Independent, Expert EV Reviews & Advice Since 2006

New BMW 3 Series Saloon


Details and images of the new BMW 3 Series have been revealed, and the line-up includes a hybrid – as well as a four-wheel drive version .

The new 320d EfficientDynamics Saloon will return 68.9 mpg, which is the same as the current model. However previously only available as a manual, the 320d EfficientDynamics will now be available with a new eight-speed automatic transmission – whilst retaining the same 109 g/km emissions level.

The new 3 Series will launch in February 2012 with four engines, and by March, when additional engines have been added, there will be eight versions of the new 3 Series Saloon with CO 2 emissions at or below 120 g/km. Although there are no significant gains in economy from the diesel engine line-up, the petrol engines have much improved emissions. The new 3 Series retains its rear-wheel-drive layout and 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution.

All versions of the new 3 Series Saloon feature Drive Performance Control as standard – a switch which allows the driver to swap between up to four driving modes, varying from sporty to extremely economical. The four modes are ECO PRO, Comfort, Sport, and Sport + (Sport + is included only on Sport models or with selected optional equipment).

In ECO PRO, the throttle mapping changes so that a firmer push of the accelerator pedal is needed to extract the power that is delivered with a lighter touch in the other three modes, thus encouraging a more economical driving style. ECO PRO also alters the manual gearshift points advised by the Optimum Shift Indicator, modifies the gearshift strategy on models with automatic transmission and even adjusts the power consumption of features such as the climate control and heated mirrors and seats.

The EfficientDynamics technologies on the previous BMW 3 Series Saloon remain, and have been supplemented with new ones. Auto Stop-Start is fitted to all versions, manual and automatic, along with Brake Energy Regeneration, on-demand control of engine ancillary components and tyres with less rolling resistance. Weight has been reduced by up to 50kg compared with the previous model, while the drag coefficient (Cd) is down to as low as 0.26 thanks to optimised aerodynamics. The new 3 Series Saloon features a streamlined underside, covers which create a diffuser effect at the rear and Aero Curtain air channels in the front apron which reduce the turbulence created by the revolution of the front wheels in their arches.

The new BMW 3 Series Saloon is fitted with electromechanical power steering which consumes no energy when the car is being driven in a straight line or in steady-state cornering. This has been achieved with no loss of the steering accuracy or precise feedback. Servotronic speed-sensitive power assistance is standard on the 328i and 335i derivatives and optional on all others.

An eight-speed automatic gearbox, giving a wider spread of ratios than the former six-speed unit without taking up any more space in the engine bay, is available as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual. It is also now offered with every engine to significantly improve efficiency. The new 318d automatic model now emits 22 g/km less than the previous 318d automatic model. Automatic versions of the new 3 Series Saloon are also now as fuel-efficient, or more so, than their manual equivalents.

All engines in the new 3 Series Saloon feature BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. They include a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol unit, developing 245hp and 350Nm of torque, in the 328i. It replaces the six-cylinder 3.0-litre engines in the previous 325i and 330i, with inherent advantages for weight and fuel consumption, yet with a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds in manual form, it is quicker than either. Efficiency is also significantly improved and both manual and automatic versions of the 328i have fuel economy of more than 44mpg and CO 2 emissions below 150g/km. The new unit features High-Precision Direct Injection, BMW’s new TwinScroll turbocharging, Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing and VALVETRONIC variable valve opening technology.

The 328i is one of four engines that will be available at launch, three of which are familiar from the outgoing model. The other petrol engine on offer is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder TwinPower Turbo unit in the 335i.

Demand for diesels will be catered for by an improved 2.0-litre 184hp 320d and the 163hp 320d EfficientDynamics, which features longer gear ratios, reduced friction components and revised electronics.

Previously only available as a manual, the 320d EfficientDynamics is also now available with the new eight-speed automatic transmission – whilst retaining the same 109 g/km emissions level.

Less than a month after launch, three new engines will be added. There will be 316d and 318d diesels, powered respectively by 116hp and 143hp variants of the 2.0-litre diesel engine, plus another version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. This will slot into the new 320i, and will be tuned to deliver 184hp and 270Nm of torque.

The new BMW 3 Series Saloon features a stiffer body and an all-new chassis based on a longer wheelbase (now 2,810mm, an increase of 50mm on the previous model) and wider tracks (by 37mm at the front and 47mm at the rear). Increased in overall length by 93mm, it has the characteristic BMW design proportions of short overhangs for maximum agility.

Light-alloy wheels of at least 17 inches in diameter and shod with Run-flat tyres linked to a Tyre Puncture Warning System are now fitted to every version apart from the 320d EfficientDynamics, which has 16-inch aerodynamic alloys and non-Run-flat tyres. The rolling resistance of the tyres has been reduced by 15 per cent compared with those on the previous model, with no loss of dynamic performance.

Optional Variable Sport steering and Adaptive M Sport suspension with electronically variable dampers will also be available – both interacting seamlessly with the Drive Performance Control and adding the ‘Sport+’ mode to this switch.

The new model range offers six trim levels and a wide range of packages and individual options.

BMW in the UK will again offer the ES, SE and, in 2012, M Sport versions of the 3 Series Saloon, but there will also be Sport, Modern and Luxury models, each with a distinct character and increased opportunities for individualisation.

The new 3 Series Saloon will appear in public for the first time at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2012. It is scheduled to go on sale in the UK a month later, on 11 February 2012.

Prices for the new vehicle start at £24,880 for a 316d ES. The 320i increases by only £75, whilst the 320d sees an increase of only £180. The 328i is £530 more expensive than the less powerful 325i in the previous range, but £2,935 cheaper than the 330i which it dramatically out-performs.

BMW UK can confirm that towards the end of 2012 it will introduce four-wheel-drive and hybrid powertrains to the 3 Series Saloon for the first time in the UK. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been available on the 3 Series in some markets previously, and has now been engineered for right-hand-drive cars. It will be of particular benefit to owners who live in areas prone to extremes of bad weather, and will be available with selected petrol and diesel engines.

The ActiveHybrid 3 will arrive at roughly the same time, and will use the powertrain recently announced for the ActiveHybrid 5. This pairs the 335i’s 306hp six-cylinder engine with an up to 40kW electric motor.