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Previous spyshots had captured a disguised version of the 3 Series Touring testing on public roads in Germany, hinting at how the most practical variant of the G20-generation car will look when it hits roads next year.
Both the Touring and saloon versions of BMW’s future model are being engineered to offer even more comfort but not to the detriment of handling. This means the whole range — even sportier versions such as the just-spotted M Sport variant — should be more forgiving on rough surfaces than before.
The motivation for this more comfortable model comes from hot competition from Mercedes-Benz and its rivalling C-Class. Although the 3 Series stands strong as BMW’s best-selling model, it’s fallen short of the hot-selling C-Class, which sold in 176,915 units to the 3 Series’ 129,053 in 2017.
As such, BMW engineers have been tasked with broadening the 3 Series’s reach and fighting the C-Class at its own, more comfort-focused game.
Multiple powertrains expected:
The future 3 Series will also be offered with more variants, including new M-fettled versions that feature generous boosts in performance.
The first variant will be the rear-wheel-drive M340i M Performance, which will feature a 360bhp version of BMW’s twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine. It will be followed by a four-wheel-drive M340d xDrive M Performance, which is set to receive a 320bhp version of the company’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder diesel engine.
Key to the expansion plan for the seventh-generation 3 Series is the addition of two new M Performance models powered by six-cylinder engines. In a strategy mirroring that undertaken with the latest 5 Series, the new M Performance variants will go on sale shortly after more mainstream versions of the new 3 Series are launched in both saloon and estate bodystyles. The new derivatives will be offered as either a petrol or a diesel and will bridge the gap in the line-up that presently exists between standard six-cylinder models and BMW M’s range-topping M3 saloon.
The new performance-oriented 3 Series models will be targeted at the likes of the Audi S4 quattro and Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic. They will have individual styling touches, their own unique chassis tuning and relatively high equipment levels. Autocar can reveal they will also form the basis for the two-door M440i M Performance Coupé and M440d M Performance Coupé models, which will arrive in showrooms in 2020.
Significantly, the decision to launch the M340d xDrive M Performance model underpins plans by BMW to continue to equip the 3 Series with a full range of three, four and six-cylinder diesel engines, despite increasingly tight emissions legislation across Europe, including the spectre of regional bans on diesel cars from entering city centres (some of which may be implemented in Germany).
“The diesel is a critical component in our efforts to reach the 2020 climate targets,” said BMW chairman Harald Krüger. “It is very important in improving the overall efficiency of our future models.”