The 3 Series accounts for a fifth of BMW’s global sales, and the latest incarnation will add to the reputation as the ultimate drivers’ car in its sector.
However, new powertrains and additional EfficientDynamics fuel saving, emissions-reducing technologies will drive the 3 Series even further up the sales league table.
The new saloon is full of contradictions, being larger and more spacious than the model it replaces, while it is also lighter, quicker in many cases, yet more fuel-efficient, nimble and agile. Oh, it is safer too.
A wider choice of trim levels and an extensive personalisation programme will allow 3 Series saloon buyers to order virtually a bespoke car.
With the advent of EfficientDynamics technologies to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, buying a BMW makes sound business sense, even more so with the 3 Series saloon.
All have Drive Performance Control
When additional engines of the 316d, 318d and 320i were added, BMW had seven 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.
The EfficientDynamics technologies remain very much in place, 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, while the drag coefficient (Cd) is down to 0.26 thanks to optimized 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 3 Series comes with electromechanical power steering that consumes no energy when the car is being driven in a straight line or in steady-state cornering, achieved without the loss of 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, 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.
For example, the new 318d automatic model now emits 22g/km less than the previous 318d automatic model. Automatic versions are also now as fuel-efficient, or more so, than their manual equivalents.
With its rear-wheel-drive layout, near-perfect 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, agile chassis set-up and responsive engines, the BMW 3 Series has always been the benchmark for driving enjoyment among compact premium saloons.
All engines in the new 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. Efficiency is significantly improved. Manual and automatic versions offer fuel economy of more than 44mpg and CO2 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 the four engines launched, while three are familiar from the outgoing model. The other petrol engine 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 acclaimed 163hp 320d EfficientDynamics, which features longer gear ratios,
reduced friction components and revised electronics to generate an outstanding 68.9mpg fuel consumption and just 109g/km CO2. The 320d EfficientDynamics is now available with the new eight-speed automatic transmission whilst retaining the same 109g/km emissions level.
After the initial launch, three new engines were added. There will be the 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, with the same free-revving, supremely flexible character of all other BMW TwinPower Turbo petrol engines.
BMW Ireland will offer the highly valued 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. Even the trim on the key fobs differs between the various versions.
BMW Ireland confirmed 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 Ireland.
BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been available on the 3 Series in some markets. It has now been engineered for right-hand-drive cars.
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.