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Auto Preview: 2012 BMW 3 Series

 

The sixth generation, code-named F30, BMW 3-series sedan will hit dealerships this February, and it will be a little bigger, a little lighter and will jump on the eco-train with a hybrid variant. 

Let’s start with the heart of the 3 series, the engines. Both the engines for the 2012 3-series will utilize BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology, which, despite its name, has just one turbocharger. 

The engine on the new 328i will see the return of a four-cylinder in the shape of the N20 2.0-liter engine first seen on the Z4 sDrive28i and the new 528i. The engine makes 245 horsepower with 258 lb-ft of torque, which peaks at 1,250 rpm. This is good enough to propel the new 328i to 60 mph in about 5.7 seconds, about 0.3 seconds faster than the outgoing 328i’s naturally aspired six-cylinder. 

The 335i will continue to use the N55 3.0-liter in-line six cylinder engine that makes an unchanged 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. 

Thankfully, a six-speed manual transmission will return as the standard transmission on both models, but BMW will now offer an eight-speed automatic to replace the six-speed unit.  

The first run of 3-series sedans will be rear-wheel drive with the xDrive all-wheel drive version becoming available in the summer of 2012. 

Both engines are expected to get better fuel economy for 2012. Although EPA figures haven’t been released yet, you can expect to get a combined 33 mpg for the four-cylinder and around 28 mpg for the six-cylinder when coupled with the eight-speed automatic.

Because of American’s unadulterated hatred of diesel engines, we will not be getting the uber-efficient diesel engine of the 320d. Of special note is the 320d with the EfficientDynamics package. Its 163-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder can make up to 60 mpg highway when equipped with the eight-speed automatic. 

Instead, we will get the new hybrid version of the 3-series called the ActiveHybrid 3, which will be released in fall 2012. It will combine the 3.0-liter six-cylinder (detuned to 306-horsepower) to a 55 horsepower electric motor for a maximum output of 340-hp.   

BMW made sure to engineer the hybrid differently from the start to insure optimal packaging with the electric motor placed in between the engine and transmission and the battery pack conveniently located beneath the trunk floor.

Once again, EPA numbers haven’t been released. But based on EU test cycles, the hybrid should get a combined consumption around 32 mpg, which places it right in the middle of the 328i and 335i.

The wheelbase of the 2012 3-series has been stretched by three inches, and as such, the overall length has increased by about 3.7 inches. 

The track has also been widened by 1.5 inches in the front and 1.8 inches in the back. Rear seat passengers benefit the most from the increased size, gaining leg room, knee room and head room. 

Despite the added size, the new 3-series actually loses 88 pounds and will maintain the coveted 50:50 weight distribution. 

The styling of the new 3-series fits right in with the 5-series with similar, slightly evolved styling. The front end is more wedge shaped than its predecessor’s with the headlights now extending to the iconic kidney grille, which itself has been modified. It now slants forward a little bit and has gotten a tad wider.

BMW also replaced the central air intake with two larger air intakes underneath the headlights that look similar to some Audi offerings. There are also small vertical intakes on the far left and right of the front bumper which create an “Air Curtain” that is supposed to improve airflow around the front wheels, thereby increasing aerodynamic efficiency. 

The new 3-series also gets some added curves to its side profile, giving the 3-series a sporty yet elegant look.

The rear of the car keeps the familiar L-shaped taillights and is similar to the outgoing model with the exception of a more shapely rear bumper.

The 3-series will get electronic power steering similar to the 5-series. However, if you’re worried that the steering will be as numb as the unit in the 5-series, BMW is also going to offer an optional mechanical variable ratio steering system.

BMW will offer three different “equipment lines” for the 2012 3-series outside of the base model: sport, luxury and modern.

The sport line will include many exterior pieces painted in gloss black such as the kidney grille, exterior mirrors, B-pillar and inserts in the front apron. The interior also includes red stitching on the steering wheel, red trim rings around the dials and sport seats that come in four different colors.   

The luxury line pretty much has everything in chrome that the sport line had in gloss black with the addition of chrome exhaust tips. It also includes wood trim for the dash as well as more chrome accents throughout the interior. 

Available on any of the lines is the M sport package, which will have to satisfy the enthusiast for the time being as the current M3 based will be in production for at least the next two years.

 It includes a different aerodynamic package, 18-inch alloy wheels, M sport suspension and high-gloss, dark grey trim.

Also available on any of the lines is the M sport brakes, which are aluminum four-piston brakes up front and two-piston brakes at the rear with larger brake discs painted in a contrasting blue finish.

BMW has not released official prices on the sedan yet, but I don’t see any huge differences between the outgoing models.

The BMW 3-series made my “Best Buy” list for 2011 and has been the world’s best selling luxury car for some time, and with the added safety, efficiency, performance and good looks of the 2012 3-series, it’s not something that’s going to change in the near future.