There’s an all-new 2012 BMW 3 Series coming, and the Bavarian automaker has finally spilled the beans on the sixth-generation of its iconic best-seller.
A new 3 Series is a big deal, not just for new car shoppers, but for any company that competes in the luxury sport sedan market. After all, the BMW 3 Series is the benchmark against which all other small sport sedans are judged. Be it an Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Infiniti G, or the upcoming Cadillac ATS, they are all measured against BMW’s yardstick. And if the 3 Series strengths of performance, comfort, luxury, prestige, and even price weren’t enough, BMW is adding another measure that is increasingly important to buyers regardless of price range: Fuel economy.
The all-new 2012 BMW 3 Series will debut first as a sedan, with coupe, convertible, and wagon body styles coming later. The style, as is BMW’s fashion, is evolutionary, evoking the brand’s traditional styling cues—two round headlights per side, the “two kidney” grille, and the kicked-forward rear side windows—but with a modern, flowing shape that narrows those headlights and blends them all the way to the grille.
But you have eyes. You can decide for yourself if you like it. The real news is under the hood, and here BMW has made significant strides. The base-model 2012 BMW 328i will rocket from a standstill to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds on its way to a potential top speed of 155 mph. With 240 horsepower going through a six-speed manual or an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 BMW 328i leaves little on the table.
Oh, did we forget to mention that the powerhouse engine behind all this is now a four-cylinder? To accommodate ever-stricter fuel economy standards, BMW is reintroducing four-cylinder engines into its 3 Series lineup for the first time since 1999. This 2.0-liter turbocharged wonder puts out more power than last year’s six-cylinder, and offers better low-end torque for a stronger off-the-line feel. However, it does it all while sipping less fuel. The same engine recently debuted in the BMW Z4 sDrive28, and BMW claims it boasts a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy over the previous six-cylinder. If the same holds true for the 2012 3 Series, expect city fuel economy in the 21 mpg range, and highway to be more than 30 mpg.
For those seeking even more power, the 335i returns with its turbocharged inline-6 engine. Although largely carryover, this 3.0-liter six-cylinder still boasts 300 horsepower but also sees improvements in fuel economy. However, it’s worth noting that in spite of its 60-hp advantage, the 5.4-second time from 0-60 mph is only marginally quicker than the four-cylinder’s.
Both engines use a variety of techniques to save fuel, such as an Auto Start-Stop function that shuts the engine off at stops, air conditioning that drains less engine power, and a new Eco Pro mode on the car’s Driving Dynamics Control switch. The new mode helps drivers save fuel by delivering less of it than it normally would, and by shifting into a higher gear sooner. A display on the dash relays information to the driver about how much fuel is being used, and tips on how to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. BMW claims that by using Eco Pro, drivers can save up to 20 percent more fuel.
If that’s still not enough, BMW will be introducing a hybrid version of the 3 Series for the first time, the ActiveHybrid3. Available in a year, the ActiveHybrid3 combines a six-cylinder engine and electric motor to not just save fuel, but to make the ActiveHybrid3 the top-of-the-line in BMW 3 Series performance until the next M3 debuts. The engine is the same 300-hp turbocharged six-cylinder found in the 335i, but it’s combined with an electric motor that can, for limited periods, add up to 55 hp. It does this while still delivering fuel economy that BMW says is more than 12.5 percent better than a gasoline-only engine with similar power. In addition, the hybrid drivetrain will allow the ActiveHybrid3 to run only on electric power for up to 2.5 miles at up to 37 mph, or up to 100 mph while coasting.
Safety and Technology
In addition to handling and braking refinements, BMW has added active cruise control and blind spot warnings to the 2012 BMW 3 Series options list. There’s also a lane departure warning system that includes collision warning, and of course standard stability control, a plethora of airbags, and what BMW promises will be outstanding crash test scores.
BMW is also improving its connectivity to the outside world with ConnectedDrive. Not only does it feature office-connectivity services—such as checking your email, calendar and Facebook—it adds a new full-color head-up display, which projects a variety of vital information on the windshield in front of the driver.
There are also little things, such as BMW’s new parking assistant, which actively looks for a parallel parking spot big enough for the car. Once you find that spot, a group of strategically placed cameras combine to give drivers a birds-eye overhead view to make parking the 3 Series a snap. There’s even a sensor that opens the trunk by simply waving a foot under the rear bumper.
Suffice it to say, BMW is cramming a lot into its new bestseller, perhaps more than many competitors anticipated. But while the new technology and engines certainly sound interesting, we’re most interested in how the new car drives. For that, we’ll have to wait until we’re closer to the February 2012 on-sale date but, for now, what do you think? Is BMW pushing the envelope with its new car? Or are all the new gadgets just extra frosting? Sound off in the comments below.