The benchmark has been refined.
The BMW 3 Series is a true icon of the German automotive landscape, and the global one too, for that matter. It's been around for decades, and while some generations are better than others, they all have the same goal: to be the best. The current G20 generation was launched in 2019, so it's due for an update, and while some markets have given us an early preview of what to expect, we've had little more than rumors to help us as we try to predict what changes are coming for the segment-defining benchmark. Fortunately, the time for speculation has now come to an end, and the new 2023 BMW 3 Series is here to show Audi and Mercedes who's boss.
BMW introduces the 3 Series thus: "The BMW 3 Series is the yardstick of sporty driving pleasure by which all other contenders in the premium midsize segment are measured." With an opening like that, it's clear that BMW is aware of how important this car is and the automaker says that, more than a segment leader, the 3 "embodies the heart of the BMW brand."
Since its debut in 1975, over 16 million models have been sold over seven generations. The current G20 model has sold over 1.1 million units, making it the highest-demanded 3 Series over the first three years of sale ever. In fact, the car accounts for about 14% of the brand's worldwide vehicle sales, but enough about the history of the car, let's see what the 2023 model offers.
In terms of powertrains, we get the same options as before: a 2.0-liter TwinPower turbo-four in the 330i, with the 330e providing a plug-in hybrid alternative, and the 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo straight-six offering maximum performance (without stepping up to the M3). BMW says that all will be offered with xDrive all-wheel-drive and all are fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission but the automaker has not revealed power figures just yet. Nevertheless, we suspect that the straight-six variants will be more powerful because they now offer 48-volt mild-hybrid technology for the first time. This is complemented by a brake energy recuperation system which helps provide repeatable performance and also applies power to the vehicle's traditional 12V system. This improves overall efficiency.
Inside, the 3 Series now benefits from BMW Operating System 8 (iDrive 8) with its 12.3-inch digital driver cluster and 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment display both housed in one large, curved unit. This system not only looks better and offers greater ergonomics, but it also boasts better functionality than before, as the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant has gained new skills: instructions in natural speech can now be used to adjust the climate control or open or close windows or the sunroof.
The driver assistance systems can also now be controlled using nothing more than your voice, and new graphics appear on the display to show that the voice control system is "listening attentively to what is being said." Finally, Connected Parking is a new feature of the enhanced BMW Maps system and can help you find a parking bay near your destination.
In terms of design, the central air vents are now slimmer "and more modern in design" while the gear selector is no longer a large lever but rather a small, elegant toggle switch.
Now for the styling. The car you see here is a European-spec model, but we doubt you'll notice any changes for the US variant. The front and rear fascias have been significantly updated and appear to be moving toward the style seen on the BMW XM. If that offends you, we're sorry, but BMW seems to be determined to make various surfaces and design elements of the car meld into others with more unconventional flourishes. That means jagged flicks, upturns, and edges.
The headlights appear to have very much the same shape as those of the pre-LCI (BMW-speak for facelift) model, but with the daytime running light accents now inverted and the pre-facelift notch now removed. These standard LED units are now slimmer too. Happily, the kidney grilles are not elongated, vertical items, but they still dominate the front. The taillights appear totally unchanged.
For the M Sport package, chrome accents will "highlight the double bars [once an M-exclusive feature] on the BMW kidney grille." Hexagonal contours and a honeycomb pattern define the lower center grille while the air curtains at the edges are recessed to create an impression of width. The rear apron has also been revised in similar fashion. The M Sport package also adds M Sport suspension to the 330i, variable sport steering, and 19-inch 791M wheels. Adaptive M Suspension can be had in place of the M Sport suspension and can be specified as a standalone option or as part of the Dynamic Handling Package on both the 330i and 330e.
Inside, the M Sport package gives you an M leather steering wheel and interior trim elements in a new Aluminum Rhombicle Anthracite finish for a "more sporting ambiance."
The M340i and M340i xDrive get larger air intakes and a mesh-design kidney grille setup, along with new 18-inch M double-spoke alloys or optional 19-inch wheels, trapezoidal exhaust tips, and an M rear spoiler in body color. Like full-fat M cars, the M340i models will be available with BMW Motorsport roundels on the hood, trunk, and wheel center caps.
In terms of paint options, BMW has only shown us images of an M Sport model in a bland Brooklyn Grey metallic, which is a color only available in conjunction with the M Sport package. However, Skyscraper Grey metallic is now available if you don't like Brooklyn and the Shadowline (gloss black) trim is now standard, although you can spec satin aluminum line exterior trim for the 330 models if you like. In addition, "a wide selection of special BMW Individual paint finishes" will be offered at launch.
For a more in-depth look at standard features and options, keep an eye out for our First Look review coming soon.