Four goes into three

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - JOHN CAREY

BMW’s up­dated 3 Se­ries will be sold in Aus­tralia with a new three-cylin­der en­gine, as well as the usual fours and sixes. It’s a brave move. The Bavar­ian brand is the first to move to triple power in the pre­mium medium class.

The turbo 1.5-litre en­gine will power the 318i, en­try point for the facelifted 3 Se­ries lineup due to reach our show­rooms in about Oc­to­ber. It will take the place of the sub-$60,000 316i, which has a turbo 1.6-litre four.

Although smaller, the new triple matches the 100kW max­i­mum power of the 316i.

But BMW’s new triple is out­classed by the turbo fours of ob­vi­ous com­peti­tors from Audi and Mercedes-Benz; max­i­mum power of the base A4’s 1.8-litre is 125kW, the C-Class’s 2.0-litre pro­duces 135kW. These num­bers are likely to in­ter­est Aus­tralian cus­tomers more than the triple’s sub6.0L/100km fuel sip­ping fig­ure.

Still, the 3 Se­ries triple does come with a power pedi­gree. In tuned-up form, this is the same en­gine that pow­ers the rear wheels of BMW’s swift and stun­ning i8 plug-in hy­brid.

En­gines are the big story of this 3 Se­ries up­date. Nearly ev­ery­thing in the range moves to BMW’s new­est en­gine fam­ily. As well as the petrol triple, there are new 2.0-litre turbo petrol and turbo diesel fours and a new 3.0-litre turbo petrol six. Only the turbo diesel six-cylin­der, not of­fered here, is to be car­ried over from the cur­rent 3 Se­ries.

The new en­gines are built around com­mon 500cc mod­ules. They’ve been de­signed for man­u­fac­tur­ing ef­fi­ciency. As well as shar­ing of parts in­side the petrol and diesel en­gine line-ups, there’s also 30 to 40 per cent shar­ing be­tween petrol and diesel.

There are some new names to go with these new en­gines. The 320i badge is re­tained, but the cur­rent 328i four is to be re­placed by the 5kW-more­pow­er­ful 330i. Like­wise, the 335i six is to be re­placed by the 340i. This facelift will also bring changes to front and rear bumpers, de­signed to make the 3 Se­ries look more snarly, and a new head­light de­sign. Full LED adap­tive head­lights will be an op­tion for the first time, too.

BMW engi­neers say they at­tempted to make the up­dated 3 Se­ries a sportier drive. They’ve re­vised the ba­sic stan­dard and sports sus­pen­sions and have up­graded to two-valve vari­able shock ab­sorbers in the switch­able adap­tive damp­ing sys­tem.

Their aim was to im­prove steer­ing pre­ci­sion and re­duce body roll while cor­ner­ing, with­out killing com­fort.

BMW Aus­tralia isn’t say­ing how much these new 3 Se­ries mod­els will cost un­til closer to their ar­rival date. But the prices need to be su­per sharp.

Like Audi, BMW is be­ing brained by Mercedes-Benz in the pre­mium medium cat­e­gory.

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