BMW 3 Series: New and Improved With a Bit More Attitude
It’s been a few years since the latest BMW 3 Series went on sale as a 2012 model. That means it’s time for an update, and update the 3 Series BMW has! The looks haven’t changed much, but there are some pretty serious changes under the hood.
The biggest news is that the BMW 335i has become the 340i. The 340i, sadly, does not come with a V8 like the name might suggest, but it instead makes do with a 3.0 liter, turbocharged, inline six-cylinder engine. The 340i also makes 20 more horsepower and 30 more pound feet of torque than the current 335i. BMW claims that extra power is good for a run from 0-60 miles per hour in just 4.6 seconds with the eight-speed, automatic transmission and xDrive, BMW’s all-wheel-drive system. Rear-wheel-drive slows it down slightly to 4.8 seconds, and both versions are offered with the option of a manual transmission.
With the 335i becoming the 340i, there’s now room for BMW to add the 330e to its lineup. The “e” means it’s a plug-in hybrid. Complete details aren’t available quite yet, but BMW predicts a combined total of 250 horsepower and 301 pound-feet of torque. It should be good for a run from zero-60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds. More important to plug-in hybrid buyers, however, is the expected 22 mile all-electric range.
BMW also promises that handling has been improved across the line. Reworked dampers, suspension, and steering are said to provide “significantly enhanced dynamic capabilities without any compromise on comfort.” Each car should handle better but also look sportier, as the current car’s Sport Line trim is now standard. Presumably, these updates are being made to address the criticisms leveled at BMW for not making the current 3 Series sporty enough.
There are also updates to the technology available on the 3 Series. The navigation system, for example, is now faster at everything and updates wirelessly via the car’s 4G LTE connection. The LTE system is also said to enhance smartphone integration, network coverage, and data transmission speeds, particularly in rural areas. BMW ConnectedDrive further integrates the driver’s smartphone with the car. A heads-up display is available as an option, and the suite of electronic safety features are displayed there as well. Finally, automatic parking is improved to allow for both parallel and perpendicular parking.
These updates might not necessarily be groundbreaking, but the point of a refresh isn’t to build a whole new car. Instead, it’s to fine tune the car that’s already there. Changing the naming structure is confusing, but it’s hard to argue with more power, and the plug-in hybrid should be interesting at the very least.
It’s easy to measure horsepower and acceleration improvements, but the issue most people have with the current 3 Series is not that it’s too slow but that it doesn’t handle like you expect it to. If you really want the ultimate driving machine, you don’t buy the 335i anymore. In several comparison tests, journalists have said that the Lexus IS 350 F Sport is the best-driving car in the class.
While the 340i’s name change is going to get the most attention from this press release, the revised suspension tuning, improved dampers, and more precise steering that BMW promises are all much more important than a few extra horsepower and a name change. More power will make the new 3 Series faster than the current 3 Series, but improved handling and steering will be what makes the new 3 Series better than the current 3 Series.
Obviously, BMW could completely whiff on the handling updates and deliver a new 3 Series that is even less precise than the current one, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. It might not be as improved as the most hardcore enthusiasts are looking for, but don’t expect BMW to let Lexus hold the title of ultimate driving machine for long.