Bigger but lighter, more powerful yet more economical engines, more space inside and extra standard kit – these are phrases you could attach to almost any new car launch in 2011. But there are new car launches and then there is the new BMW 3-series.
Right about now, the Bavarian giant is taking the covers off the all-new sixth-generation 3-series, codenamed F30. We’re at the launch, so stay tuned to autocar.co.uk for all the very latest news, car details and pictures from Munich.
We’ve already seen the car undisguised on a commercial photo shoot but nothing beats a close-up examination of those touched-up studio shots, a deciphering of the spec and a good debate (or argument) over the questions inevitably thrown up.
So, what can we expect from the new 3-series? Styling wise, it may not be the smaller 5-series clone we are all expecting. Those Barcelona spy pics showed a subtly different treatment for the front-end, in particular the headlights.
Under the bonnet, there are to be five petrol and six diesel engines, all turbocharged, and, of course, with more power and performance yet better fuel economy and CO2 emissions than the current line-up.
But 3-series purists are unlikely to be in favour of the staple normally aspirated straight-six 3.0-litre engine in the 325i being dropped for a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo petrol, first seen in the Z4 and X1.
Elsewhere, we’re told of double wishbone suspension at the front and the adoption of a sure-to-be-controversial electro-mechanical steering set-up. The 3-series name is also not going to live on in the coupe and cabriolet variants, with those set to be called 4-series when launched in 2013/14. Surely paving the way for an M4 in the process?
After the ticker tape is cleared up from the Munich presentation hall and the journalists are bussed back to Munich airport, that other question will start to be asked. The ‘what’s it like to drive?’ one.
While that’s impossible to answer at this stage, it’s worth noting this: the outgoing BMW 3-series is still class leading. It tops the Compact Execs class in at the Autocar Road Test Top 5s, ahead of the Mercedes C-class, Audi A4, Volvo S60 and all other pretenders to its throne.
“There is a strong argument that suggests [the 3-series] is the best all-round product for those who need a car to be cheap and easy to run but want it to be fiery and fast,” is a line from the road test of the 2008-spec 330d.
Can this new BMW 3-series become ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’? One thing’s for sure: before the F30 takes on Mercedes and Audi, it’s first got to eradicate the memory of its immediate predecessor.