The BMW 3 Series Saloon is the heart of the BMW brand, responsible for one-fifth of the company’s global sales. When the latest incarnation of 3 Series goes on sale next February it will build on the current model’s position as the ultimate drivers’ car in its sector.
But it will also be the most logical business proposition, thanks to new powertrains and additional EfficientDynamics fuel-saving, emissions-reducing technologies.
The new BMW 3 Series Saloon is a car of contradictions: larger and more spacious than the model it replaces, but lighter; quicker in many cases, but more fuel-efficient; and more nimble and agile while even safer. There have been big steps forward in style, quality, comfort and specification for only a minimal price increase. A wider choice of trim levels and an extensive personalisation programme will allow 3 Series Saloon buyers to order virtually a bespoke car.
Compact BMW saloons have always appealed to the emotions of keen drivers because of their outstanding driving dynamics, but with the advent of the company’s EfficientDynamics technologies to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in the middle of the last decade, they also present a compelling business case. That advantage is set to increase with the introduction of the new BMW 3 Series Saloon. By March 2012, when additional engines have been added to the four at launch, BMW will have eight versions of the new 3 Series Saloon with CO2 emissions at or below 120g/km while competitors can muster only one each.
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.
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 bespoke compact executive car BMW 3 Series Saloon buyers are extremely diverse in their preferences and tastes, with a growing demand for greater personalisation, and the new model range has been configured to reflect that. It offers more trim levels than ever before – six – and a wide range of packages and individual options which customers can add to the already significantly increased standard specification of every model.
Common to all versions is a new-found sense of style, higher interior quality standards and much improved packaging. The new 3 Series Saloon is simultaneously more sporty and more elegant than its predecessor. Improved proportions, pronounced wheel arches, headlamp units which blend into the double-kidney grille to form a continuous band across the front of the car and air inlets beneath the headlights visually stretch the width and make the new 3 Series Saloon look low, wide and sporty. This is echoed by the strong horizontal design language at the rear and the forward-pressing nose, long bonnet, rising swage lines and large wheels visible from the side. At the same time, the coupé-like profile, distinctive double round headlights, L-shaped rear light units with LED light bars and the decorative trims chosen for the grille and around the windows give an athletic and yet elegant appearance.
The new BMW 3 Series Saloon is 93mm longer than the previous model and 6mm narrower, excluding door mirrors. It also has a 50mm longer wheelbase. This has clear advantages when it comes to internal space. There is 18mm more feet entry freedom, 15mm more knee room and 8mm more headroom in the rear, while the height of the rear door and its opening angle have both been increased to make entry and exit easier. None of this is at the expense of luggage space, which has increased by 20 litres to 480 litres.
Befitting the BMW 3 Series’ renowned driving dynamics, the interior control and switchgear layout is totally driver-focused. The elegant and dynamic new interior design language, with twisting and merging surfaces arranged in a series of layers, all angle towards the driver. The centre console itself is angled at seven degrees towards the driver.
So that the passenger does not feel excluded, the iDrive controller used to access many of the car’s functions and the 6.5” display monitor which accompanies it (both standard on all models) are arranged centrally, within equal reach and view of both front occupants. What is immediately apparent to all who enter the new BMW 3 Series Saloon is the significant improvement in trim quality and ambience.