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BMW 3-series (2012): our comprehensive guide to the new F30

Published: 17 November 2011

BMW has sold 12 million 3-series models since 1975; it’s an important car, one that accounts for a third of global BMW sales. The sixth-generation, codenamed F30, has a lot to live up to, then. Here are the key changes:

Chassis

The F30 is still, of course, rear-wheel drive, has 50:50 weight distribution, and sticks with the MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension layout of its predecessors rather than following the double-wishbone front suspension employed by the new F10 5-series. The suspension is, however, much tweaked, and the chassis itself is all-new.

Four-wheel drive will be offered on right-hand drive cars for the first time (you could get a four-wheel drive E30 3-series back in the 1980s!), and, while the previous-generation M3 was the only 3-series to get a limited-slip differential, the new lesser Threes get an LSD-mimicking electronic diff – accelerate out of a hairpin and it will subtly brake the unloaded inside wheel to stop it spinning away power.

Ring the changes

We’ve already mentioned the optional four-wheel drive, but there’s more new stuff too: an eight-speed auto will be offered across the range; there’ll be a high-performance 335i hybrid; stop-start is standard; and there’s a Drive Performance Control to offer a choice of four driving modes, from Eco Pro to Sport+.

But perhaps the biggest shift is reserved for the 328i. Cast your mind back to the E36-generation of the 1990s and you might remember a 320i – most people would have guessed it was a four-cylinder, when in fact it was a silky smooth six. The new 328i pulls the opposite trick: that badging has previously been appended to six-cylinder BMWs, but now it’s a downsized turbocharged four. It makes 242bhp and 258lb ft, while delivering 44.1mpg and emitting 149g/km.

And while the last-generation 3-series mixed naturally aspirated and turbocharged petrols and diesels in its line-up, the F30 is the first ever 3-series to have nothing but turbo power. Yes, even the upcoming M3.

Dimensions

The all-new chassis incorporates a 50mm stretch in wheelbase to liberate more legroom. There’s also 8mm more headroom, plus 20 extra litres of stowage space in the boot. Overall length/width/height dimensions swell from the outgoing E90-generation’s 4531/1817/1421 to 4624/1811/1441mm. Despite this, a focus on weight-saving technology has shaved 50kg from the kerbweight.

Standard equipment

As before, the 316d sits at the bottom of the 3-series ladder. Its price rises by £320 to £24,880, yet there’s much more standard kit than before: 17-inch alloys, automatic air-con, Bluetooth phone connectivity, BMW Professional radio with 6.5in colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, a USB port, multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening.

The 320d

Ah yes, the fleet favourite. In fact, if you want a diesel from the February 2012 launch date, only two are on offer, and both are badged 320d: the regular model and an eco-optimised EfficientDynamics variant. The regular model gets 181bhp, 280lb ft, 62.8mpg and 120g/km, while the 320d ED reduces power to 161bhp (torque remains the same), which partly helps to explain the improved 68.9mpg and 109g/km. Both 320d variants cost £28,080 – just £180 more than before – and you can expect the Efficient Dynamics to go down a storm on the company fleets – not only does it cost £20 to tax and brings low Benefit-In-Kind company car tax, but those firms that purchase a 320d ED outright will be able to write off 100 percent of its cost against tax.

The 316d and 318d will join the line-up next, while six-cylinder diesels will follow.

>> Click 'Next' for the trim level details for the BMW 3-series

 

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Trim levels

The trim designations will be largely familiar to anyone who’s ever spec’d a 3-series, with three big exceptions: Sport, Modern and Luxury. Here’s the full trim-level listing…

ES

Available only on 316d. Includes 17-inch alloys, automatic air-con, Bluetooth phone connectivity, BMW Professional radio with 6.5in colour screen and iDrive, keyless starting, USB port, multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening

SE

Carries an £850 premium on 316d, but is the entry-level spec on the 320d/328i launch cars, and not available on the 335i, which comes only in higher specs. Includes different 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, dual-zone air-con, plus rain-sensing wipers and automatic light activation.

SPORT

Plus £1k over SE, and limited to four-cylinder models, but not available on 328i or 320d Efficient Dynamics. Includes unique 17-inch alloys, black kidney grilles, redesigned bumpers, plus a black chrome tailpipe. Inside there’s red stitching on the seats and steering wheel, high-gloss black trim, and red highlighting in the instrument cluster.

MODERN

Plus £1k over SE but not available on 316d and 320d Efficient Dynamics. Includes matt chrome interior trim, part-leather seats, two-tone dash, unique 17-inch alloys and redesigned bumpers. It’s the base spec on the 335i.

M SPORT

Expect to pay around £2000 over SE prices. Extra equipment includes full Dakota leather, bodystyling, plus lowered and stiffened suspension.

LUXURY

Plus £2.5k compared with SE but not available on 316d and 320d ED. Also a £1.5k premium over the 335i Modern. Adds 18-inch rims, Dakota leather, and dash and door cappings in anthracite wood highlighted by chrome.

Specs

320i
PRICE: TBC
ON SALE: March 2012
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 16v four-cylinder turbo, 181bhp, 199lb ft, tbc mpg and C02

328i
PRICE £29,060
ON SALE Feb 2012
ENGINE 2.0-litre 16v four-cylinder turbo, 242bhp, 258lb ft, 5.9sec (6.1sec), 155mph, 44.1mpg (44.8mpg), 149g/km (147g/km)

335i
PRICE £35,525
ON SALE Feb 2012
ENGINE 3.0-litre 24v straight-six turbo, 302bhp, 295lb ft, 5.5sec, 155mph, 35.8mpg (39.2mpg), 186g/km (169g/km)

316d
PRICE TBC
ON SALE March 2012
ENGINE 2.0-litre 16v four-cylinder turbodiesel, 114bhp, 192lb ft, tbc mpg, 119g/km C02

318d
PRICE TBC
ON SALE March 2012
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 16v four-cylinder turbodiesel, 141bhp, 236lb ft
320d, tbc mpg, 119g/km C02

320d
PRICE £28,080
ON SALE Feb 2012
ENGINE 2.0-litre 16v four-cylinder turbodiesel, 181bhp, 280lb ft, 7.5sec (7.6sec), 146mph (143mph), 62.8mpg (64.2mpg), 120g/km (118g/km)

320d Efficient Dynamics
PRICE £28,080
ON SALE Feb 2012
ENGINE 2.0-litre 16v four-cylinder turbodiesel, 161bhp, 280lb ft, 68.9mpg, 109g/km

 

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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