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BMW: Raising The Bar - By Three

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On: Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 3:40PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

BMW: Raising The Bar - By Three

Be prepared for a lot of changes in the car market in the next year or so. The luxury car segment will be all aflutter, and why is that you might be wondering? Well, BMW is making significant changes to the gold standard of the industry—the venerable 3-series. You can bet the only ones keeping a closer eye than us on just what those changes are going to look like are Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes, and Audi.

It should come as no surprise that the new 3-series code-named F30 borrows heavily from the most recent 5-series. The kidney grille stays intact, but we can expect the exterior to mimic the similarly toned-down 5-series style from chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk. But aside from minor exterior changes, the big differences in the new 3 are where it counts—beneath the skin. The 328i begins with a brand new 2.0-liter turbo four that makes 245-horsepower in place of the current naturally aspirated six (making 230 ponies despite its two extra cylinders). The 335i gets a six-horsepower bump (to 306), but other than that its motor stays status quo. Transmission choices are either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, but there is also an optional ZF eight-speed automatic just for kicks.

Suspension changes are the biggest news for the F30. In an attempt to bring over even more potential customers, the new 3-series offers more interior room than the current car to compete with the roomier rivals from Mercedes and Audi, thanks to a wider track and longer wheelbase. The front suspension ditches the questionable MacPherson-struts in exchange for a much improved double-wishbone setup that should provide better handling and drivability. In an effort to make the Ultimate Driving Machine even ultimate-r, Bimmer is changing out the hydraulic power-steering unit for a more precise electro-mechanical unit. BMW also plans on creating two distinct wheelbases, the standard wheelbase for the convertible, wagon, coupe, and sedan while a second longer version will be built for the upcoming GranCoupe and GT variants. It seems obvious BMW doesn't want its customers to desire anything it won't be able to offer.

The F30 borrows more than just design cues from the 5-series. The new 3-series will use a similar parking/camera system, as well as powertrain software mapping, and an interior display that will all look an awful lot like those found in the 5. It's clear that the folks over at BMW headquarters want 3-series owners not to have any idea they are in what was once the entry-level model in their lineup, and it looks as though they will undoubtedly be successful in that venture.

Pricing has not been announced yet, but you can catch the F30 at an auto show near you beginning in January. There has also been no word yet on just what the next M3 will debut with, but rest assured it will be something that we will be keeping a very close eye on—as will just about everyone else.

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