Revealing new spy photos of the next BMW 3-series have landed in our inbox today. Despite only recently being facelifted, work is well underway in Munich to develop the next 3-series, due in a motorway fast lane near you in three years' time.
We weren't expecting to see a new BMW 3-series for a while yet, why now?
The new 3-series family – internally codenamed F30 – has been moved forward because of a slump in sales of the current model. CAR understands sales nosedived by 40% in the first six months of 2009, a cataclysmic drop which sparked change in Bavaria.
Hence the new Three project has been fast-tracked by a year, with a launch pencilled in for the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.
Our spies in Germany caught this early car being towed on a trailer, revealing a little about the next 3-series styling. Strip away the swirly-whirly disguise, and we're told it will look quite different – despite being signed off by former design chief Chris Bangle before he retired. Also expect influences from new styling boss Adrian van Hooydonk’s 2007 CS concept.
So this is a cooking 3-series, not the M3?
You got it! We have, however, learned a fair bit about the new sporting saloon of choice. Gone is the 4.0-litre V8 from today's M3, replaced with a straight six twin-turbocharged unit with direct injection. The engine swap not only cuts emissions, but saves weight too. Power remains unchanged at 414bhp, but even sharper acceleration is promised thanks to an upgraded dual-clutch gearbox available only to M3 customers.
What about the rest of the F30 3-series line-up?
Further down the model range, the 3.0-litre inline six powerplant features a couple more times. The 335i makes a comeback, although it loses a turbo and power drops to around 280bhp to make room for a completely new car, the 340i. This one will have a pair of blowers, which help to muster 360bhp.
The other petrol engines will be four-cylinder turbocharged units displacing either 1.6 or 2.0 litres. High-performance diesels will also feature, with a 204bhp 323d and a 306bhp 335d appearing in the new 2011 F30 family line-up. BMW expects most models to be fitted with the optional eight-speed automatic transmission complete with stop-start technology.
How about a 3-series GT version, like the 5-series Gran Turismo?
We are expecting BMW to produce a 3GT, akin to the 5GT. There will also be another 3-series convertible, but not with a folding hardtop like the current car. In an effort to save valuable kilograms, a canvas roof will make a comeback for the new topless 3-series.
Other technology that may appear in the range includes optional four-wheel drive, mild hybrid power and maybe even a plug-in hybrid.
So, a strong line-up for the top-selling BMW. We'll look forward to seeing the lines under that disguise over the coming months...