2018 has been a busy year for BMW, with more than a few new models having been introduced during just the first six months. Between the new X2, X5 and range-topping M850i, it seems the news just keep coming, in the form of one world-premier or testing update after another. Every one of the new vehicles is important to the future of the brand, and we’re obviously quite excited about the upcoming Z4, but it’s the new 3 Series that will do the most to set the tone for what’s to come.
No official model year has been released yet, and all of the speculation still remains exactly that, but some exciting rumors are brewing which could translate to the next 3 Series being a game changer. Fresh styling consistent with the design language exhibited by other new models goes without saying, but more importantly, a host of fresh tech, some completely new to any BMW model, is slated be among the things helping future-proof the mainstay of the brand.
The specific details of what’s beneath the distinctive camouflage remain anyone’s guess at this point, but the exterior form seems familiar in the way that it follows the typically understated styling of previous Threes. Headlights and kidney grilles take after other recently introduced cars, and the dual exhaust appears to confirm the notion of a possible M340i, but beyond this, not much else can be gleaned. Even the tail lights, which are typically a recognizable staple of any BMW, remain masterfully disguised beyond their necessary function.
Underpinnings are reported to use slimmed down construction based on a new lightweight architecture that BMW has been pioneering on other models, which should account for a substantially decreased curb weight. Engine choices are believed to range from three to six cylinders, and it sounds like RWD will remain the primary drivetrain setup with xDrive offered optionally—both will use the familiar ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. Headlining matters is the switch from a conventional twelve volt electrical system to a 48-volt setup, which mirrors what Mercedes-Benz has been doing with their cars. Vehicles that use setups like MB’s EQ Boost are being classified under the term “mild-hybrid” and some examples include the third-generation CLS and current E-Class, while the C-Class—the perennial 3 Series rival—is gaining it as well.
The only power figure currently floating around is an impressive 385 HP, which is what the rumored M340i performance model should be making. A number like that isn’t far off from what previous and current M3’s offer, but it’s not like we didn’t expect a more potent version of that model, along with its two-door companion to be proportionately upgraded. Intuition also suggests that, among other ground breaking tech, the upcoming 3 Series could come equipped with advanced LiDAR sensors which have the ability to enable autonomous driving with an eye that can see in the dark—the open space in the center of the lower grille looks the perfect mounting position.
Although very little can be confirmed at this moment, in just a few years, we’ll all be sitting in traffic in the midst of new cars like the G20 3 Series. Despite complaints of lackluster driving and diminished road feel, the current F30 generation continues to benefit from strong sales, and was well received the instant it was introduced some six years ago in 2012. Even with the ever-growing portion of X-line SAVs eating into the share of other models, the 3 Series remains the bread and butter product for BMW, and it’s imperative to continue generations of previous success with the next one.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy of BMW Group, DCN Cars.]