Words by: Adam Allen
Porsche has the 911, Jeep has the Wrangler and Mercedes Benz has the S class. These cars are icons and have stuck to the same basic formula since they were first introduced. Hugely important for their respective companies (read: bottom line) so when it comes time to usher in a new generation the number one objective is always the same: Don’t Screw It Up.
The same adage applies to BMW 3 series. This car not only makes up the majority of BMW sales, but it’s also the core of the brand. These days, some people maintain that the current F30 generation landed with a thud, at least from a driving dynamics perspective. You’d never guess that, however, if you glanced at the sales figures- customers continued to snap them up at an astonishing rate.
Around the Carpages Garage, a 3 series is always welcome, even if it has traded some of its sporting traits for a more refined- but isolated and somewhat aloof- driving experience. In fact, a current 340i with all the sporting bits and a manual gearbox is a fixture on many of our wishful shopping lists.
Despite that, we must confess to looking back wistfully at the E46 and E90 generations with a whiff of nostalgia. Those vintages are widely regarding as the best sports sedans in history; BMW nailed the formula 100 percent back then. They offered all the luxury trimmings customers expected but they were also an unbridled joy to drive.
Although we have not driven one yet, the buzz around the industry is that the new, from the ground up, clean sheet redesign known as the G20 has allegedly returned to its roots. To give you an idea of how excited BMW is about this car which is larger but lighter, brims with the latest technology and is more efficient than ever, they keep focusing on how great it promises to drive.
Let’s start with the styling. BMW didn’t screw it up, and it’s a pleasing evolution of what we’ve come to expect of the 3 series. The biggest highlights are the squintier LED lighting fore and aft and features headlights with their new DRL surrounds, a much bigger trademark kidney grille and a rear end that strongly reminds us of an Audi A4, but regardless of interpretation it’s a strong indicator of the design language future models will wear.
Inside, the cockpit looks much sharper that before- new fonts on the dashboard, a reimagined gear lever speak to our inner minutiae enthusiast. But it doesn’t stop there. The 2019 3 series will feature the latest generation of iDrive infotainment technology dubbed 7.0, and we are eager to play around with it- the current version is so good, one wonders how much better this one is going to be. 3 series buyers will also be able to ask their new on-board Intelligent Personal Assistant stuff like “where’s the best place to get a pizza around here?” as well as asking about how the car’s functions work which will save them the time of looking through their owner’s manual. Like Google’s Assistant, the one in your 3 series will learn how to serve you better based on whatever you ask of it.
The engine choices are familiar- a 184 horsepower turbo four in the 320i, and a 258 horsepower version will be standard issue for the 330i. Both enjoy slight bumps in power and should be even more efficient than their predecessors. Performance minded buyers will want to wait for the M340i, which produces a heady 382 horsepower and 369 foot pounds of torque. There is some bad news here; Save the Manuals evangelists will be crestfallen to hear that a manual gearbox will not be offered on any of the models. A sign of the times, sure, but we (perhaps naively) thought that BMW would always offer a manual gearbox in the 3 series. Whichever model you choose, all can be had with BMW’s excellent xDrive all-wheel drive system, and the vast majority of Canadian customers will likely have their 3 series thusly equipped.
We’ll bring you more details as they become available, and a full Road Test once we have a chance to secure one from BMW. We’re itching to gauge how much the driving experience has improved and are especially interested to see how the new standard position-sensitive passive dampers work, a bit of kit BMW is especially proud of. Perhaps this car will give Munich’s Marketing Department the impetus to dust off the old slogan we remember from the 3’s glory days: “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” If you’re as eager to hear more about what’s what with the 2019 3 series, watch this space for more coming soon.