BMW released photos of its next-generation 3 Series compact sedan — the storied car's seventh iteration — undergoing testing on the Nurburgring race track while wearing heavy camouflage. We also now have some details on how the sports sedan has been updated, and for those looking for a sporty driving experience, it's good news. Here are four key takeaways.
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1. It Still Looks Like a 3 Series
The looks of the car, best we can tell, amount to a mild evolution in styling instead of a radical change. The rear decklid looks to be extended a bit, and the roofline seems lower than the current generation before sloping downward into the decklid. At the front, one prototype has a more heavily camouflaged front bumper, but the other has what appears to be functional mesh air vents instead of the slat design of the current 3. BMW's signature kidney grille is still present but compressed to be shorter and wider.
2. Addition by Subtraction
According to BMW, the next 3 Series will be as much as 55 kilograms lighter than its predecessor depending on the car's features (all-wheel drive weighs more than rear-wheel drive, for example). For those who need the conversion, 55 kilograms is just over 120 pounds; BMW has subtracted the weight of a small adult or a large dog. The automaker claims the sedan will still retain its 50/50 weight distribution, however.
3. Still Sporty
In addition to its lighter weight, BMW lowered the center of gravity in the 3 Series by four-tenths of an inch. Revised steering and suspension components also aim to make the car feel like more of a performance model. The car will have a wider track, and new shock absorbers are standard across the lineup. M Sport versions get a specific tuning of those shocks and BMW's Variable Sports Steering.
"This means the difference from the standard suspension is much more perceptible than before," said Peter Langen, BMW's head of driving dynamics, in a statement.
4. More Power, Less Gas
The four-cylinder engine that powers the next 3 Series — no word on whether an inline six-cylinder will remain available — is BMW's most powerful ever, according to the automaker, though we don't have power figures. BMW also claims a 5 percent bump in fuel economy over its predecessor thanks to revisions to the eight-speed automatic transmission. That should put four-cylinder models at close to 30 mpg combined, at least in some configurations.
That's the good news about the next BMW 3 Series. The bad news? Nowhere does the automaker specifically mention that this next generation will be for those of us here in the U.S. It seems highly unlikely that BMW would abandon the compact sedan market here, or anywhere, or really ever, given how iconic the car has become, but we can't know for certain that we'll see these improvements
Editor's note: This story was updated Aug. 16, 2018, to reflect that the 3 Series currently offers an inline six-cylinder engine.
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