The BMW 3-Series stands as one of the all-time greats. At the top of every automobile magazine’s list of best cars for the past three decades and the performance benchmark by which all other sport sedans are measured, the 3-Series is a modern icon of automobilia. Outdoing the last one is tantamount to making the timeless Grace Kelly look more beautiful, more sophisticated and more memorable than she already is. Well, the 2012 BMW 3-Series aims to do just that come next February, 2012.
More details and photos after the jump.
The sixth-generation Bimmer (not Beemer, those are the motorcycles) gets brand new duds in the way 5-series-like rakish sheet-metal, flatter and wider kidney grilles, LED headlight treatment, new front airdam configuration and big-brother’s taillights. And though the dimensions are increased, the weight has been reduced by nearly 90 pounds due to higher-tech materials. What about the powertrain, you ask? Well, for those of you Bimmer inline-six faithfuls (this author included), you’ll have to convince yourself to make the leap to a turbocharged 2.0 liter inline-four in the 328i. This is the first four-banger used in a 3-Sereies since the much maligned 318i). But the numbers are nothing to sneeze at with a 10 hp and 60 lb ft increase from the last generation. Coupled with direct injecttion, double-VANOS variable cam timing and Valvetronic variable valve timing, the 328i achieves a stunning sprint to 60 in 5.7 seconds and improved fuel economy. BMW’s aim to increase performance and efficiency were clearly not mutually exclusive goals, to our pleasure. But if that’s not convincing enough for you, you can always upgrade to the ever-loved 335i with its 3.0 liter inline six, 300 horsepower and 300 lb feet of twist.
The interior is as posh as ever, with a streamlined dash and center console, acres of fine leather and trim options such as burled wood, aluminum and carbon fiber. That thick-rimmed steering wheel we’ve come to love is still there, too. All new is the trifecta of trim with Sport, Luxury and Modern Lines that range from matte black accents (Sport) to more chrome and wood (Luxury) to more satin finishes (Modern). Tech heads will get their jollies via the ConnectedRive infotainment system (optional) using Parking Assistant, Active Blindspot Detection and Lane Departure Warning, and finally Bluetooth use. No worries, the system can read your emails and text messages to you through the car speakers so you can still hit the apex and catch up on your buddy’s latest high score on Zombie Gunship. The new 3-Series also gets a nifty head-up display that’s customizable and projects speed and turn-by-turn navigation. Wow. We want.
Most importantly, thank God BMW isn’t doing away with the manual six-speed, which come standard. Of course, you can always opt for the eight-speed automatic. M Sport will further enhance the automatic transmission, should you so choose that option, replete with paddle shifters and performance minded programming. New for BMW is the use of Auto Start-Stop, regenerative braking and ECOPRO–all designed to increase efficiency. Auto Start-Stop cuts power when the car is at a standstill a-la-Prius, regenerative braking makes use of brake energy to power things like the A/C compressor and water pump, while ECOPRO mode optimizes throttle mapping to increase efficiency by limiting power output. It has the ability to reduce gas consumption by up to 20 percent. But don’t worry your pretty little gear head, there’s always Sport and Sport + modes, which will permit you mash the throttle unwittingly and throw caution to the wind by thrashing your uber-capable teutonic beast through the twisties as if the Middle East was piping petrol directly to your home. The masterful M3 successor — and plenty of drool — will come not long after.