BMW 3-series (2012) goes all-wheel drive

Published: 22 June 2012

BMW's latest 3-series model is gaining all-wheel drive in an effort to win over buyers otherwise seduced by Audi's Quattro drive.

The option is part of a wider extension of the BMW 3-series range, which will include a hybrid, and the ever-popular M Sport trim design.

Is rear-wheel drive dead at BMW?

Don't worry, it isn't - yet - but it's not the default setting it once was.

BMW couldn't ignore the demand for all-paw traction any longer, though: given that Audi has built so much of its core brand value around the security of Quattro drive, and Mercedes has got in on the act with its 4Matic system.

The first AWD (or xDrive in BMW-speak) 3-series will be the 320i xDrive, powered by the 184bhp turbo four-cylinder engine. The manual car will hit 62mph in 7.4 seconds (actually a tenth of a second slower than its RWD sister) while the eight-speed auto version takes 7.5 seconds.

Naturally, adding 4wd makes the 3-series thirstier; the self-shifter hits back with 43.5mpg and 152g/km, beating the manual's 41.5mpg and 159g/km.

And at £27,400 for a 320i xDrive SE, four-wheel drive costs around £1500 than the rear-drive equivalent.

What about the new BMW 3-series hybrid?

That's the ActiveHybrid 3 to you, as BMW prefers to call it. This marks the first small executive hybrid entrance in the class, and unusually features a classic straight-six motor, rather than a more frugal four-pot.

The ActiveHybrid 3 marries a 54bhp electric motor to a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo engine, with outputs totaling 335bhp and 332lb ft.

Those figures power the ActiveHybrid 3 to 62mph in a scant 5.3 seconds, though arguably more impressive is the ability for it to run up to 2.4 miles, at up to 37mph, on silent, emission-free electric propulsion alone. Altogether the hybrid car achieves a claimed 47.9mpg and 139g/km.

And there's a new 330d too?

Correct. Fear not, fans of what is perhaps the ultimate in frugal executive performance - the 330d is back.

This time around it hands over 255bhp and 413lb ft, transmitted through an eight-speed auto gearbox as standard. The new 330d reaches 62mph in 5.6 seconds, though pace is twinned with potential economy of 57.6mpg and 129g/km, ensuring the 330d remains a compelling best-of-both-worlds package.

It'll start production in July 2012 and cost from £33,280.

Also debuting at last on the new 3-series is M-Sport trim: an extra £3000 buys you the body kit, sport suspension and 18-inch wheels. Inside, the M Sport cabin features a Sport+ gearbox mode, sports seats and steering wheel, and standard leather.

Finally for the 3-series, we'll see a 316i and 320i EfficientDynamics in November 2012, priced at £22,850 and £25,730 respectively.

Any other BMW news?

There are revisions to the unloved 5-series Gran Turismo too. BMW is hoping the addition of an entry level 520d GT will kickstart sales - especially among tax-conscious fleet buyers - in fact, all 5GT powertrainss are being revised to liberate more power and greater efficiency.

The eight-speed auto gearbox is standard on all models, as is stop-start. There's a price rise of betwwen £375 and £850 across the range.

M Sport trim is to be offered on the ActiveHybrid 5 saloon as well - it gets the usual M Sport additions, minus the sports suspension (most likely a blessing on UK roads) and starts at £50,190.

Meanwhile, all 5-series variants are to receive voice control as standard, and Touring models get automatic tailgate operation - though the Touring range itself does see a price rise of £250.

Let's not forget the upgraded 650i too, now in coupe, convertible and four-door Gran Coupe flavour. Revisions to the turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 have released an further 41bhp and 37lb ft, upping totals to a not insubstantial 443bhp and 480lb ft.

All 650i models will now complete the dash to 62mph in 4.6 seconds, but have fuel economy rise 5.1 mpg (to 31.7) and C02 output drop by 40g/km (to 206). A 650i Gran Coupe will set you back £70,650, with an extra £5k required for M Sport trim.

Phew, that's a lot of BMW news! 

It certainly is. The BMW range changes go on sale from July 2012, with the exception of the 316i and 320i EfficientDynamics, which land in November 2012.

 

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