The next BMW 3 Series, as imagined by Autocar
The German firm’s seventh-generation model will meld its trademark dynamic ability with improved comfort
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.
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.
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 …read more