A longer wheelbase and a softer, more comfortable suspension tune sound like reasons to be concerned for the future of the 3 Series, which remains the defining sports saloon of the last half a century.

Then again, if the current 5 Series proves anything, it proves that Munich knows how to add an extra layer of refinement to an executive car without eroding the appeal of its handling too much. It’ll have to be done carefully – because the 5 Series isn’t quite the athlete that BMW would have you believe – but there’s reason to hope that it can be done.

2019 BMW 3 Series to be most refined model yet 

It’s interesting that BMW is most worried about the threat posed by the current Mercedes-Benz C-Class rather than competition from the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE. Both of the latter have been introduced within the lifecycle of the current 3 Series, but neither are likely to sell in anything like the volume that the Mercedes will.

Handling panache only gets you so far in the current executive car market, it would seem – and BMW is edging away from it at a time when its imitators have just gotten around to that most sincere form of flattery.