2019 BMW 3 SERIES FIRST LOOK: RETURN TO GRACE

BMW’s small sedan gets a second chance to impress

Once the standard bearer in its segment, the BMW 3 Series has lost its way in recent years. Lackluster acceleration, uninspired handling, and a dated interior have relegated the 3 Series to the middle of the pack. Now, the automaker is introducing the seventh generation, and it has the potential to put the popular model back on top.

Hinting at its sportier ambitions is the new exterior design. Up front, the kidney grilles are now connected and feature thick surrounds. Redesigned front vents contribute to the more determined look. Full LED headlights are standard, but buyers can also spring for optional adaptive headlights with Laserlight technology, featuring blue L-shaped elements. In the rear, the 3 Series has narrower taillights with a new lighting signature. Despite the slightly bolder look, the car has grown compared to its predecessor. It's 2.9 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider, and 0.5 inches taller, with an increased track width front and rear.

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The 330i receives more power than last year's model thanks to a number of engine updates, including a lighter crankshaft and reduced internal friction. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four makes 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, up 7 hp and 37 lb-ft from the old model. Say goodbye to the six-speed manual, because an eight-speed automatic is the only transmission choice. BMW estimates a 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds for the rear-drive 330i and 5.3 seconds for the all-wheel-drive version. In our own independent tests, we recorded a rear-drive 2017 BMW 330i doing the deed in 5.5 seconds, matching BMW's own estimate for that model.

Those who want more power will opt for the M340i, which receives an updated six-cylinder engine producing 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This engine, also paired to an eight-speed automatic, should propel the BMW to 60 mph in as little as 4.2 seconds. As you'd expect, these models receive M Performance chassis tuning, in addition to a standard M Sport rear differential for improved traction and cornering. All-wheel drive is available.

We don't know all the details yet, but BMW promises an electrified 330e model in 2020. It's unclear whether we'll see the diesel variant return to our market. BMW says it's evaluating diesel versions of its new vehicles, including the new 3 Series, but no decisions have been made.

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