The Audi TT off-roader bows in at Chinese show: the TT in wellies
New BMW 3 Series
The new 2012 BMW 3 Series, codenamed F30, has been unveiled prior to a UK release date of February 2012, with prices from £24,100 on-the-road.
It is the sixth generation of the famous model line that first debuted in 1975 and has since sold 12 million cars. The new 2012 BMW 3 Series is thus one of the most significant new car launches of the year.
The sixth generation BMW 3 Series has a very upmarket and premium appearance. It combines a long wheelbase with a very short front overhang to give a sporting stance. The window 'greenhouse' is also set back to make it look more dynamic.
The new BMW 3 Series is 93mm longer than before, with a 50mm stretch to the wheelbase that creates more interior room, particularly in the rear. The wheel tracks are wider too, again boosting interior space but also aiding handling.
Air Curtain tech
The new BMW 3 Series is a very aerodynamic design. BMW has introduced 'Air Curtain' technology, which improves airflow around the front wheels and blends with a flow-optimised underbody structure. A Cd drag factor as low as 0.26 is the eye-opening result of all this work, helping maximise fuel efficiency at speed.
The engine line will all-turbo using the latest BMW TwinPower technology. Launch petrol engines will comprise the 328i with a 245hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo (marking a return to the sporty four-cylinder BMW) and the 335i with a 306hp 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo.
The 328i hits 60mph in just 5.9 seconds, despite also averaging a remarkable 44.1mpg. It emits 149g/km CO2, 15% less than the (slower, less powerful) engine it replaces, making it a green choice as well as a rapid one. The 335i hits 60mph in 5.5 seconds.
The best-selling diesel range will initially be made up of two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels. The standard 320d uses a 184hp version, while the 320d EfficientDynamics has a 163hp version that average a very impressive 68.9mpg.
Stop-start as standard
Auto Start-Stop is fitted as standard to every engine variant. BMW has introduced a new Driving Experience Control switch which, alongside Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, also has an ECO PRO mode. This adjusts various setting such as the air conditioning compressor and accelerator pedal response to maximise fuel economy.
BMW is planning to launch a hybrid version of the new 3 Series in autumn 2012. The BMW ActiveHybrid 3 will be the first hybrid 3 Series ever to go on sale: its powerful 340hp petrol-electric six-cylinder turbo motor will also average an eye-opening 44.1mpg.
There will be more regular engines in the future too. In spring 2012, the 184hp 320i, 143hp 318d and 116hp 316d will all arrive.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on all new BMW 3 Series. However, every engine can be mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission too. BMW is the first premium maker to offer an eight-speed auto in this sector.
The new BMW 3 Series' eight-speed automatic is so impressive, auto models match or even beat the fuel economy figures of the comparable manual. This is a very noteworthy achievement indeed by BMW. Even the 320d EfficientDynamics can be paired with the automatic for the first time - with, again, NO fuel economy penalty.
Impressively, the new BMW 3 Series is 40kg lighter than the old one, despite being bigger and having more standard equipment.
The interior of the new BMW 3 Series wraps around the driver. This is a purposefully asymmetric design cue to bring back the driver-focused appeal of older BMW 3 Series. There's also an optional full colour Head-Up Display for the driver too.
To the delight of current 3 Series drivers, the new BMW 3 Series has much more interior stowage space. Ahead of the gearlever, for example are two one-litre drinks bottle holders, while the door pockets are bigger as well.
Flatscreen TV-style monitor
The instrument dials of the new 3 Series introduce BMW's modern and stylish 'black panel' look. The four meters comprise speedometer and rev counter, fuel level and oil temperature. In the centre, the iDrive monitor is a freestanding unit modelled on the latest flatscreen TVs.
New tech features include a Surround View camera with Side View and Top View displays, giving a bird's eye perspective around the car for easy parking. There's also Active Cruise Control that can bring the car to a halt and set it moving again, plus Lane Change Warning and Lane Departure Warning System, all offered in a BMW 3 Series for the first time.
BMW will offer the new 2012 3 Series in three equipment lines: Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line. These will complement familiar UK trim lines of ES and SE. All models get standard climate control, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, cruise control and 17-inch alloys.
The BMW M Sport package, which is a favourite of UK buyers, will arrive in summer 2012. This will bring enhanced, more sporting exterior and interior styling.
Increased rear space
Rear passengers will find it much easier to get in and out the new BMW 3 Series thanks to bigger door openings. The longer wheelbase also gives 15mm more kneeroom behind the front seats, and there's 8mm more headroom as well. Meanwhile, the boot is 20 litres bigger (and can be opened simply by waving a foot below the rear bumper).
BMW promises ride comfort has been 'taken to a new level'. Despite, this, says BMW, the new 3 Series' position as the sportiest saloon in its segment has also been enhanced too.
This sixth generation new BMW 3 Series is a vital car for the company. Together with the 1 Series, it accounts for almost half of all BMW car sales.
Analysts say BMW 3 Series sales could rise by over 20% next year when the new 2012 BMW 3 Series goes on sale. This could see almost 450,000 BMW 3 Series sold next year.
The BMW 3 Series range was launched in July 1975. The two-door original (codenamed E21) diversified over the years and, in total, sold 1.3 million units.
The second generation BMW 3 Series was launched in 1982. This model (codenamed E30) really popularised the BMW 3 Series concept and sales easily outpaced the original, hitting 2.3 million.
The third generation BMW 3 Series was introduced in 1990. This sophisticated model range (codenamed E36) included the first four-cylinder turbodiesel model, which today is the best-selling engine type.
The fourth generation BMW 3 Series was introduced in 1998. By now, the 3 Series (codenamed E46) was a firm best seller and even reached third place in the overall sales rankings - something never before achieved by a premium mid-size saloon.
The firth generation BMW 3 Series was introduced in 2005. This model (codenamed E90) included the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics version, the most efficient medium-class car in the world.
The sixth generation BMW 3 Series goes on sale in spring 2012. It is codenamed F30 and will be the first iteration of a model line that will include Touring estate, Coupe and other derivatives yet to be confirmed.
What do you think of the new 2012 BMW 3 Series - is it a hit or a miss? Share your thoughts with us below.
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