These photos reveal the least controversial BMW to date from design boss Chris Bangle. The nose is reminiscent of the X3, while the sides mix 5-series shoulder line and 1-series curved sills.
Crucially, the awkward boot (‘the so-called Bangle Butt’) of the 5- and 7-series is ditched, with a conventional aperture and shutlines. It’s instantly recognisable as a 3-series, although the saloon has grown slightly in all dimensions, freeing up more rear cabin space.
The Mk5 3-series is underpinned by a new rear-wheel drive platform, sharing almost half its componentry with the 1-series. Common to both is an aluminium strut front suspension and multi-link rear axle. The chassis is not as advanced as the 5-series’, with its aluminium front section, although gadgets like anti-roll Dynamic Drive and ultra-direct Active Steering are tipped to be options. BMW may also introduce its take on VW’s twin clutch DSG gearbox, which allows the pre-selecting of a second gear for seamless shifts.
The 3-series line up remains as long-winded as ever. The saloon will share some fourpots with the new hatch, such as the 115bhp 1.6- and 150bhp 2.0-litre petrols and the 163bhp diesel in the 320d. The bulk of 3-series engines will be straight sixes, though: 170bhp 2.2, 200bhp 2.5 and 258bhp 3.0-litre. Whispers suggest BMW is planning a turbocharged petrol six, pumping out around 325bhp, while the acclaimed 330d model continues as the top diesel.
The M3 will run a 4.0-litre V8 with around 400bhp, as BMW is forced to match the eight-cylinder flagships offered by Audi and Mercedes. Officials have reversed a plan to badge the coupe and convertible 4-series, echoing the 5- and 6-series template. These niche models will be rolled out after the Touring, due in spring 2006. The Compact, however, will not be replaced.
No risks for BMW’s cash cow. The shape is classic sports saloon, peppered with familiar cues: X3 lamps, 5-series shoulders and a conventional rump.
New rear-drive platform shares many components with the 1-series, including suspension. Active Steering and Dynamic Drive should be options.
Huge range of four- and six- cylinder engines, plus a 400bhp V8 for the M3. Another highlight is a turbocharged 3.2-litre six with around 325bhp