i and 330i models in combination with either standard rear-wheel drive and optional xDrive four-wheel drive on selected variants.

Positioned above them will be a six-cylinder engine offered in both a standard, rear-wheel drive 340i and the aforementioned M340i M Performance guises.

BMW has begun to successively upgrade the petrol engines in each of its various model lines, with the recently revealed 2 Series Active Tourer facelift being the most recent model to bear the tweaks. Measures such as a new injection system, a particulate filter to lower NOx levels, a revised belt drive system and more efficient cooling measures are claimed to bring moderate increases in power and torque.

Together with the reduction in kerb weight promised by the new CLAR underpinnings, the reworked petrol units are also said to offer consumption and emission savings of up to 5% across the model line-up.

Unclear at this stage are BMW’s plans to introduce water injection as part of the raft of revisions. First introduced on the six-cylinder unit used by the M4 GTS, and also tested by Autocar on a prototype version of the smaller three-pot unit fitted to the 118i, the water injection system brings proven performance and efficiency gains. However, it also requires the addition of a water tank close to the engine, which in turn complicates packaging.

Accompanying the petrol units will be range of diesels. Adopting developments first seen on the 2.0-litre unit used by today’s 325d, each new oilburner will receive two-stage turbocharging and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) filter as part of BMW’s efforts to reduce emissions.

At the same time, BMW plans to increase the pressure of the common-rail injection system used by each of its diesel engines from 2000 to 2200 bar in the smaller three-cylinder units and from 2000 to 2500 bar in the four-cylinder engines, with the exception of the unit to be used by the new 325d, which will run pressures of up to 2700 bar.

Autocar’s sources suggest the 1.5-litre three-cylinder powered 316d will gain 21bhp at 136bhp, instead of the 115bhp of today’s model. Above it, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder will continue to be offered in three distinct states of tune, developing an added 13bhp in the 318d at 163bhp, some 14bhp more in the 320d at 204bhp and a claimed 14bhp extra in the 325d at 238bhp.

The Bavarian manufacturer is also planning to equip up to three new 3 Series variants with an upgraded version of today’s 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder diesel. They include the standard 330d and 340d, as well as the aforementioned M340d xDrive M Performance diesel flagship.

The current 3 Series saloon, designated F30, has been on sale since 2012, and the 4 Series (F32) coupé since 2013.


First drive: BMW 3 Series 330i M Sport prototype

Top 10 super saloons

Fun used cars 2018: the driver's guide

Join the debate


30 June 2017
A final fettling before Cars go all electric,seem no just the Deisel engine might be on its way out,the Petrol Engine too,more torque from the get go,be able to go two three hundred miles between charge,more faster charge points so range and time anxiety are reduced, not to mention that owning Driving should make them cheaper to run,

Peter Cavellini.

20 March 2018
Peter Cavellini wrote:

A final fettling before Cars go all electric,seem no just the Deisel engine might be on its way out,the Petrol Engine too,more torque from the get go,be able to go two three hundred miles between charge,more faster charge points so range and time anxiety are reduced, not to mention that owning Driving should make them cheaper to run,

miles later I can honestly say the Car hasn’t put a Wheel wrong, quiet, smooth Engine, a bit to smooth, sometimes I don’t notice I’m in a lower gear because it’s quiet and there’s no lethargy about it telling me other than the change up light, economy..?, 51mpg is fanciful, the best I can get get,and I’m no lead foot is 42mpg!, would I want anything else on the Car?, no, it’s fine as it is.

Peter Cavellini.

30 June 2017
What is the point in the made up drawings of the generic BMW-like car with the big wheels?

30 June 2017
Larger larger larger... Sad trend.
No more NA L6...
Long live the past for BMW.

19 September 2018
david RS wrote:

Larger larger larger... Sad trend. No more NA L6... Long live the past for BMW.


That applies to every european manufacturer.

No manual - no fun

30 June 2017
Of what the new 3 series will look like - could you have not taken an image of the 'new' 5 series and just reduced it by 15%...

30 June 2017
I highly doubt BMW will be bringing 330d 340d M340d 340i and M340i versions Autocar. Unless of course they go with the Ikea style M performance option of the current generation selling the power kit separately (which is a bit naff in my eyes). Having said that I would love it if they offered M Performance petrol and diesel versions in the U.K. especially the tourer. However I'll eat my hat if they do unless it is just a rebadged version of today's models. The new 5 series has both M550d and M550i with rave previews and we get neither in the U.K.

Regardless, if the diesels are all getting uplifts as stated, the 330d will have to up its output to around 275bhp to remain distinct, which means 340d will be closer to 330bhp to remain different enough. If they keep a hot petrol option that will need to up its game too.

I'd love to see a very mild hybrid 6 pot, so you can crawl in traffic on electric but not be too weighed down. The current 330e does not appeal to me and there is no tourer either :(

(...And agreed some of the designs are getting a bit clone-like mini me.)

30 June 2017
Will it still have the huge pedestrian-crash friendly "forehead bump" that makes the current model look like it has been in a front end impact already?

Or have they employed someone to actually try and design it?

The last 5 series was actually a good looking large saloon car, if they can manage to make the mid sizer handsome why can't they reduce it by 15% for the 3-er.

Focus on comfort used to be a Merc USP, BMW USP used to be handling, while Audi USP used to be almost as a Germanic Saab. I'm showing my age now. Still, good to see comfort back on the agenda.

30 June 2017
And then it'll be as big as a 90s 7 series.

30 June 2017
Having recently traded my 2010 320i M-Sport in for a brand new 320i Sport, I can honestly say that it has moved on in every area,comfort,choice of suspension settings,fit and finish inside and out are good,it doesn't have a drinking habit,yes, I mean it's more frugal,the Engine for a two litre is quite powerful responsive more torque available as and when (something I noticed with my previous one lacked), on the whole I'd say it's a good Car, I can't say it's the best premium Car at that level because I haven't driven the opposition, but, it's the best I've driven so far.

Peter Cavellini.


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week