New BMW 3-Series saloon breaks cover

BMW has just revealed the first pictures and details of the new sixth generation 3 Series, the world’s best-selling premium saloon.

The new model entry level 316d saloon will have a price tag of €34,180 ex-works. The 116bhp engine emits 119g/k CO2, which qualifies for lower VRT and annual road tax.

The 3 Series saloon is the heart of the BMW brand, responsible for one-fifth of the company’s global sales. When the new model goes on sale here next February, BMW Ireland boasts it will build on the current model’s position as the ultimate drivers’ car in its sector.

It also believes the new 3-Series saloon will also be the most logical business proposition, thanks to new powertrains and additional Efficient Dynamics fuel-saving, emissions-reducing technologies.

BMW describes the new 3 Series saloon as a car of contradictions. They say it is larger and more spacious than the model it replaces, but lighter, quicker in many cases, more fuel-efficient, more nimble and agile, and even safer. Its design team says there have been big steps forward in style, quality, comfort and specification for only a minimal price increase. A wider choice of trim levels and an extensive personalisation programme will allow 3 Series saloon buyers to order virtually a bespoke car.

It is fair to say that compact BMW saloons have always appealed to the emotions of keen drivers because of their super driving dynamics, but with the advent of the company’s Efficient Dynamics technologies to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in the middle of the last decade, they now also present a more compelling business case.

BMW boasts the advantage is set to increase with the introduction of the new BMW 3 Series saloon. The company says that by March 2012, when additional engines have been added to the four at launch, BMW will have eight versions of the new 3 Series saloon with CO2 emissions at or below 120g/km. It says that competitors can muster only one each.

All versions of the new 3 Series saloon feature drive performance control as standard - a switch which allows the driver to swap between up to four driving modes, varying from sporty to what BMW describes as extremely economical. The four modes are Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport + (Sport + is included only on Sport models or with selected optional equipment ).

In Eco Pro, BMW tells us the throttle mapping changes so that a firmer push of the accelerator pedal is needed to extract the power that is delivered with a lighter touch in the other three modes, thus encouraging a more economical driving style. Eco Pro also alters the manual gearshift points advised by the optimum shift indicator, modifies the gearshift strategy on models with automatic transmission, and even adjusts the power consumption of features such as the climate control and heated mirrors and seats.

The Efficient Dynamics technologies which gave the previous BMW 3 Series saloon a competitive advantage remain very much in place, and have been supplemented with new ones. Auto stop-start is fitted to all versions, manual and automatic, along with brake energy regeneration, on-demand control of engine ancillary components, and tyres with less rolling resistance.

Weight has been reduced by up to 50kg compared with the previous model, while the drag coefficient (Cd ) is down to as low as 0.26 thanks to optimised aerodynamics. The new 3 Series saloon features a streamlined underside, covers which create a diffuser effect at the rear and aero curtain air channels in the front apron which reduce the turbulence created by the revolution of the front wheels in their arches.

BMW Ireland has confirmed it will introduce four-wheel-drive and hybrid powertrains to the 3 Series saloon for the first time here towards the end of 2012.

BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system has been available on the 3 Series in some markets previously, and has now been engineered for right-hand-drive cars. It will be of particular benefit to owners who live in areas prone to extremes of bad weather, and will be available with selected petrol and diesel engines.

The ActiveHybrid 3 will arrive at roughly the same time, and will use the powertrain recently announced for the ActiveHybrid 5. This pairs the 335i’s 306bhp six-cylinder engine with an up to 40kW electric motor in a particularly intelligent and efficient way.

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