The new BMW 3 Series will be revealed at the Paris Motor Show this October – but BMW has given us a first look at the car during final testing at the Nürburgring circuit.
It’s not yet ready to fully reveal the seventh-generation 3 Series – hence the camouflage – but these images do give plenty of hints about how the new baby brother to the latest, highly-acclaimed 5 Series will look.
Typically for BMW, it’s actually more interested in telling us how much better the new car will drive compared to today’s model – and all the tech that’s gone into (hopefully) restoring its place as the ultimate compact-exec driving machine.
Derived from the same architecture as the 5 Series and 7 Series (it’s called CLAR, or ‘cluster architecture’), BMW says the new 3 Series’ centre of gravity is 10mm lower than today’s model, total weight is up to 55kg less, and it retains the current car’s 50:50 weight distribution.
The track widths – the distance between the wheels – are greater, benefitting steering precision, stability and agility, and BMW has engineered the suspension hardware to take a wider range of wheel cambers, helping it perfect the setup of all models from the most basic to the most potent.
There’s a significant increase in the rigidity of both the body itself, and the suspension attachment points. This is particularly good for steering precision, says BMW, but there’s also an added benefit to overall refinement.
Shocks that rock
BMW has revealed it’s fitting clever new dampers to the 3 Series – a high-tech setup that will come as standard, rather than sitting on the options list. They’re ‘passive’ items, rather than pricier ‘active’ units, which use clever progressive technology. Essentially, that means they can be more supple at lower speeds, yet better controlled during faster driving.
The firm calls them ‘lift-related dampers’, and they’re described as all-new technology. BMW’s head of driving dynamics, Peter Langen, said the firm is using them “as an active set-up element so as to create supreme driving properties in all conditions.
“With short spring travel, a sensitive damping response ensures comfortable vibration compensation. When the car passes over large bumps, the body movements are controlled by increased damping forces.” In other words, soft when you want them, firm when you need them.
Because they’re so smart, BMW says it’s been able to make the M sport suspension even stiffer and sportier. Lower by 10mm, M Sport 3 Series will run on 18-inch alloys, carrying mixed tyres – wider at the rear than the front.
Springs are stiffer, anti-roll bars are firmer, bearings are more rigid and BMW’s even added additional body struts into these versions. With 20 percent firmer damping, there’s now going to be a clear difference in feel between standard 3 Series and M Sport variants.
BMW is only offering M Sport models with Variable Sports Steering, the variable ratio system that, like the dampers, is quick when you want it to be, more relaxed when you don’t. It’s promising more precision to smaller inputs, without feeling nervous, so it should seem crisper and more responsive even when cruising on the motorway.
We don’t yet know what the interior looks like, and there’s not much detail on engines yet either. However, BMW does say the four-cylinder turbo petrol range is five percent more efficient, yet more powerful than ever. Expect more than 250hp from the 2.0-litre 330i, then, with ultra-clean exhaust emissions guaranteed by an exhaust particulate filter.
There’ll be a range of diesels, too. These are unlikely to change all that much from today’s motors, as BMW only renewed its diesel engine range a few years ago.
Video: 2019 BMW 3 Series prototype
The new 3 Series is more “geared towards enhanced sporty flair” than ever, says BMW. Bold words – and its Nürburgring proving sessions are the first very public statement of this.
Here’s hoping the final production measures up when we see it and drive it for the first time later this year.
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