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New BMW 3-series (G20): electrified variant spotted

Published: 13 August 2018

► The new BMW 3-series
► Due to be shown October 2018 in Paris
► Spyshots of saloon and Touring estate

Our spy snappers just keep spotting the new BMW 3-series out and about. We're told the new Three will be fully revealed in October at the 2018 Paris motor show, but our latest spy shots have thrown up a little extra detail about the future product line. 

How so? Well, the freshest spy shots have pointed to an electrified version of the 3-Series but with mixed intel on the car in question. The 'electric test vehicle' signs on the side are a clear giveaway of the alternative powertrain hidden underneath, but the exhaust tailpipes suggest this is a plug-in hybrid like the 330e iPerformance of the previous generation. Our spy photographer isn't convinced, though, and suggests it's a ruse like the fake pipes fixed to the Mission E test mule seen earlier this year.

We've driven an early G20 protoype, read our review here

CAR understands that BMW is working on an all-electric saloon to rival Tesla, with the first signs coming from the i Vision Dynamics concept first shown at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show. Could this be the production equivalent? It makes sense, as it could use a similar electric powertrain to the upcoming BMW iX3 SUV.

Check out everything else we know about the new BMW 3-series below.

New 2019 BMW 3-series artist's impression by CAR magazine

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.

Design

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.

New BMW 3-series spied - inside and out

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.

Overall build

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.

New 2019 BMW 3-series: prices and specs by CAR magazine

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.

Here's comes the Touring

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).

Spied! The new 2019 BMW 3-series Touring estate

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.


Interior and infotainment tech

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.


Pricing

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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