More details on the next-gen BMW 3-series

Efficiency and value will be the hallmarks of the next 3-series

Efficiency and value will be the hallmarks of the next 3-series

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The current E90 BMW 3-series has been on the market since 2005, so it's only fitting that details about the next-gen model are beginning to circulate. Most agree that the next model will feature styling lifted, at least in part, from the Concept CS, though also expect to see a healthy dose of the new corporate styling debuted on the latest 7-series.

Due in 2012, the next BMW 3-series will pay special attention to efficiency and it will achieve that goal through extensive use of BMW's EfficientDynamics technology. Low drag aerodynamics, smaller engines, and high-tech electronics will combine to make the next 3-series a step above the current car.

Aesthetically, designers will attempt to address criticisms of the current car's awkward styling and lack of interior space. The bonnet will likely sit much higher than on the current model to improve pedestrian safety, while the sides will be marked with a prominent character line and high beltline. Proportions will remain much the same as the current model but weight will be reduced thanks to the increased use of aluminum and other advanced materials in its construction.

A huge change for the 2012 car could be the addition of three-cylinder engines to the lineup, according to Autocar. Though these wouldn't likely be seen in the U.S. during the first half of the next 3-series model life, they could eventually make their way across the pond if fuel efficiency and emissions regulations continue to tighten past 2016.

With a single turbo and 1.5L of displacement - effectively half of the current twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine - the cars would be good for anywhere from 150-170hp and 150-220lb-ft of torque, with the gasoline models weighing in lower on the torque scale than the diesel models. Paired with an ultra-efficient 8-speed transmission and more efficient auxiliary systems such as heating and cooling, the next-gen 3-series is expected to deliver some seriously impressive economy.

One of the new advanced EfficientDynamics technologies to make its way into the next 3-series will be a so-called 'air curtain'. Using a special series of ducts and vents, the system directs air in a manner such that it slips neatly over the wheels, which are normally an area of high turbulence, and therefore energy-sapping drag.

In addition to making the car more efficient overall, BMW is looking to make the next 3-series less expensive to build and therefore to buy as it aims for larger volumes. Whether that will mean compromises in terms of total feature set or simply a lower-end range of models to entice entry-level luxury buyers is not clear, but pushing the 3-series so far down-market could step on the toes of the 1-series range and any future city cars coming from the Project i initiative.

Finally, as yet another measure to enhance efficiency while still delivering a BMW driving experience, expect to see the hybrid technology debuting on the X6 and 7-series to eventually make its way to the 3-series, albeit in somewhat reduced form. This technology will likely be especially targeted at U.S. buyers, since even by the car's mid-cycle revamp in 2016, there isn't likely to be widespread adoption of diesel-engined cars.

Of course, all of these details are still speculative at this point, but it's clear that BMW is pushing its mainstream offerings in a more efficient direction while still trying to maintain their engaging, driver-focused character. It is a difficult balancing act, but one that enthusiasts will enjoy seeing played out over the years to come.
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Comments (18)
  1. I like it! Finally Chris Bangle's bullshit flame surface design influence is waning...

  2. looks nice! I like it & I like the X-Drive to gain favour bit too!

  3. I was hoping to be driving a hovering car by 2012. Dammit.

  4. can anybody say hyuandai genesis. the front end is a little akward with kidneys so far ahead of the lights. but handsome at the very least

  5. looks a dodge charger.. yuck!

  6. its a good rendering, but i think it looks a bit aggressive for something thats supposed to be as ubiquitos as the three series

  7. Soo..... It will have BMW's "Angel Eyes" +AND+ AUDI's S6 LEDs in the bumper? I hope that's a turn signal, as the Angel Eyes alone are just fine. I like both Audi's and BMWs very much but I'd like to think I can tell the difference between the two when they are rushing up on me in my rearview or coming head on.

  8. Yeah what's with those Audi like LEDs

  9. BMW should employ someone to read through all the comments out there. They might have found out that the vision of a daft prick designer was quite something else. I've always driven BMW's, but not spending one penny out of my pocket towards this abomination of design that is the current 3series. And if this is what they think of the next model, I suggest they shelf for 6 months and then look at it with fresh eyes. One suggestion only - bottom line of the headlights aligning with some virtual thing in the middle of the grille. You at BMW have long held traditions. I like how the long wheel base feels on the road, the ergonomic interior. You have the traditional L shaped tail lights; why arranging them upside down just for the sake of be different. Different without substance I mean. Why don't you take the MINI design team to look into the 3series. They have done a marvellous job there.

  10. AR, I don't think that this is an official BMW rendering. More like someone in a design studio, mag or someone with just good Photoshop skills putting their twist on what the next 3-series will look like. We have 4 years before the next model comes out and I bet they are just getting started on designing the looks of the car. This is mearly grafting the front of the CS concept onto a smaller car that kind of looks like a 3-series. I saw these same photos with the catption of it being the next 5-series.

    I really don't like the look of the large openings in the bottom of the bumper and the grill is way to big. It dominates the front way too much. No BMW has ever had a grill that big.

  11. Not too bad, but I think the kidneys will be smaller... maybe something like they had in the 80's with the model determining the size of the grille (3-series being the smallest, 750iL having the widest kidneys). That would seem to make more sense to me, this way you can tell the model of the car more easily from a distance. I like how it's angled out, however.

  12. I want one! We have the present 323i and we think it is great in all respects except small boot and cheap looking tail lights. BMW seem to have addressed both issues and have the perfect car for 2009. I just hope we will still feel that way about it in 2012.

  13. Interesting engine ideas, that is for sure

  14. I would doubt that they would use a three-cylinder engine. First, they don't even have one in any current car and we are talking that this car is supposed to be out in roughly 2.5 years? I hope they are developing this now. Second, they already have award winning four-cylinder engines in house. Why would they scrap those designs for lopping off another cylinder? Upgrade those for more power/mpg and you can plop them in the 1 and 3 series cars. I would love to be able to drive any of the diesel engines that they have in Europe over here in the US.

  15. Does this mean that we'll finally get 3-Series inline 4's again here in the states?

  16. I don't know if that 3-banger will be available in the USDM. I also hope that the -Series is still offered with the I-6, especially in turbo-form, I don't want to see this go down-market.

  17. Does this mean that we'll finally get 3-Series inline 4's again here in the states?

    Yeah, the States will see a 4 cylinder BMW 3 series, probably with DI and turbos, I doubt we will get the 3 cylinders yet

  18. Hi,
    Love the car, however, i'm bit concern grill seems too much. Love the shape of the bonnet even though i cannot see the back of the car. And i hoping to drive the new sometime next year- 2010 or early 2011. 2012 seems far given the fact that the 3 series already has 5 years on the road irrespective of the recent cosmetic chnages on the current 3 series.

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