Is the new G20 3-Series going to end up as king of the executive saloon hill?

Paris Motor Show 2018

BMW have revealed the G20 3-Series in Paris. The car will hit the roads in March of next year, hoping to attract customers with its newfound dynamic look and more upmarket cabin. The new 3-Series has to be good, because the competition is very strong. Chief amongst the rivals are fellow Germans in the form of the B9 Audi A4 and the W205 Mercedes C-Class. A tough competition, no doubt.

Engines

At launch, there'll be a choice of two engines. You'll be able to have one diesel and one petrol. You can either pick between the best-seller (The most important one) that Andy from the fleet will have or a livier version with more oomph. Both are 2.0 units. More petrol and diesel variety will come at a later date, alongside an M3 and plug-in-hybrid 330e model. I'm looking forward to the 330d myself.

The 320d

Interesting, dynamic and exciting. Quite a lot like a few Lexus models...

The 320d is the best seller and the most important one in the 3-Series range because it's the best seller, by far. It'll be a 2.0 turbodiesel four-cylinder as before, but this time with 190bhp and 400Nm of torque. That'll get Andy out of the fleet quickly. Or will it? Because Andy will probably want the 161bhp and 380Nm Efficient Dynamics version instead (for fleet-specific reasons).

Expect a completed 0-60mph sprint in 7.1 seconds if you stick with the six-speed manual. You can option the £3000 eight-speed automatic to reduce the time to 6.8 seconds. About those transmissions - The automatic is still from ZF, though BMW have no doubt calibrated it to such an extent that it shifts in an intelligent, efficient and helpful fashion. That six-speed manual is all new, by the way. Is BMW trying to play with the 'Save the Manuals' crew? I hope so. And, I hope the shift quality is slick and positive and not notchy and lacking in precision as some BMW's have in the last few years.

The economy figures are fresh and, they're probably lacking external validity. No, they definitely are. Why? Because these figures are always done in perfect conditions. So, expect the 320d to achieve mid-40s to mid-50s depending on how you drive. Hell, maybe you'll achieve 60mpg on a good journey but I highly doubt anyone will achieve the claimed 67.3mpg figure anytime soon. The manual can supposedly achieve about 64mpg. Maybe.

The 330i

Fresh and stlish but, like with the rear, BMW have taken inspiration with the lights. But, this time, from Peugeot. Hmm...

And now the only other engine you can have from launch. If your G20 says ''330i'' on the back, it means you have a 2.0 four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 260bhp and 400Nm of torque. While it may look good on paper, I'm a tad scared. Because, straight-six engines at BMW have always been the best sounding petrols and, don't get me wrong, the four-cylinder engines are by no means unimpressive but there's just something about those six cylinders that gets me. I suppose they have to downsize so that the 340i can truly shine.

With the positive amount of torque and pleasant power figure, the 330i should sprint to 60mph in 5.6 seconds. The eight-speed auto is standard on this car, by the way. No manual. It'll even do 48.7mpg (They say). That's an impressive blend of performance and economy if you ask me.

The 330e

330e looks sleek. It doesn't strike me ask very Greenpeace-friendly with that aggressive new front end, though.

BMW have announced the 330e. It will come with the same TwinPower Turbo 2.0 engine as in the 330i. However, the important fact is that it will come paired with an electric boost that will supposedly let it get to 60mph in 6.5 seconds. All that instant electric get-go is very fun indeed. I love the name - 330e iPerformance. Sounds catchy to me. It'll help that the car is lighter and more aerodynamic than the outgoing model, with a claimed range of 30 miles on electric power alone. This means that the London Congestion Charge can fu....go away and that tax will be at a positive low. You can have it in July of 2019.

The BMW M340i X-Drive

That's a stunning colour. Big want. Can't get over the fact it looks like a Lexus though...

According to BMW, it'll ''take your breath away''. Well, it sure might. This is because it'll have 374bhp from an M TwinPower Turbo straight-six that is mated to the wonderful eight-speed. Expect major thrust from this thing. I can't wait for the M3 now. That thing should be absolutely mighty.

ENGINE NOTES: Expect a 318d and 330d to join after the March Launch. 320i, too?#

Extra engine note: 330d will have 263bhp and 580Nm of torque. Woah. Love a 3.0 six-cylinder.

Technology

BMW have invested their precious time in developing this car. Around five years, to be precise. With the G20 comes some new technologies that have triggled down from more premium models such as the 7-Series. For example, this is the first 3-Series to feature fully digital dials.

Very logically positioned controls, with premium materials and a massive screen. No Android-Auto, still...

BMW have announced that the new 3-Series will have the option of the new operating system. You'll need to option BMW's Live Cockpit Professional, though. It's iDrive and, now, it opens up to the world in it's seventh generation. I remember the first generation. I think it came out when I was born, maybe a year or two before. Anyhow, the new one is slick. It allows for intuitivity as well as personalisation, according to BMW. It'll also have gesture controls which, while very gimicky, are a cool feature.

The best of the operating systems will sit in the M-Sport as standard equipment and as an option in every other trim. It'll be found on a large and graphically pleasing 12.3 inch display at the cockpit's centre. This will then be accompanied by 10.3 inch digital dials to give you a very technologically advanced revolution. Old model has nothing on this. The SE and Sport trims will both have an 8.8 incher for the central display.

BMW deservesw some credit - there's a great deal of tech that is now standard on the SE Trim. To name but a few, you firstly have extended LEDs with 'eyebrow' indicators which I feel is very premium. It comes paired with the LED headlights which BMW call 'lasers', probably because they'll blind you on high beam if you get in the drivers way. It's weird, those headlights, because it all seems as though design inspiration came from Peugeot with the varied and sharp angles. Look at a new 3008 and come back to the image of the G20. See? Then again, I wouldn't blame them for copying that design. It's very good indeed.

Among the standard features is BMW's reversing camera that comes paired with reverse assist which is good news, because the G20 has gained a few milimetres in length. You'll also get folding mirrors and fun ambient lighting that will welcome you when you open the car. Nice touch from Munich there.

Quick Note: Handling Features

The G20 will have some features that enhance handling and the ability to adjust to the individual desire. The 3-Series comes as standard with Lift-Related Dampers which are passive. Each wheel receives primary (And secondary) springs which coexist with the damper to provide the best blend of comfort and agility. With the 330i, an electrically controlled rear differential will help out with corner exits. This is good, as it helps to avoid unwanted oversteer and helps pull the car out of corners. Adaptive dampers will be well coupled with all this, too. They allow for the selection of ride stiffness depending on your desires. So, you can have comfort, sport and adaptive settings. Expect an individual mode.

Styling - Front

Not much has changed. But, they couldn't be too revolutionary. They know what their customers want.

Styling was a big problem with the 3-Series for a while. It was mundane and the standard design, even M-Sport, was a bit boring. You needed an M3 to put on a show with the wide-extensions and the four exhaust pipes. But, now, even the SE looks good. As the differences between it and the Sport trim are negligible, I'll go straight to the Sport.

Take the side intakes below the lights. While the triangle-resembling shape is a bit odd and doesn't seem to fit for me, its a cool touch and it's BMW being brave. The kidney grille is huge but it's the signature of Munich so I can excuse it. The headlights are LED throughout thanks to the standard equipment decision BMW made. But, I can't overlook the fact they look borrowed from Peugeot, but like I said before, I don't blame them.

The Sport trim adds black elements like in the image above, with those side intake traingles, the mirrors and the lower-centre part of the frony bumper. One of the best looks and one of the best colours, I think. It almost resembles the G30 5-Series which, I think is something I could rant about if it wasn't for the fact that every manufacturer seems to be doing it.

''Hey, Hans, why don't we just design one car and then change the dimensions slightly for the other models?''

''That sounds like a great idea Wolfgang!''

Jokes aside, it's criminal that manufaturers feel the need to do this. Give your models some noticeable differences. Please.

Styling - Rear

Ahh, Lexus, what a grea...G20 3 Series. Damn. German-Japanese collaboration? That hasn't gone down well in history but, I can't fault it here design wise.

The 3-Series resembles a Lexus from the rear end. I don't think this point can be argued. It resembles anything from the IS to the GS. I don't know why they're doing it. Maybe because they're already working together on the Z4/Supra. Toyota owns Lexus, remember. The Sport features the charred rear-light effect, too. Like that.

Design stealing aside, it isn't bad at all. It's quite flat and, compared to the front, it lacks some girth in the rear bumper. A small diffuser would help a little but, I suppose that isn't fantastic for efficiency. Performance, yes. But, not efficiency. The triangle-like side effects are mirroring those on the front and, I just don't seem to see how they fit. Might just be me, in fairness.

I do enjoy the fact that we can clearly see the two real exhaust pipes. They've a nice chrome surround and, hopefully, they're clean and don't cause too many problems. A variety of sensors can be seen which would make sense with the rear sensor and reversing camera option being standard on all G20s.

M-Sport

As for the M-Sport, there's a lot to say about the aesthetics. Is it just me, or does it look like the 3-Series GT? From the front, that is. It might just be the angle of the image but, it looks oddly familiar to that barge. Let's hope it's just the angle. M-Sport seems to show off what BMW can do when they feel excited. Unlike M-Sport of before, it doesn't resemble a mild-improvement. It really changes the look of the car. Those triangular intakes I mentioned have said goodbye, introducing far larger and very M-Car like replacements surrounded by angular extensions to the front-end. Quite extravagant, those lines. Along the side of the car we see many design lines including a sideskirt extension line. It sits 10mm lower on stiffer suspension, too. Nice.

With more regards to the front. The bonnet has noticeable lines that extend a centimetre or two upwards to give the car more muscle and presence on the road, backed up by the lightning that comes from the headlight to the bottom of the diffuser. Menacing sight, no doubt.

The wheels are very beautiful too - They're simple and yet so well made, with a bright metallic look that comes surrounded by high performance rubber. Probably, of the run-flat type. Blue M-Sport brakes are available. This is only the case for M-Sport trim on the 330i at the moment.

The Lexus hasn't got a more exciting rear. Boo.

The twin exhausts have been surrounded with some angular lines which seem to have air intakes but, I feel that they're fake. A slight lip spoiler has also been designed to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the M-Sport trim. I have to admit, the rear end doesn't impress as much as the front end. The front could be a junior M-Car like an M340i but the rear could quite frankly be a normal car, in my mind.

Regarding the front and the rear of the M-Sport combined, Ihave to admit, if I saw a 320d that was debadged with this body I would assume it has at least 300bhp and a man driving it with one hand, with the seat set low and very far back. As I would pass him, I would expect to see sunglasses, a shirt with the top button undone and the touch of a single hand on the leather M-Sport steering wheel. Then, I would realise that the indication was not made by this man and that I have to brake heavily and swerve because the stalk to his left was never noticed or used.

Stereotypes aside. This trim is definitely worth the extra if you want to have road presence.

Interior

This review is gaining length, so I will try to be swift with the interior overview.

It's a quality thing, the new G20 interior. It certainly looks the part in terms of quality, with a high resolution display for the infotainment and the driver's information such as the dials. It volume knobs, shortcut buttons and climate controls where you'd expect them. I salute BMW for this because Audi are beginning to implement the horrible touchscreen climate controls like in the C8 A6 and I just despise this.

But, BMW have done it right - They are solid, metallic buttons for the various controls and I, once more, salute whoever made that decision. The centre console houses the gear-selector, iDrive controls and things such as the start/stop, electronic parking brake and damper settings. All in all, everything seems to be positioned in such a way that there is an ease of use, with the main dashboard being angled slightly toward the driver to enhance the experience.

Moodlighting seems to be prominent in the new 3-Series and I believe all new cars should have mood-lighting. It adds a spark of exctiement and cool to the interior. It can help to liven your mood, impress friends or keep your child occupied when you want them to be. Good.

While all of this is all well and good, I have to criticise one thing. The design. When will BMW learn that design needs to receive a revolution at some point? The B9 Audi A4 is a step above the B8, with it's high quality and well designed interior. The G20's cabin is by far one of the least exciting in the design department and this is a shame. I wish they were as adventourous as they were with the M-Sport exterior. Shame.

Conclusion

The G20 3-Series is an important car. Since 1975, it has been BMW's best seller and needs to continue this for the model to thrive. It all seems promising, though. The design is good and exciting from the get-go, with a wide range of engines (eventually) and with plenty of standard kit. The rivals will not be so worried, just yet, but BMW have done a good job to keep a competitive 3-Series on the market. It's just a shame that the interior design lets it down so much. Evolution doesn't work this time, BMW.

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