BMW has announced first details of the new 3 series range to be launched in early 2005.
The fifth generation models will all have a standard six-speed manual gearbox with six-speed automatic optional. Topping the range is the 330i with the new lightest-in-class six-cylinder engine with ‘valvetronic’ induction system, as recently introduced in the 6-series line.
Six-cylinder models will also include a 218bhp 325i. The new range will also feature a two-litre diesel and a two-litre petrol variant at launch.
The engine in the new 150bhp entry-level 320i is based on that of the outgoing 318i, but with enhancements to the induction and exhaust systems.
Further four-cylinder variants will follow during 2005. As usual, BMW will launch the four-door sedan first, while replacements for the coupe, cabriolet, Touring (wagon) and M3 sports models can be expected over the next year or so.
Six cylinder models will have a new DSC + system. Effectively an evolution of the familiar DSC traction control system, DSC + offers a number of features including ‘brake standby’ that pre-tensions the brakes when the driver quickly removes the pressure from the accelerator pedal. ‘Soft stop’ modulates the brake application to prevent the nose of the car from diving when travelling slowly and a ‘start-off assistant’ (hill holder) uses the clutch to prevent the car from rolling back on a hill start. A ‘brake detector’ ensures the discs are kept dry and responsive on wet roads.
BMW is also making its ‘active steering’, launched with the 5-series, available for the first time in this class as an option on six-cylinder models.
Like the 5, the new 3 has double-joint spring strut front suspension 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 1, is claimed to provide excellent ride comfort but, because run-flat tyres are now standard, we’ll reserve judgement on that after experiencing the harsh-riding 1-series.
The new 3 series body is 25% stiffer yet lighter than that of the outgoing model thanks to a new joint and crossbar arrangement for the car’s load-bearing structure.
Six airbags are standard, including curtain head airbags for front and rear occupants, and 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 for the first time on the 3 with its two stage brake lights. The stop 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.
Newly developed run-flat tyres allow to be driven for up to 150 miles at 50mph with up to four punctured tyres.
The new 3-series is larger than its predecessor and now measures 4,520mm (+49mm) in length, 2,760mm (+35mm) in wheelbase, 1,817mm (+78mm) in width and 1,424mm (+9mm) in height.Rear occupants benefit from an increase in head, shoulder, elbow and leg room.
BMW ’s iDrive system is now optional, in conjunction with sat-nav. Keyless access and engine start have also been added.