What’s New: BMW updates its legendary 3 Series sedan and wagon for 2009 with a wider track, refined styling inside and out, a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a turbocharged diesel variant dubbed the 335d.
What We Think: The entry-level luxury segment is heating up, with top-notch offerings such as the redesigned Cadillac CTS, the Lexus IS, and others. BMW takes them head on with styling updates, a new diesel variant that promises to be thrifty and powerful, and a host of convenience features that will be hard to match.
Preview – 2009 BMW 3 Series: As competitive as the world is, resting on your laurels is never a good idea. It’s an ill-advised move for seasoned executives, but it’s more like a death wish for car companies. Take BMW, for example. The brand has long ruled the roost with the undeniably capable 3 Series, its entry-level model available in various body styles and features various powertrains. In recent years, this award-winning Bimmer has had to contend with a thoroughly revamped Cadillac CTS, a reborn Lexus IS, the always formidable Audi A4, and others. Not a good time to sit back and relax, which brings us to the 2009 BMW 3 Series.
Though a U.S. sales date has yet to be announced, BMW has released details on the 3 Series making its European debut. From that, we’ve gleaned a few facts: the new 335d twin-turbocharged diesel model will offer up to 35 mpg, the styling has been tweaked to keep things fresh, and iDrive has designed to be more intuitive (thanks to more buttons, ironically enough). Time will tell if the collective changes are enough to stave off the competition, but those prospects are looking good.
Under the Hood
BMW has yet to release the exact details of the 2009 3 Series models we’ll be seeing on these shores, but plan on the 230-horsepower 328i and the 300-horsepower 335i remaining on the menu. All-wheel-drive variants, formerly known as the 328xi and 335xi, have been renamed the 328i xDrive and 335i xDrive. A new version of direct injection – called High Precision Injection – improves efficiency, as do standard run-flat tires that feature less rolling resistance. Those are noteworthy points, but they don’t quite measure up to the debut of the 335d, which as the “d” suggests, runs on diesel fuel. Using a common rail direct injection system and twin turbos, the BMW 335d generates 286 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 428 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,750 rpm and 2,250 rpm. BMW estimates a 0-62 mph run in six seconds and fuel economy ratings up to 35 mpg.
The new 335d features a standard six-speed automatic transmission, but there’s a new gearbox available on the 335i: A seven-speed dual-clutch unit. A manual will continue to be offered, but true enthusiasts might want to think twice before automatically dismissing this new technology simply because delivers their 335i without a third foot pedal. BMW testing suggests the new tranny, with a sport mode and paddle shifters, helps the twin-turbocharged 335i reach 62 mph 0.1 seconds quicker than the version with the manual, and 0.3 seconds faster than a 335i fitted with the regular six-speed automatic.
Style and Convenience
In addition to notable powertrain changes, the 2009 BMW 3 Series features styling changes that favor evolution over revolution. The front end includes a grille and headlights that have been massaged for more character, the track has been widened to give the 3 Series a stronger stance (and the promise of improved handling), the profile has changed a bit with larger mirrors and modified accent creases, and the rear carries enhancements such as redesigned horizontal taillights that are almost completely red and strongly resemble those found on the upcoming 7 Series sedan. Inside, designers have treated the 2009 3 Series to higher-quality materials, as well as ergonomic improvements including new armrests and better placement of primary door-mounted controls.
BMW’s love-it-or-hate-it iDrive central control system soldiers on, though now it’s tied to an 8.8-inch screen sitting atop the instrument panel, and the main dial on the console is surrounded by four buttons that are designed to simplify overall operation. Complementing this technology is a new 80-gigabyte hard drive that’ll hold scores of music files (transferred via CD, USB, or MP3 player), ConnectedDrive unlimited internet access, three-dimensional navigation display, and a new Send to Car functionality that allows you to send information directly from your personal computer to your car through a BMW portal.
By Thom Blackett
Photo credit: BMW