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The sixth generation of the BMW 3 series sedan has grown 93mm in length compared to its predecessor, on a wheelbase 50mm longer (2,810mm now) and widened track (front +37 mm, rear +47 mm). It makes its punlic debut at the 2012 Detroit show in January and right hand drive sales start in the UK in February.
German trim and equipment variants include sport, luxury and modern lines. Lead RHD market the UK will still get ES, SE and M-Sport versions and will add four-wheel drive and hybrid versions later, for the first time.
Kerb weight is 40kg (88 lb) lower.
Four twin turbo engines will be offered including a new two-litre I4 petrol unit in the 328i. The engine, developing 245hp and 350Nm of torque, replaces I6 three-litre engines in the previous 325i and 330i. The eight-speed automatic gearbox (from ZF) is a first in the premium mid-size segment, BMW claimed. Auto start-stop is standard and fuel efficiency and emissions match or better models with the standard six speed manual gearbox.
So-called EfficientDynamics technology includes the start-stop, brake energy regeneration, optimum shift indicator and need-based operation of ancillary components.
A new driving experience control switch offers comfort, sport and sport + options plus eco pro.
By March 2012, when additional engines (316d and 318d diesels, powered respectively by 116hp and 143hp variants of the two-litre diesel engine, plus another version of the two-litre turbocharged petrol engine) have been added to the four at launch, BMW's UK unit will offer eight versions with CO2 emissions at or below 120g/km while competitors can muster only one each. This brings clear benefits to owners in terms of benefit-in-kind company car taxation and annual vehicle excise duty while the 320d EfficientDynamics model, with CO2 emissions of less than 110g/km, allows businesses which outright purchase, to write off 100% of the cost of the car against tax in the first year.
In what may be a controversial move, the new 3 has electromechanical power steering which consumes no energy when the car is being driven in a straight line or in steady-state cornering. This, BMW claims, has been achieved with no loss of the steering accuracy or precise feedback that the brand is known for.
Servotronic speed-sensitive power assistance is standard on the 328i and 335i derivatives and optional on all others.
All-independent suspension is by aluminium torque struts, wishbones and swivel joints at the front and an improved and refined version of the proven five-link arrangement at the back.
A full-colour head-up display will be available along with surround view with side and top views camera and a parking assistance system, active cruise control with stop&go function, lane change warning system and lane departure warning system with camera-based collision warning system, which are offered for the first time in a 3 series Sedan. The new real-time traffic information (RTTI) and special apps such as BMW Connected for using social networks are also available.
Hands-free opening of the boot lid and active protection occupant protection are also optional as is advanced eCall with automatic position finding from BMW Assist.