With the launch of the M3 earlier this year, we're slightly surprised to see BMW has already facelifted the E90 BMW 3-Series family. However, the BMW is legendary for staying ahead of the opposition and spy shots of the new car have been surfacing. We'd even seen the car undergoing road tests locally but never had a camera with us at the right moment!
While the changes seem superficial, they actually amount to a significant step forward in terms of technology. We're not going to present the full news release here because most of it relates to Europe-only models and features. However, BMW USA assures us it will continue with the existing 328i and 335i models as well as the long-awaited 335d twin-turbo diesel and that a US-specific release will follow.
Highlights of the new model include full-time internet access, an 80GB internal hard drive and revised exterior design. Sadly, we won't be getting the incredibly frugal four-cylinder diesel engines at present but the performance and economy of the new 335d model is guaranteed to surprise US motorists.
Despite the changes, the cars retain their internal E-codes. So the sedan models are still referred to as E90 and the sport wagon as E91.
Our abridged version of BMW AG's release begins: It is the epitome of sporty flair in its segment and for years it has maintained the position as the mostly widely sold premium vehicle in the world. Now the BMW 3-Series sets out to extend its lead even further. Specific design modifications, a further refined interior design, the new generation of the BMW iDrive, new services provided by BMW ConnectedDrive, a revised range of engines and innovations in the areas of drive technology, safety and comfort make the new BMW 3-Series Sedan and Touring more attractive than ever before. With rear-wheel drive, harmonious axle load distribution, outstanding steering precision and highly sophisticated chassis technology, the BMW 3-Series sets standards for driving dynamics in its segment. More than ever before, this unique driving pleasure can now be combined with an awareness of economy and minimized emissions.
Thanks to BMW EfficientDynamics, the new 3-Series achieves significantly lower fuel consumption and exhaust emissions with each of the ten engine variations available than those of the relevant competitors in the premium segment.
The new features in the powertrain field include the optimized electronically controlled all-wheel drive system BMW xDrive. This intelligent all-wheel drive system which variably distributes the drive force between front and rear wheels to enhance driving dynamics as well as ride stability and traction can now be combined with five engine types (in Europe).
Parallel to the launch of the new 3-Series Sedan and Touring, a new seven-speed sports automatic transmission with double clutch will be presented for the Coup and the Convertible of the series. This allows further improved acceleration figures in the 335i Coup and 335i Convertible. It combines added dynamic performance - as compared to the standard six-speed manual transmission - with the comfort features of an automatic transmission. The seven-speed double-clutch system shifts without interrupting traction.
With striking visual changes, the dynamic character of the new 3-Series Sedan has been given additional emphasis, while the new 3-Series Touring enhances its sporty, elegant profile with new visual features which are recognizable from all angles.
The front view of the Sedan and Touring models is characterized by an emphasis of vehicle width. The characteristic look of the double circular headlights is underscored by chrome tubes, and their corona rings can now also be used with optional bi-xenon headlamps as daytime running lights. The light sources of the indicators have a ribbed structure and LED indicator lights are installed in conjunction with the optional bi-xenon headlamps.
Powerfully taut surfaces and striking character lines dominate the side view of the new 3-Series. The contour edges of the side skirts have been set higher and modeled in a more distinctive fashion. Another new feature is the exterior mirrors with two distinctive character lines, echoing the interplay between the convex and concave shaping of the surfaces. The mirrors also offer an enlarged field of vision.
Greater emphasis on the vehicle's power and sporty character appears in the rear view of the vehicles. To achieve this, the bumpers, rear lights and luggage compartment handle have been completely redesigned. The dual section rear lights are now structured according to the characteristic BMW L-shape. The two LED light clusters and the LED direction indicators are designed to create a striking, quality appearance.
The widened track of the new 3-Series contributes to its powerful appearance. Depending on the model, the track of the rear axle has been widened by up to 24mm (about 1") by means of a new wheel carrier and other modified details.
The interior has been enhanced by means of specific modifications in the selection of materials and surface design. The operating system of the optional BMW iDrive has been revised for the activation and control of entertainment, information, navigation and telecommunications functions. The new generation iDrive is available in conjunction with the optional "Professional" navigation system. What's more, the new iDrive supports multi-mode operation by voice entry.
With the new iDrive, four direct selection buttons grouped around the Controller make it easier to switch between CD, radio, telephone and navigation functions. The functional bookmarks are supplemented with three control buttons.
The new iDrive is presented with a 8.8" Control Display. With its high image resolution, it offers significant improvement in the display of detailed graphics. The structure of the user menu also makes it easier to locate desired functions. All functions controllable by iDrive are listed in the starter menu.
The features of the navigation system "Professional" include a hard drive integrated in the vehicle. The storage medium, with a capacity of 80GB, provides outstandingly fast access to digital maps for navigation and can also be used for an extensive collection of music files. The system enables music files to be transferred to the hard drive from a CD, MP3 player or USB stick.
BMW ConnectedDrive makes BMW the first manufacturer in the world to enable unlimited use of the internet inside the vehicle when stationary. Internet access is available for the new 3-Series as a special equipment option at attractive flat-rate. The transfer of data is based on EDGE technology (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) which, unlike UMTS, offers full geographical coverage and is three to four times faster than the mobile phone standard GPRS. The basis for internet use in the vehicle is provided by the further developed functions of iDrive. By pushing the Controller in different directions, the mouse can be moved across the web page displayed on the Control Display.
The safety concept of the new 3-Series is based on a solid body structure, the selective application of high-strength steel types and special deformation elements which divert and absorb impact energy. In addition, there are six airbags, three-point belts and headrests on all seats to offer occupants optimum protection. What is more, ISOFIX children's seat mounts on the rear seats are a standard feature.
As a dynamic concept, BMW ConnectedDrive offers BMW Assist, BMW Online, BMW TeleServices and BMW Tracking, depending on the country in question. At the same time, BMW ConnectedDrive is designed for the ongoing further development of services to increase mobility and information convenience. The Enhanced Emergency Call with automatic positioning and remote control functions are examples of safety-related options which are already available, extending the lead of BMW ConnectedDrive over the competition.
With its optimized engine range, the new 3-Series further extends its leading position in the segment in terms of driving dynamics and economy. With all engine types, both the Sedan and Touring model boast superior fuel consumption and exhaust emission levels than those of their competitors of comparable output.
What's more, a wide spectrum of efficiency measures has been applied within the engine environment to further reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. This includes Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start/Stop Function, Shift Point Display, the needs-oriented control of auxiliary units, electro-mechanical power steering, tires with reduced rolling resistance and Automatic Air Intake Flaps. With the comprehensive application of these technologies in what is the most successful BMW model series in terms of sales figures, the development strategy BMW EfficientDynamics achieves an especially broad impact.
As one of a number of features unique within the competitive field, all gasoline engines are fitted with High Precision Injection and all diesel engines combine an all-aluminium crankcase, turbocharging and common rail direct injection of the third generation. The BMW 335i is especially dynamic, accelerating in just 5.6sec from zero to 62mph.
The new BMW 3-Series has the most sophisticated chassis technology in its segment. The five-link rear axle is adapted to the needs of the high-power and high-torque engines. The front axle also reflects a unique standard of engineering. The dual-arm tension strut axle with stabilizer is largely made of aluminium.
The standard equipment also includes an electro-mechanical steering system with integrated Servotronic function for speed-related steering support. Active Steering is an option, where steering transmission is adapted to road speed.
The front seats of the new 3-Series are fitted as standard with crash-active headrests which significantly reduce the risk of injury to the cervical spine in the event of an impact. Controlled by the vehicle's safety electronics system, this feature ensures that in the event of a rear collision, the front section of the headrest is moved forward by up to 60mm and upwards by as much as 40mm. This reduces the distance between headrest and head, thus increasing the stabilizing and securing function of the headrest.
A contribution to active safety is made by the new generation of optional adaptive headlights available in conjunction with bi-xenon headlamps. It guarantees illumination of the road surface when taking a corner. Here the swivel direction of the headlamps is derived from the steering angle, the yaw rate and the road speed of the vehicle. At low speeds the turning light is activated. This function is performed by one of the two inside headlamps, depending on the direction. Before each turning maneuver, the light cone is turned to illuminate the road ahead.
In the area of comfort, the new 3-Series has a range of optimized features. The further developed heating and air conditioning technology ensures the interior maintains the desired temperature throughout the year. The new BMW 3-Series has the most high-performance heating and cooling system in its category. Within one minute the entire interior air volume can be changed three times. In spite of the high airflow rate, excellent acoustics are ensured by means of a flow optimization function in the unit, its feed lines and by means of an air outlet positioned at the centre of the instrument panel.
A dual-zone air conditioning system is optional with individual temperature controls for the driver and front passenger.
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