New Car: 2012 BMW 3-Series

BMW’s sixth-generation 3-series, code-named F30, has been unveiled. The new 3 sedan is bigger, a little lighter, will have a hybrid variant, and can park itself. How things change.

Compared to the E90 3er, the 2012 3-series sedan is about 3.7 inches longer, rides on a 2.0-inch-longer wheelbase, and has wider tracks front (1.5 inches) and rear (1.9). The growth pays dividends to back-seat passengers; legroom increases by 0.7 inch, there’s 0.6-inch more knee room, and a smidge more headroom. Despite the newfound bigness, BMW claims that the sedans will weigh 88 pounds less than similarly equipped last-gen cars. Imagine what they could have done if it stayed the same overall size.

The larger car still looks svelte, however, and wears an evolved version of current 5-series styling. Its face is pulled tighter than before, with the headlights stretching to meet the trademark kidney grilles. The single lower intake has been split into two. Cars with the optional xenon headlights are equipped with LED eyebrows. BMW describes the overall profile as wedge-shaped, which, okay, it might be, but it’s no Lamborghini Gallardo.

And in case you were wondering about the optimal angle of a driver-focused interior, it’s seven degrees. (It must be optimal, or BMW wouldn’t have mentioned it.)

Naturally, we’re most interested in the mechanical changes. Two turbocharged engines will be offered, a new turbo four in the 328i and BMW’s familiar single-turbo six in the 335i. The N20 2.0-liter four-cylinder was first seen in the Z4 sDrive28i (it also powers the 2012 528i), and makes 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque as it does in the roadster. The 328i is claimed to hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, 0.2 quicker than we recorded with a manual-equipped E90 sedan with the outgoing naturally aspirated 3.0-liter six. BMW’s N55 turbocharged six-cylinder carries over, and it produces familiar output figures of 300 hp and 300 lb-ft it. The company says it will post a 5.4-second 0-to-60-mph time, which is more than half a second slower than a manual-equipped 335i we tested last year. Chances are the estimates for both cars are conservative.

A six-speed manual once again will be standard with either engine, and an eight-speed automatic replaces the previous six-speed unit. The first run of 2012 sedans will all be rear-wheel drive, and will include an electronically actuated limited-slip differential (activated by turning stability control off); xDrive all-wheel drive will be made available beginning, oddly, in summer of 2012.

Thanks to: Car and Driver