Following release of photos of the next model BMW 3
Series (the E90), the factory was forced into releasing more details,
earlier than they had anticipated. We even got Chris Bangle, BMW’s
love him or leave him director of styling in Bangkok, to talk about
the car a few weeks ago.
Looking at the front view, the characteristic
Bangle headlights have been adopted, though tamed down a little. It is
in the rear that the BMW final OK was only given to a very slight
change from the previous series, and the largely unloved Bangle Bottom
was not adopted.
The following details were gleaned from BMW, so
there could just be a small amount of bias; however, knowing BMW (and
I am a fan of the marque) there will not be large amounts of
exaggeration. BMW have been making some very good cars in the last few
years - and building them here in Thailand too. It has been pointed
out before that these are not Thai BMW’s, but BMW’s made in
with Jim O’Donnell, managing director of BMW Great Britain, who says
of the E90, “The new 3 Series faces the daunting task of upstaging
what is the defining car of its generation and market sector. With
engine technology and a focused design strategy at its core, the new 3
Series looks set to do just that. Once again, the new 3 Series sets a
new benchmark for small executive cars and I am confident it will be a
great success in both the corporate and retail markets.”
new BMW 3 Series delivers an even more dynamic driving experience than
its predecessor, accelerates faster and achieves a higher top speed
but not to the detriment of economy, with the new 330i delivering
improvements in fuel consumption while the 320i and 320d match their
predecessors. (Whether we will get the diesel engine BeeEmms here is
the fifth generation of new BMW 3 Series is a range of engines all
married to a standard six-speed manual gearbox (six-speed automatic
optional). Topping the range is the BMW 330i featuring the most
powerful, yet lightest, six-cylinder engine in its class - the same
engine that powers the recently launched BMW 630i Coupe. Delivering
258bhp and 300Nm (221 lb-ft) between 2,500 and 4,000 rpm, this engine
powers the car from zero to 100 kph in just 6.3 seconds and on to a
limited top speed of 250 kph. However, this is not at the expense of
economy, with the new 330i delivering 33.5mpg combined fuel
This engine sees BMW use magnesium in its
construction process for the first time in large-scale series
production. The crankcase jacket, bedplate and cylinder head cover are
all made from magnesium, which weighs 30 percent less than aluminium.
Additionally, the new 3.0-litre unit is the first
six-cylinder engine to feature BMW’s patented Valvetronic induction
system that infinitely varies the intake valve opening times and, when
combined with Bi-Vanos variable camshaft timing, delivers the optimal
fuel efficiency and engine response.
Also joining the six-cylinder model range in spring
2005 will be the 325i, delivering 218 bhp at 6,500 rpm and 250 Nm (184
lb-ft) at 2,750 - 4,250 rpm.
The new 3 Series range will also feature a two
litre diesel and a two litre petrol variant at launch. The BMW 320d,
currently the UK’s most popular 3 Series model, features
second-generation common rail diesel technology and a variable vane
turbocharger to deliver 163 bhp and 340 Nm (251 lb-ft) of torque. This
provides the car with the best of all worlds. Acceleration to 100 kph
is achieved in 8.3 seconds with a top speed of 225 kph.
The engine in the new 320i is based on that of the
outgoing 318i, but with enhancements to the induction and exhaust
systems. Also benefiting from BMW’s Valvetronic and Bi-Vanos
systems, the new 320i offers 150 bhp at 6,200 rpm, with a maximum
torque of 200 Nm (147 lb-ft) achieved at 3,600 rpm.
Ensuring that the power and torque remain in check
is the responsibility of the new DSC+ system (on six-cylinder models -
standard DSC on four-cylinder models). Effectively an evolution of the
familiar DSC traction control system, DSC+ offers a range of benefits,
including brake standby that pre-tensions the brakes when the driver
quickly removes the pressure from the accelerator pedal. Soft stop is
also incorporated which modulates the brake application to prevent the
nose of the car from ‘diving’ when travelling slowly. Also
included in DSC+ is a start-off assistant that uses the clutch to
prevent the car from rolling back on a hill-start and a brake detector
that ensures the discs are kept dry and responsive on wet roads.
The new E90’s have BMW’s active steering
system, available for the first time in a car of this class. Active
steering is offered as an option on six-cylinder models and resolves
the conflict between low-speed agility and higher-speed stability by
delivering a speed-proportional steering ratio. Active steering also
brings a number of key safety benefits. In conjunction with the DSC+
system, if the car detects over steer, active steering applies a small
amount of positive steering angle to bring the rear of the car back
into line. Additionally on the new 3 Series, when applying the brakes
on a surface with differing grip levels such as snow or ice, active
steering intervenes to stabilize the car more precisely and quickly
than the driver is able to do manually.
Its double-joint spring strut front axle is made
completely of aluminium, minimising the unsprung mass of the car and
reducing road noise. The new five-arm rear axle, first seen on the new
BMW 1 Series, delivers excellent ride comfort.
The new 3 Series body is stiffer yet lighter than
that of the outgoing model. Thanks to a new joint and crossbar
arrangement for the car’s load-bearing structure, the bodyshell
stiffness is increased by 25 percent over its predecessor.
The inherent rigidity of the steel bodyshell
enhances the new 3 Series safety levels. With the addition of six
airbags as standard, including curtain head airbags for front and rear
occupants, the car is expected to receive a five-star Euro NCAP
rating. It is also one of the first cars in the world that is fully
prepared for the rigorous side impact requirements in North America as
well as the US high-speed rear impact test.
Also supporting these high standards of safety are
a number of familiar systems from other BMW models. Brake force
display is standard for the first time on 3 Series Saloon models,
offering two stage brake lights. Brake lights illuminate normally in
average driving conditions but during an emergency stop or when the
ABS braking cuts in, the area of brake light illumination increases to
warn those travelling behind of the situation ahead.
Run-flat tyres are available for the first time on
3 Series models. Like the 1, 5 and 6 Series models, run-flat tyres are
offered as standard, and with the recent developments in run-flat
technology, the car can now be driven for an astonishing 150 miles at
80 kph with up to four punctured tyres. This allows the driver to
complete almost any journey before replacements need to be sought.
The new car is larger than before. Measuring
4,520mm (+49mm) in length, 2,760mm (+35mm) in wheelbase, 1,817mm
(+78mm) in width and 1,424mm (+9mm) in height, the new BMW 3 Series
offers a spacious and light cabin. A driver-orientated dashboard
layout places all the primary controls at the driver’s fingertips
while the secondary controls are conveniently and ergonomically
accessible. Rear occupants benefit from an increase in head, shoulder,
elbow and leg room.
For those customers opting for either business or
professional navigation systems, BMW’s (controversial) iDrive
operating concept comes as standard for the first time in a car of
this class. Replacing the conventional single hood dashboard layout,
the display screen sits centrally on the dashboard in a second
binnacle to deliver navigation information alongside on-board computer
information, entertainment and climate control adjustments and check
Also available for the first time on a BMW in this
class is Comfort access. All cars receive a newly designed key that
replaces the conventional blade-type key but with comfort access the
key contains an ID sensor that the car recognises from a short
distance away. On recognition, the doors are unlocked automatically
and the car can be started with one push of the starter button. The
comfort access system also works in tandem with BMW’s familiar key
memory system to ensure that the seating position, door mirrors,
personalized air conditioning settings and radio reception are
automatically adjusted to the current drivers’ settings before they
enter the car.
(Despite the manufacturer’s rhetoric, this will be a good car.