They're not commonly seen outside of China, but long-wheelbase models may be the next big thing in ASEAN.
Launched in Thailand just last week was the BMW G28 3 Series - also known as a long-wheelbase (LWB) version of the G20 3 Series that we're all familiar with. Now, this may be a strange concept - most people only know BMW to make long-wheelbase variants of the 7 Series with their Li models, but not for their more compact sedans. That being said, it's a pretty common thing in China to stretch models for better interior space and legroom.
Part of it is that cars are still pretty expensive propositions even for the extremely developed Chinese market. Therefore even mid-range luxury models get the treatment, and for a long time, it was pretty isolated to just the Chinese market. Things like stretched Volkswagen Tiguans, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6s, and Mercedes-Benz E-Classes were forbidden fruit. Now it seems that the concept is making in-roads in other markets.
India has also taken up the stretched BMW 3 Series, and that's unsurprising considering something like a Toyota Corolla is regarded as the car for CEOs, while luxury vehicles are limited to only the ultra-rich. The G28 3 Series LWB sits at 120 mm longer than a regular G20, with about 110 mm of that being in wheelbase increase. Legroom increases by 43 mm, while the rear door apertures are 110 mm longer.
While this is a significant increase over the standard G20, it does seem to slot firmly between the dimensions of the 3 Series and 5 Series of this generation. It would be an interesting choice for prospective owners of 5 Series to look at the 3 Series instead, but generally speaking, the demographics and overlap aren't quite as straightforward as one would expect.
The 5 Series buyer isn't looking to buy a top-spec or large-format 3 Series, because the 5 Series name in itself brings prestige. From a pricing standpoint, in Thailand, the sole 330Li M Sport goes for 2.899 million baht, or RM 391,535. That's roughly RM 50,000 more than a regular G20 320d or RM 10,000 more than the range-topping 330e M Sport PHEV.
In contrast, a 330i M Sport - the range-topper here, goes for RM 280,680 - while an entry-level 520i Luxury goes for RM 311,980. That difference in price means that the 330Li M Sport would be placed well into 5 Series pricing, and that just doesn't make sense for a buyer to take up in our market with our particular conditions. Funnily enough, however, the 330 Li M Sport is made in Malaysia.