The updated, 2016 BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon will launch in Australia around October, tasked with narrowing the sales gap to the big-selling Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The October launch should give BMW’s mid-sized warrior a welcome boost. Sales are down 4.4 per cent to 1222 units this year, and the C-Class has almost tripled its sales YTD (3264 (up 102.4 per cent).
It has also now been overtaken as BMW Australia’s top-seller by the smash hit X5 large SUV, which sits 50 units ahead and dominates its segment.
The mid-life update is a little more than the customary LCI. The looks haven’t changed much, but under the skin are some bigger changes to the car that accounts for 25 per cent of BMW’s sales globally.
BMW claims to have improved interior quality and ergonomics, perhaps a tacit acknowledgement that the C-Class has moved the game forward there. There are new materials and chrome highlights for the controls, air vents and central control panel, and a newly crafted centre console with a sliding cover for the cupholder.
There’s also a faster new LTE satellite-navigation system. The cabin design is very much familiar, however.
Stylistically, there are new front aprons with revised air intakes, while the sensor for the optional Active Cruise Control is better integrated into the central air intake. Fitted are standard LED rear lights, slightly redesigned headlights and LED daytime driving lights, and full-LED headlights that can be optioned.
Biggest of all though are the new engines. Leading the charge, a little surprisingly so based on what senior BMW figures told us last year, is the addition of a new three-cylinder engine option.
The 100kW and 220Nm 1.5-litre 318i sedan replaces the four-cylinder 316i in the line-up, and should open BMW Australia’s 3 Series range priced around $54,000 plus on-road costs. This is the same engine as that used in the Mini and 2 Series Active Tourer. Standard fit for us will be an eight-speed ZF automatic.
“The three cylinder has been such a success in 2 series Active Tourer, and been well received by customers,” said BMW Australia communications general manager Lenore Fletcher.
Other likely new versions for Australia include the circa-$62,000 320i sedan with its reworked 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine producing 135kW and 290Nm (up 20Nm). Expect this to be the volume seller.
Replacing the 328i will be the circa-$70,000 330i sedan, now with 185kW (up 5kW) and 350Nm from it 2.0-litre turbo. The worked 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo 340i sedan, to be priced at about $93,000, will replace the 335i. This engine takes outputs to 240kW (up 15kW) and 450Nm (up 50Nm).
On the diesel side, expect to see the 140kW (up 5kW) and 400Nm (up 20Nm) 320d sedan, to be priced at about $64,000. There are 316d and 318d variants in Europe, though don’t hold your breath for them in Australia.
Expect the wagon range to comprise at least the 320i, 330i and 320d, and command premiums over the equivalent sedan of between $3000 and $3500.
Additionally, down the track BMW Australia will launch a plug-in hybrid version as an economy leader to complement its i3 and i8 models, though specific timing is unclear.
The 330e, as it’s called, features a 135kW 2.0-litre petrol engine and an 80kW electric motor. All up this drivetrain can output 185kW of power and 420Nm of torque. In hybrid mode the 330e can complete the 0-100km/h dash in 6.3 seconds on its way to a top speed of 225km/h.
The 330e has a claimed electric-only driving range of 35km, and the car’s combined fuel consumption rating is said to be 2.2L/100km under the EU testing scheme.
Speaking on the expectations for the updated 3 Series, Ms Fletcher said the car was “Still very much our best-selling vehicle and we’re certain that the update is going to stimulate that model”.
“Will this vehicle appeal to more people? Absolutely. We do see, we definitely believe, there will be more out there on the road,” she said.
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