BMW has announced the first details of the new 3 Series range to be launched in spring 2005.

The new 3 Series is said to offer a more dynamic driving experience than its predecessor, accelerate faster and achieve a higher top speed without sacrificing economy, with the new 330i delivering improvements in fuel consumption while the 320i and 320d match their predecessors.

Model

Power – BHP

Torque – Nm

Acceleration

Top Speed

Economy

New BMW 320i

150

200

9.0

137

38.2

Current BMW 318i

143

200

9.3

135

38.2

New BMW 320d

163

340

8.3

140

49.6

Current BMW 320d

150

330

8.8

137

49.6

New BMW 330i

258

300

6.3

155*

33.5

Current BMW 330i

231

300

6.5

155*

31.0

(* Electronically limited to 155mph)

Styling-wise, BMW has restrained Chris Bangle to ensure the new car’s styling doesn’t scare potential customers out of the showroom.

We still think BMW have made a mistake with the interior styling of their cars, and an even greater question mark hangs over the quality of the materials used.

Powering the fifth generation of new BMW 3 Series is a range of engines all married to a standard six-speed manual gearbox (six-speed automatic optional). Topping the range is the BMW 330i featuring the most powerful, yet lightest, six-cylinder engine in its class – the same engine that powers the recently launched BMW 630i CoupĂ©. Delivering 258bhp and 300Nm (221lb-ft) between 2,500 and 4,000rpm, this engine powers the car from zero to 62mph in 6.3 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. However, this is not at the expense of economy, with the new 330i delivering 33.5mpg combined fuel consumption.

These levels of performance are made possible by a number of significant developments in engine design and construction. The engine sees BMW use magnesium in its construction process for the first time in large-scale series production. The crankcase jacket, bedplate and cylinder head cover are all made from magnesium, which weighs 30 per cent less than aluminium.

Additionally, the new 3.0-litre unit is the first six-cylinder engine to feature BMW’s patented VALVETRONIC induction system. First seen on BMW’s V8 engines and more recently offered as standard on the Hams Hall four-cylinder petrol engines, VALVETRONIC infinitely varies the intake valve opening times and, when combined with Bi-VANOS variable camshaft timing, delivers the optimal fuel efficiency and engine response.

Also joining the six-cylinder model range in spring 2005 will be the 325i, delivering 218bhp at 6,500rpm and 250Nm (184lb-ft) at 2,750-4,250rpm.

The new 3 Series range will also feature a two-litre diesel and a two-litre petrol variant at launch. The BMW 320d, currently the UK’s most popular 3 Series model, features second-generation common rail diesel technology and a variable vane turbocharger to deliver 163bhp and 340Nm (251lb-ft) of torque. Acceleration to 62mph is achieved in 8.3 seconds with a top speed of 140mph. It achieves 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and is EU4 compliant.

The engine in the new 320i is based on that of the outgoing 318i, but with enhancements to the induction and exhaust systems. Also benefiting from BMW’s VALVETRONIC and Bi-VANOS systems, the new 320i offers 150bhp at 6,200rpm, with a maximum torque of 200Nm (147lb-ft) at 3,600rpm. This enables the car to accelerate to 62mph from standstill in 9.0 seconds, achieve a top speed of 137mph yet still deliver 38.2mpg.

Further four-cylinder 3 Series variants will follow during 2005.

Ensuring that the power and torque remain in check is the responsibility of the new DSC+ system (on six-cylinder models – standard DSC on four-cylinder models). DSC+ offers a range of benefits, including Brake Standby that pre-tensions the brakes when the driver quickly removes the pressure from the accelerator pedal. Soft Stop is also incorporated which modulates the brake application to prevent the nose of the car from ‘diving’ when travelling slowly. Also included in DSC+ is a Start-Off Assistant that uses the clutch to prevent the car from rolling back on a hill-start and a brake detector that ensures the discs are kept dry and responsive on wet roads.

Previously only available on 5 and 6 Series models, Active Steering is offered as an option on six-cylinder models and delivers a speed-proportional steering ratio. In conjunction with the DSC+ system, if the car detects oversteer, Active Steering applies a small amount of positive steering angle to bring the rear of the car back into line. Additionally, when applying the brakes on a surface with differing grip levels such as snow or ice, Active Steering intervenes to stabilise the car more precisely and quickly than the driver is able to do manually.

The chassis retains BMW’s trademark front engine – rear-wheel-drive layout and near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, and uses a double-joint spring strut front axle made completely of aluminium, minimising the unsprung mass of the car and reducing road noise. The new five-arm rear axle, first seen on the new BMW 1 Series, is also used.

The new 3 Series body is stiffer yet lighter than that of the outgoing model. Thanks to a new joint and crossbar arrangement for the car’s load-bearing structure, the bodyshell stiffness is increased by 25 per cent over its predecessor.

With the addition of six airbags as standard, including curtain head airbags for front and rear occupants, the car is expected to receive a five-star Euro NCAP rating. It is also one of the first cars in the world that is fully prepared for the rigorous side impact requirements in North America as well as the US high-speed rear impact test.

Brake Force Display is standard on 3 Series Saloon models, offering two stage brake lights. Brake lights illuminate normally in average driving conditions but during an emergency stop or when the ABS braking cuts in, the area of brake light illumination increases to warn those travelling behind of the situation ahead.

Run-flat tyres are offered as standard, and with the recent developments in Run-flat technology, the car can now be driven for 150 miles at 50mph with all four tyres punctured.

The proportions of the car have grown over its predecessor, measuring 4,520mm (+49mm) in length, 2,760mm (+35mm) in wheelbase, 1,817mm (+78mm) in width and 1,424mm (+9mm) in height.

BMW’s iDrive is standard for those customers opting for either Business or Professional navigation systems. Replacing the conventional single hood dashboard layout, the display screen sits centrally on the dashboard in a second binnacle to deliver navigation information alongside on-board computer information, entertainment and climate control adjustments and Check Control messages.

Also available for the first time on a BMW in this class is Comfort Access. All cars receive a newly designed key that replaces the conventional blade-type key but with Comfort Access the key contains an ID Sensor that the car recognises from a short distance away. On recognition, the doors are unlocked automatically and the car can be started with one push of the starter button. The Comfort Access system also works in tandem with BMW’s familiar key memory system to ensure that the seating position, door mirrors, personalised air conditioning settings and radio reception are automatically adjusted to the current driver’s settings before they enter the car.