Competes with: Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, Genesis G70, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Tesla Model 3, Volvo S60
Looks like: A smaller take on the new 5 Series and 7 Series, as if you expected otherwise
Drivetrain: 255-horsepower, turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder (330i) or 382-hp, turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder (M340i) with eight-speed automatic transmission; rear- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: March 2019 for the 330i, spring 2019 for the M340i
For umpteen decades, most luxury sports sedans have tried to emulate a certain je ne sais quoi of BMW’s venerable 3 Series. The outgoing sedan — the F30 generation, to the fanboys — set a high bar when it arrived on scene, but bad tires and a quintet of leapfrogging competitors felled our example in a more recent comparison. It’s only fitting, then, that the German automaker took to Paris to get its French back.
The seventh-generation 3 Series sedan debuted at this week’s Paris Motor Show in what’s likely the tip of the iceberg for a platform that will sprout coupe, hatchback and M versions in the years to come. Witness the new G20, and not the cohort of nations or erstwhile Infiniti compact. No, this G20 is BMW’s model designation for the new 3 Series sedan, a code enthusiasts will commit to memory for all references hereafter.
Available from the outset as a 330i or M340i, the G20 3 Series hits dealers in March as a model-year 2019 sedan. BMW says the 330i will start at $41,195, including a $995 destination charge, which is roughly the same as the 2018 330i. It’s unclear, however, if the automaker will reprise a 320i — a pokier, entry-level 3 Series whose current iteration starts around $36,000.
Oh, and the manual transmission is gone. Stick-shift fans can issue a collective sneer, but we doubt many of them exist: As of this writing, dealers list manual transmissions with only about 5 percent of new 3 Series sedans on Cars.com.
With plenty of cues from the recent 5 Series and 7 Series redesigns, it’s clear the 3 Series is an evolution, not some left-field overhaul, on the current sedan’s themes. The headlights come in three available configurations, all LED. Their frames still flow into BMW’s signature dual-kidney grille, though they’re less pinched at the junctures than before. The grille appears larger, with prominent T-shaped bumper dimples below it flanking a wide, single lower opening. The dimples repeat themselves in back. A sportier bumper setup shown in press photos features a more aggressive, if traditional, three-portal opening. Both versions have dual tailpipes.
The G20 retains the iconic profile that’s characterized the 3 Series sedan for decades: a long hood, short trunk and wheels slung forward to minimize front overhang. Slightly wider and taller but 2.9 inches longer, the new 3 Series features a 1.6-inch-longer wheelbase and increased track at both axles (up 1.7 inches in front and 0.8 inch in back). The hood and front fenders are now aluminum, and BMW promises equal weight distribution over both ends. Overall curb weight, meanwhile, is up about 50 pounds for the 330i versus the automatic-equipped F30 330i; specifications for the M340i weren’t immediately available.
Inside the five-seat cabin, BMW promises greater adjustability for the front seats and “significantly” better backseat comfort, including more space for the middle passenger, with some 8 percent more trunk space to boot. (Pun very much intended.) The dashboard takes cues from the automaker’s just-redesigned Z4 roadster, including a center display that flows into the gauges rather than sitting on its own, along with a tiny climate display wedged between the center air vents.
The console features a large iDrive controller to operate the center display, which measures 8.8 inches or, optionally, 10.25 inches — the latter with a later generation of iDrive and Apple CarPlay; Android Auto is unavailable, however. Both displays also work as a touchscreen, a functionality BMW has implemented for several years now. Optionally, virtual gauges measuring 12.3 inches can replace the physical units.
BMW’s new personal assistant pipes in whenever you say, “Hey, BMW.” The feature puts the 3 Series among a new wave of cars to offer such capability, where conversational requests like “take me home” tee up navigation directions to your house without further submenus — though “take me home tonight” might queue up SiriusXM Classic Rewind instead. Other options include Harman Kardon premium audio, open-pore wood trim to Sensatec vinyl on the upper dash and doors.
Under the Hood
Like its predecessor, the 330i features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, now with 255 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque, up 7 hp and 37 pounds-feet versus its predecessor. Zero-to-60-mph acceleration roughly matches the outgoing 330i at 5.6 seconds, by BMW’s estimates, but all-wheel-drive models hit the mark in a quicker 5.3 seconds.
The M340i, meanwhile, has 382 hp and 369 pounds-feet of torque from its turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder — up 62 hp and 39 pounds-feet versus the outgoing 340i. BMW says the sedan hits 60 mph in a scintillating 4.2 seconds, which is substantially quicker than its predecessor, not to mention the M3 of two generations ago.
Both engines drive an eight-speed automatic transmission with revised gearing. Stick-shift fans have no recourse, unfortunately; a BMW spokesman told Cars.com that BMW plans to offer the G20 3 Series worldwide with an automatic only.
All-wheel drive, which BMW calls xDrive, will be optional with either engine. The M340i gets M Sport suspension tuning and an electronically variable rear differential to improve handling; both features will be optional on the 330i. All cars have BMW’s new lift-related shock absorbers, while the M Sport suspension — which also employs them — sits 0.4 inch lower and has more differentiation versus the standard suspension, per BMW. Optional adaptive shocks have a greater variance between comfort- and sport-oriented modes, the automaker says. Variable-ratio steering and M Sport brakes with blue calipers are also optional.
Come early 2020, BMW will also offer a 330e plug-in hybrid. Details are still forthcoming.
Safety & Self Driving
Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and a pedestrian warning function is standard. Options include adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering, both of which work all the way to a stop. BMW’s Extended Traffic Jam Assistant, meanwhile, enables lane-centering steering that can work without you needing to touch the wheel in certain situations — similar to Cadillac’s Super Cruise — at speeds up to 37 mph, monitoring you through a driver-facing camera to ensure you’re paying attention. This marks BMW’s third upcoming vehicle to offer the technology; the redesigned X5 and new 8 Series also offer it. Separately, an optional automatic parking system manages acceleration and brakes (not just steering) to get the sedan into parallel or perpendicular spots.
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