There a few vehicles that feel like they’ve always been around and will probably never go away. The Jeep Wrangler, Ford Mustang, and Chevrolet Corvette are American models that fit that description.
In terms of German imports, the BMW 3 Series has been right there with them. However, that prominence has faded over the past few years. As BMW crossover sales boom and 3 Series sedan numbers continue declining, the seventh-generation model could not have arrived soon enough.
After seven years, BMW unveiled a major redesign that should decide this model’s fate for the long term. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2019 3 Series following its October 1 debut.
1. More space and increased rigidity, yet lighter in weight
- Some models drop over 100 lbs.
Following the trend of just about every new vehicle coming to the U.S. market for 2019, the all-new 3 Series has grown. Overall, it gained close to 3 inches in length, tacked on over a half-inch in width and height, and had its wheelbase extended 1.6 inches.
That means more comfort all around and added legroom in the back seat. Meanwhile, BMW boasted of increasing the 3 Series body rigidity by 25%. Yet those enhancements won’t come with added weight.
Due to an increase in the use of high-strength steel and aluminum throughout the body, BMW said some models will shed as much as 121 lbs. for 2019.
2. The sharp, overhauled exterior
- There’s a clear style upgrade.
In recent years, we’ve seen the BMW 3 Series among the fastest depreciating cars on the U.S. market after three years of ownership. Some analysts have suggested that’s the normal fate for entry-level luxury cars, but this model also had the most owners bailing on it after just one year.
Maybe the aging exterior styling had something to do with it. For 2019, designers improved upon every corner of the car, starting with the overhauled front. Full LED headlights come standard, the overhangs remained short despite the increase in length, and sport models get their own sideways-T fog light design.
This car looks good from just about every angle we’ve seen, and journalists attending the Paris debut didn’t have anything negative say about its looks in person, either.
3. More power, improved handling
- Straight acceleration stays about the same.
The previous-generation 3 Series did not win over every driver looking for sportiness in their sedan, and BMW seemed determined to change that impression for 2019. It starts with added 7 added horses (to 255 horsepower) and 14% more torque (to 295 pound-feet) from an improved turbo four-cylinder (2.0) engine.
That system will get the 330i to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds, which is one tenth of a second behind the current model’s pace. (Note: No word on the base 320i model came in this launch.)
However, it’s not all about acceleration. Along with the lighter weights, a new lift-related damper system and improved aerodynamics should all contribute to a more agile 3 series.
4. No manual transmission, no model under $35K
- The starting price is $40,250, and you’ll notice a few things missing.
As we noted above, there was no mention of the 320i — that base model that hovered just below $35,000 — in the release of the 2019 3 Series. Contacted by The Cheat Sheet, a BMW spokesperson said the automaker was only ready to confirm the 330i models and higher trims.
The base price thus begins at $41,245 including destination charges for the 2019 3 Series. All-wheel-drive 330i xDrive sedans kick off at $43,245. So there’s a decent chance the sub-$40,000 3 Series is done, which would bring the base model in line with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class ($41,400).
For enthusiasts who hoped for one more generation of the 3 Series with manual transmission, there’s more bad news: The manual is gone from the entire range. Judging by most reports, it’s not coming back, either. An eight-speed Sport Steptronic automatic transmission is the new standard.
5. The next-gen interior
- Standard Active Guard Collision, optional HUD and 10-inch touchscreen
While there are still some busy areas when glancing at the controls, BMW streamlined its interior design and came up with a more minimalist effect in the new 3 Series. Along with standard sport seats and Active Guard Collision with Pedestrian Warning, this generation features the iDrive 6.0 system found in the 2019 i3.
In terms of controls, that means an 8.8-inch display touchscreen and much-needed 5.7-inch color digital instrument cluster. Buyers who want to go the next level in tech can opt for a 12-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch display touchscreen as well as Automatic Parking and head-up display (HUD) functions.
Otherwise, BMW will accommodate just about every request for next-gen auto tech, including voice-activated control (BMW’s Alexa), digital key (smartphone-powered), and surround-view camera — all at a price.
6. M Performance and plug-in hybrid models
- A 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds is ahead for the M340i xDrive.
In addition to the base 330i, BMW said it will be introducing a plug-in hybrid iPerformance model with “the latest technology.” That model should improve upon the low range of current models and make it a more viable option.
As for what’s confirmed for 2019, the six-cylinder M340i and M340i xDrive are on deck. In addition to the sport-tuned chassis, brakes, and suspension, buyers are looking at 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. From a stop, these models will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds.
7. Arriving in March 2019
- M Performance models follow a few months later.
BMW says the new 3 Series will be in U.S. dealerships by March 2019. A month or two later (“spring”), the M340i will follow. Plug-in hybrid models will likely come the following year (i.e., 2020).
We’ll have to wait for EPA estimates on fuel economy and crash tests before getting mpg and safety ratings for the 2019 3 Series. Expect them early in 2019.