2019 BMW 3 Series front driving

BMW unveiled the all-new 2019 3 Series sedan this week at the Paris Motor Show, and the seventh-generation 3 appears to be a minor evolution from the current car at first glance. But beneath that familiar shape lurks powertrain upgrades, infotainment advancements, and new safety features that promise to add appeal to a car that has long been a standout.

The German automaker says the 330i will arrive at dealerships in March 2019, starting at $40,250 for the rear-drive version (This is about the same as the current 330i.) The all-wheel-drive 330i xDrive will sticker for $42,250. (The destination charge for each is $995.)

The more powerful M340i and M340i xDrive sedans follow in the spring, followed by a 330e plug-in hybrid in 2020.

2019 BMW 3 Series
Starting price:
$40,250
What it competes with: Audi A4, Genesis G70, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class
What it looks like: It's just what you would expect. It's a cross between the current 3 and 5 Series sedans. The most dramatic changes are the fog lights and fender sculpting behind the front wheels.
Powertrains: 255-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and 382-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Each is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
On-sale date: March 2019 

Outside

The 2019 3 Series is almost 3 inches longer than the outgoing version and a fraction of an inch wider and taller. The appearance is evolutionary and very much in line with the current 3 and larger 5 Series sedans.

The “kidney” grille has grown in size and the fog lights are more dramatically fashioned. Other details include LED headlights and a chevron-shaped detail on the second-row doors. BMW says the trunk has gained 1.3 cubic feet of space. A hands-free trunk-opening feature will be offered.

The fresh styling not only updates the appearance but also improves the car's aerodynamics, aided by wind-cheating tricks such as a smoothed underbody, an optimized wheel design, and an active air flap in the grille.

Despite its increased size, the company claims it cut 121 pounds from the car through the use of lightweight metals. In particular, the car has an aluminum hood and fenders.

2019 BMW 3 Series interior

Inside

BMW explained that changes were made to the body to reduce wind noise along with acoustic foam in the pillars and a special acoustic glass windshield. We found the previous car to be well-isolated and quiet but not hushed to the level of the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The company says that attention was paid to make the windshield pillars narrower to help with visibility. An optional head-up display assists in keeping the driver's eyes on the road. BMW says the display area is 70 percent larger than before, and it shows speed, speed limits, safety warnings, turn instructions, telephone information, and entertainment-related lists.

The cabin features LED lighting throughout, and there is an ambient-light package available that adds an adjustable-color glow throughout the interior and includes exterior “puddle” lights that shine on the ground.

There are two audio systems available: a 10-speaker base stereo and an optional 16-speaker Harmon Kardon system. BMW has added personality to its infotainment through a Siri-like digital assistant that responds to natural language commands starting with “Hey, BMW.” The driver could state “Hey, BMW, I’m cold,” rather than instructing the system through a series of established commands to increase cabin temperature by 5 degrees. Other examples provided by the automaker included “Is the oil level okay?” and “What is the closest gas station on my route?”

BMW is joining the “phone as key” movement, enabling drivers to use a smartphone to replace a key for unlocking and starting the car. It works by using near field communication (NFC) technology.

Connectivity is a theme running throughout the 3, with other features including navigation that pulls together information for route planning with connections to various apps, such as those for street parking and other parking services. The 3 will offer WiFi Hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and USB inputs. There's no Android Auto.

The conventional gauges can be replaced by a 12.3-inch digital display. This also brings a 10-inch center screen. Gesture control is optional. As found on higher-end BMWs, this innovative system allows certain infotainment functions to be performed by moving a hand in the air rather than touching buttons or a screen.

What Drives It

The base engine is a 255-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This new turbo engine has 7 more horsepower and 37 more lb.-ft. of torque compared with its predecessor. The power gains, combined with weight savings and revised gear ratios, enable the 330i to run from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds, according to BMW. That promises to make the 3 quicker than the last one we tested.

The higher-performance choice is a 382-hp, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder. BMW claims that the 340i xDrive with this engine will be able to spring 0-60 mph in a scant 4.2 seconds, pushing the sedan into sports-car territory. (The last Porsche 911 we tested went 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds.)

Both engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission than can be controlled using steering-wheel paddles to manually select a gear.

Safety and Driver-Assist Systems

The 3 Series will come standard with forward-collision warning and city-speed automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection. All-speed AEB, lane-departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert are optional. Extended Traffic Jam Assistant uses lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and a driver attention monitoring camera in traffic up to 37 mph.

Optional parking sensors and automatic parking can help squeeze the 3 into tight parallel and perpendicular spaces. BMW explained that the automatic parking feature can maneuver the car out of parallel parking spaces, and it can manage steering, acceleration, braking, and shifting.

A Back-Up Assistant can recall the steering inputs used when the car last traveled forward and use them to automatically trace a path in reverse, up to 150 feet. During this action, the driver has to operate the accelerator and brake pedal. The surroundings can be seen with a 360-degree view on the dash; drivers can also access a three-dimensional live view from the car on their smartphone.

CR’s Take

Redesigning the BMW 3 Series has long been a daunting task, because each generation has set a high benchmark for the category. BMW promises increased performance with this next sedan, but it's the added space, comfort, and conveniences that may best distinguish this car from the rest of the class.

2019 BMW 3 Series rear