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All New 2019 BMW 3-series (G20) Details

The wait is finally over (well, it's been over for about 3 weeks now, this is a bit overdue...) but the new 3-series was finally revealed by BMW and there are a lot of changes. I don't know if I am alone in waiting anxiously or not. I have been waiting for a new 3-series for a long time. being a huge 3-series fan but having been underwhelmed by the current generation in two reviews; one was a 2014 335i xDrive M Sport and another was a 2016 M4 DCT. In both cases, I have found them to be hugely capable with almost no compromise on paper but, when you compare them to older 3-series generations, they are missing a lot of the charm and feedback. They are more grown up, more refined, much more capable, but a lot less engaging. My hopes were high for this generation and, judging by what BMW revealed, I have reason to remain hopeful ...

I will get the bad out of the way first. This generation is bigger. Again. It's about 3.3" longer but at least it's lighter and stiffer. BMW says the new 3-series should be up to 120 lb. lighter than a current equivalent model, thanks in part to aluminum hood and front fenders (33 lb. saving alone) and other reductions throughout the chassis. That would put the 4-cylinder 330i automatic in the 3,400 lb. range which is great and is lighter than the current M3 with various weight saving measures including carbon fibre roof and driveshaft. Speaking of automatics... you will no longer be able to get a 3-series with a manual, unless you get an M3 so let's take a moment to mourn the death of another manual. BMW M has previously announced it is still committed to manuals in M models but outside of those, if you want to buy a brand new BMW 3-series with a manual and a clutch pedal, you don't have much time.

With bigger dimensions and death of the manual out of the way (RIP, manuals), there is plenty of good. First is the dreaded steering. BMW acknowledges that the steering in its cars isn't as good as it used to be. BMW claims that that's simply what the majority of buyers want - more isolation from the road. A lot of people say BMW just can't make a good electric steering system. I think BMW is being truthful, to an extent. Ideally, you'd be able to filter out unwanted NVH and let good information and feedback make it through. Porsche seems to be able to do that very well. BMW, I think, cannot. They could give you feedback with unwanted NVH or neither, but not both. They are claiming that steering is now improved, though, thanks to narrower tooth spacing at the centre of the steering rack and wider spacing at the two ends of the rack. That should mean that the system is passively variable, unlike the current electrically variable steering, and should always be more direct off centre, slower at full lock, and varying in between.

The suspension also received a healthy dose of upgrades. It is inherently improved by the weight saving measures dropping up to 120 lb. depending on the model but BMW improved other areas as well. The Adaptive M Dampers make a return as an option, of course, but the base suspension is supposedly much improved. The standard dampers will feature a new hydraulic element that is meant to better control large suspension movements that you'd typically get in a bump or a dip. In the front, the element engages only on the rebound stroke between one-fifth and one-third of the way of the way. In the rear, it engages in the same range but on both compression and rebound strokes.

The new damper design is meant to maintain the softer, more comfortable damping rates the majority of the time while also being able to dampen large impacts/motions to avoid secondary motions. BMW also says that there is "significantly increased camber values" for the front wheels and wider front and rear tracks. The rear track is slightly wider by 0.8" but the front track is up by a whopping 1.8", nearly two inches. In addition to improving handling and grip in general, the front to rear track ratio is much closer to one now improving handling balance, with front track being 62.3" and rear being 62.9". up from 60.5" and 62.1".

Further helping the suspension is that, despite the new 3-series being both larger and lighter, the new chassis is also much stiffer with overall torsional stiffness up by 25% and specific load bearing sections (such as the front strut tower with brace) is stiffer by up to 50%. More camber - significantly more according to BMW - wider tracks, stiffer chassis, improved damping and better steering. All sound like huge steps in the right direction to make the 3-series the sports sedan benchmark it once was.

Then, of course, there is power. There is good news here, too, because there is more of it. A lot more. The M340i - now appears to be the only way to order a 3 series with the straight six (i.e. no more 340i with no M package) - gets the same version of the B58 turbo 3.0 litre straight six as the upcoming Z4 M40i, meaning it will be making a very healthy 382 hp and 369 lb-ft torque. Keeping in mind that BMW engines' hp ratings (and German, generally) appear closer to their whp numbers people see on dynos rather than crank, the change may not be all that huge if BMW just decided to publish numbers similar to SAE testing standards. Otherwise, this is a massive increase of 62 hp compared to the current 340i and bringing the output darn near 400 hp (likely over 400 hp crank in reality). The 330i also sees a slight increase from its B48 turbo 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, although a much less dramatic increase of 7 hp from 248 hp to 255 hp. Torque, though, is up by a good 37 lb-ft bringing the total to 295 lb-ft. that's available from 1,550 to 4,400 rpm, and therefore a lot more power at lower rpms along with it.

Worth mentioning, too, are the upgrades to the M-performance package, specially since you can't order the six cylinder engine without it anymore. It looks very flashy, a bit gaudy even by traditional understated BMW styling standards. But they bring plenty of meaningful upgrades. There are aerodynamic improvements that reduce lift, including a splitter and rear diffuser and spoiler. BMW doesn't state a figure for downforce so it likely still has a slight net lift but should be better than standard. The exhaust is made from titanium and carbon fibre so should be lighter and last longer without rust. Other performance upgrades include bigger, lighter brakes with 4-piston fixed calipers and stiffer springs, dampers, and even bushings. There is no increase in power, but you'll be able to use a lot more of it on track thanks to technology hand-me-downs from the M3, namely the electronic limited slip diff (eLSD). So although the look may scream show-off, the car actually gets really good performance upgrades.

You can still get either engine with either RWD or AWD (xDrive) but, sadly, you can longer get it as a wagon. Diesel might return, but don't count on it just yet. The only other drivetrain confirmed at this point is the plug-in hybrid 330e, which will be making 252 hp when it eventually goes on sale. Sales for the gas-only engines will start in early 2019 but the hybrid will follow a year later in 2020. With diesel potentially on the chopping block, manuals dead, and a wagon not coming to North America, it's going to become harder to find those unicorn 3-series wagons with a diesel, a manual, or both. With that said, if steering really is improved and the driving experience is closer to older 3-series generations, it would be very refreshing and maybe even worth giving up the manual for compared to the F30 generation. I hope I get to drive one soon and find out how much better they are. For now, if you want a new 3-series manual or a wagon (can't have both now as it is), better run to your local dealer and get one.

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