► The new BMW 3-series
► Due to be shown October 2018
► Spyshots of Touring and saloon
We've been spying the new BMW 3-series saloon for some months - but now we've spied its more practical sibling, the new 2019 3-series Touring estate. Our latest pictures capture disguised prototype wagons on public roads testing in Germany.
As expected, it's very much a baby 5-series Touring, right down to the shape of the side glass and the separate, pop-up glass tailgate (letting owners drop small bags of shopping into the luggage compartment without having to lift the boot).
Most of the styling is identical to the four-door notchback's, with the same 'squircle' quadruple headlamps and flattened trad BMW 'kidney' grille (below).
It's not long now until we see the new 3-series family unveiled in full at this autumn's Paris motor show. Read on for everything we know about the new Three - we've got the full engineering story, likely engines and much, much more detail about the new compact exec range.
New 2019 BMW 3-series: the story so far
This could be Munich’s most important compact executive saloon yet. Featuring a wider track for better handling, and a much larger footprint, CAR understands the new 3-series range will also feature BMW’s latest v7 iDrive system – and will wear styling that ‘moves on’ the existing design language. We’re told the new 3-series will be shown in October this year before going on sale early 2019 – but we already know a great deal about the car.
This is BMW's best-selling model worldwide by some margin - so it's vital that they gun for class honours, especially in the all-important infotrainment and digital systems inside the car.
Don't go expecting any design revolution in Munich any time soon, in other words.
New BMW 3-series release date: when can I buy one?
First up is the new 3-series saloon, depicted in CAR magazine's artist impression (above) and in our gallery. Although due to be shown this autumn, the new 3-series won't in fact go on sale until well into 2019 in right-hand drive, CAR understands, while the Touring estate and other bodystyles (including two-door 4-series coupe) won't be seen until later this decade.
And if you're interested in the high-performance BMW M3 derivative, codenamed G80 and on sale in 2020, don't miss our separate detailed M3 scoop here. It's designed to bring the fight to the Mercedes-AMG C63 and Audi RS4.
The current BMW 3-series is aerodynamically efficient and cleverly packaged, if a little generic of design in the BMW jellymould.
The styling needs to move on, insiders admit, and it will do so by redefining the overall proportions, the relation between the more muscular body and sleeker greenhouse, and the stance which will likely be sportier and more planted, judging by our spy photos. Expect a modest refresh: sharper creases, harder edges, more adventurous radii and even tighter cutlines, our Munich moles suggest.
Audi has become very good at putting these difficult features into production, and BMW should also be able to machine a more distinct quality touch into the sheet metal of G20.
What helps in this department is the highly flexible new architecture known as CLAR - short for Munich’s ‘Cluster Architecture,’ which now forms the backbone of all future rear-wheel drive BMWs.
Forget for one moment planned eye-catchers such as polished wheels, matt paint, LED matrix headlights and motorised grille louvres planned for the new Three. These items may be currently en vogue, but the next 3-series is less about equipment-related bling than the car it replaces.
It's more about substance, character, craftsmanship, visual and haptic quality, say our sources. Which is relatively easy to implement but positively expensive to fund, especially for a mid-margin high-volume product like this.
Speccing up the new 3-series
A multitude of accessories and specs such as a 3-series M Sport derivative will allow buyers to personalise their saloon; part of the range's appeal is the ability to endlessly tune it to allow for workplace car park posing and hierarchy, after all.
But to close the gap to the competition, BMW must invest in better materials, enhanced specification and higher-quality details such as carpets, rubber seals and sill covers. While G20 will again offer a choice of equipment packs, this time it is safe to expect more content as well as more variety and better value for money.
Expect the option of upgraded sport brakes, power boost for the M pack, bespoke assistance systems and a top-notch infotainment for the luxury model lines, based around the very latest BMW iDrive 7.0.
Engines and transmissions
The G20 3-series is all set to undercut the 100g/km CO2 emission mark by introducing the miserly three-cylinder engine to the near-premium segment. While the new 316i will be powered by the 136bhp 1.5-litre unit we know from the 218i, the 316d shares its 122bhp diesel with the Mini Cooper D.
One rung up, the modular 2.0-litre fours are going to account for the lion's share of future 3-series sales.
Other new engines include:
- 3.0-litre sixes Gain approximately 30bhp in power and 30Nm in torque over the current vintage
- 328i Rated at 260bhp
- 340i Six-pot good for 365bhp
- 330d and 340d Remain loyal to the classic straight six
- M3 and M4 Straight six, e-chargers and water injection for 500bhp
As far as electromobility goes, we should see at least two plug-in hybrids: a 1.5-litre version with a 60kW e-motor good for a 30-mile range, and a 2.0-litre model with a 90kW e-motor permitting a 50-mile radius.
Handling and driving
Unlike the Mercedes C-class rival and the latest 5-series big brother, G20 will not be offered with optional air suspension. But it will get adjustable dampers, switchable anti-roll bars, second-generation active steering and a new torque vectoring system which piggybacks ABS and DSC.
The longer wheelbase, wider track, lower centre of gravity and lighter kerb weight should enhance handling and roadholding, too.
Also on the cards are stronger brakes, reduced-friction wheel bearings, adaptive elastokinematics including track and camber modulation, xDrive AWD with faster torque distribution and aluminium-carbonfibre compound wheels. While xDrive is a box to be ticked by the new 420bhp M350i MPA (M Performance Automobiles) model, M3 and M4 may again stick with two-wheel drive.
New spyshots have also given us our best look yet inside the next saloon, including the full digital instrument panel inside the new 3-series, likely to be made available on high-end variants. It aims to close the gap with the new class-leaders, the latest Mercedes-Benz C-class, Audi A4 and new Jaguar XE. Gone are the days of BMW hegemony in this important sector, and they're pulling out all the stops to close the gap.
Although the cockpit looks familiar, it boasts a variety of fresh TV-quality instrument graphics, a more comprehensive head-up display, and a large colour monitor in the centre stack which blends touchscreen access, gesture control and voice activation with the good old iDrive handwheel. Our spy photos suggest the dials will be part physical, part digital - with a large, clear screen nestling between the speedo and tacho instruments.
In hybrid variants, the driving experience switch and the drive mode selector will be combined in a single manettino-style toggle, sources say.
How much will the new BMW 3-series cost? Prices are yet to be finalised, but our sources suggest the new 2018/2019 saloon will start at around £27,000. Expect full UK pricing to be announced in late 2018 soon after its world debut at the 2018 Paris motor show.
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