The German firm's seventh-generation model will meld its trademark dynamic ability with improved comfort
30 June 2017

BMW will ramp up the inherently sporting qualities of the next 3 Series in a bid to extend the depth and overall reach of its best-selling range of cars.

Key to the expansion plan for the seventh-generation 3 Series – set to arrive in 2019 – 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 body styles. 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 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.

The new performance orientated 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.

“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 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 MercedesBenz 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.

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

2019 BMW 3 Series spotted testing at the Nurburgring

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 weightsaving 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 its key rival, the Mercedes-Benz 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 program 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 confirm an extension of the strategy in use today, with both threeand 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.

Starting later this year, BMW plans to successively upgrade the petrol engines in each of its various model lines. 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 kerbweight 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 threepot 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 threecylinder 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 sixcylinder 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.

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

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Comments
14

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.

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.

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.

30 June 2017
Let's get how it works
Prece

30 June 2017
Coming soon to the outside lane of a motorway, 2 inches from your bumper with main beam on.

They can change the car, but 3 series are still driven by bell ends.

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