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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Car Reviews arrow New BMW 3-series breaks ground
New BMW 3-series breaks ground PDF Print E-mail

The best-selling BMW 3-series moves into a fifth generation with a new model to be launched at the Geneva show in March.  All models will have a six-speed manual gearbox, with a six-speed automatic option.  Topping the range will be the 330i with a new lightest-in-class (BMW's words) six-cylinder engine, complete with Valvetronic induction system, as recently introduced on the 6-series.

There will also be a 218 bhp (160 kW) six-cylinder 325i, as well as a two-liter diesel and similar size gasoline engine. The motor in the entry level 320i is based on that of the outgoing 318i but with improvements to the intake and exhaust systems.  Four cylinder variants will follow through 2005.

 

New BMW 3-
New BMW 3-
The original 3-series began in the mid-Seventies as a two-door, four cylinder model, but in 1977 the six-pot motor from the larger 5-series was added.   In 1983, four-door models were introduced and the range expanded to offer a number of different engine options, including, two years later, the first diesel.

Of all the global auto makers, BMW is one of only two that has consistently made a profit in the last 35 years, the other being world number two, Toyota.  But it has not always been so: in 1959 the Munich-based company nearly went under as its large sedans were not selling and its previously superior motorcycles were also proving hard to shift.  A merger with Daimler-Benz was proposed but rejected by shareholders and it was the Quandt family that came to the rescue.  The secretive Quandts still own a majority shareholding in BMW which has - since the disposal of the troublesome Rover car company in Britain in 2000 - reported record profits in recent years.

The company's line up now includes some of the best-selling models in the world, including the US-built X5 4x4, the luxury 7-series range and, of course, the hugely successful Mini.  The 3-series, though, is by far BMW's biggest seller and although the 2005 model will initially be launched only as a four-door sedan, coupé, cabriolet, estate and M3 performance models will follow in the next 12 months.

An interesting extension to the dynamic stability control (DSC) is a brake assistance program.  The DSC includes ‘brake standby' which pre-tensions the braking system when the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle, while a ‘soft stop' option modulates the brake application to prevent the nose of the car diving when traveling slowly.  In addition the brakes are lightly applied in wet conditions to ensure the brake discs remain dry.

To alert following drivers of an emergency stop, there is a two-stage rear brake light that increases the illuminated area in the event of a forced stop, or when the ABS cuts in.

The active steering pioneered on the 5-series will be available as an option on six-cylinder models.  Active steering is speed-related, but also can detect a slide and compensate automatically, far faster than the driver would be able to.

The new 3-series body is claimed to be both stiffer and lighter than the outgoing model, while run-flat tires are now fitted as standard.  These tires allow the car to be driven for up to 240 km at speeds of 80 km/h even with complete deflation.  The new 3-series is slightly larger than its predecessor, with much of the increase in dimensions devoted to rear seat passengers.  Six airbags are fitted, including head bags for both front and rear occupants.

When the new car is subjected to the stringent Euro NCAP tests later this year, it is expected to achieve the much coveted maximum of five stars in the various crash tests.  As well as the anticipated Euro NCAP rating, the new 3-series is one of the first cars in the world designed for the rigorous side impact requirements in North America as well as the US high-speed rear impact test.

The new, hotly awaited 3-series will go on sale in Europe in the second quarter, while deliveries to Asia will start around July.

 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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