BMW has launched its seventh generation 3 Series Saloon at the Paris show with a full styling makeover, new standard options for instrument panel and centre console, a 330e plug-in hybrid version and a new intelligent personal assistant feature.

The saloon is the core of the range with 15m sold worldwide.

The new car is 85mm longer than its predecessor (at 4,709mm), 16mmm wider (1,827mm) and 1mm taller (1,442mm). Wheelbase has been extended 41mm to 2,851mm, and track is also wider (front by 43mm, rear by 21mm).

From launch, customers can choose from two non-metallic paint colours and ten metallic shades.

The new instrument cluster and control display form a large surfaced screen grouping while the controls not included in these units are arranged into clearly structured function panels.

Displays and buttons for the air conditioning are at the centre of the instrument panel while the light functions are operated via a panel of buttons next to the steering wheel. The start/stop button for the engine is now positioned in a control panel in the centre console that houses the gearshift lever or newly designed selector lever, the iDrive Controller, electromechanical parking brake and the buttons for the driving experience control switch unit.

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The range of standard and optional interior trim elements available for the instrument panel and centre console is almost entirely new. As well as open-pore fine wood options, customers can choose from a variety of aluminium trims including a new mesh effect interior trim. 

The entry level SE model for the UK features substantially increased standard specification including extended LED headlights with cornering light and eyebrow indicators, light carpet, interior ambient lighting with up to 11 colour settings, reversing camera and reversing assistant, electric folding rear view mirrors, three-zone air conditioning and enhanced acoustic glazing.  All 3 Series models have 40:20:40 split folding rear seats and folding rear headrests as standard.  The entry model features a leather Sport steering wheel and live cockpit plus with its 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.

The SE models get line-specific front and rear bumper design, and exclusive 17-inch light alloy wheels or optional 18 inch wheels, bespoke door sill strips and LED front fog lights.

The Sport model adds shadow line trim for the side window surrounds, plus kidney grille bars and trim elements for the air intakes and rear apron in gloss black. The interior has trim strips in gloss black and sports seats. It also now has 18-inch alloy wheels, Vernasca leather seats and driver and passenger heated seats.

An M Sport version is also offered.

Upgraded four-cylinder engines are used in the launch 330i and 320d. A new six-speed manual gearbox and eight-speed Steptronic transmission will be available plus xDrive all-wheel-drive for the 320d at launch.

TwinPower turbo technology for the 320d anow includes multi-stage turbocharging. 

Overall, the new 3 Series Saloon weighs up to 55kg less than its predecessor. The body itself is 20kg lighter, while aluminium front spring struts and engine subframe have cut 7.5kg from the overall weight. A further weight saving of almost 15kg is due to the use of aluminium for the bonnet and front side panels.

Shoulder room in the front of the cabin has also increased, and passengers in the rear benefit from more legroom. The distance between the front and rear seats has been extended by 11mm, and all occupants have more headroom.

Rear door aperture height has been increased.

If comfort access option is specified, the car will automatically unlock when the radio remote control is detected in its immediate vicinity and lock again when it moves out of range. This also includes hands-free opening and closing of the boot lid. For added security, a new movement sensor in the key permanently monitors whether the key is being carried (and therefore is always transmitting) or has been put down on a table, for example, allowing it to switch into standby mode removing the risk of the key signal being picked up by transmitter devices.

Package and option structure has been dramatically simplified, with a package and option list reduced to six main packages and around 10 single options.  The packages group together options which share similar functionality or customer benefit, and will ease the ordering process while still allowing for a wide degree of personalisation.

A new intelligent, digital character responds to the prompt 'Hey BMW'. Drivers will increasingly be able to operate their car and access its functions and information simply by speaking.

The assistant learns routines and habits, and is subsequently able to apply them in the appropriate context.

The assistant will benefit from constant technical upgrades and be able to learn more and more preferences and favoured settings.