There’s a new BMW 3 Series on the block for the 2022 model year that brings some welcome upgrades to the 7th-generation compact executive saloon, but is it enough to keep the competition at bay?
In this mid-cycle facelift (LCI, Life Cycle Impulse in BMW-speak), the G20 has had to step up its game considerably to keep abreast with stiff competition coming from Mercedes-Benz in particular with their all-new W206 C-Class.
BMW 3 Series (G20) LCI - What's New?
We’ve already had a sneak peek at the obvious visual changes as well as some of the interior alterations that might have cropped up in this 3 Series refresh thanks to the i3 that made its debut back in early April.
Though that was a fully electric version of the G20, it did turn out to echo the regular combustion version pretty closely, evidenced by the pictures seen here. Going over the exterior, the most prominent nip and tuck treatment has been given to the front end where it adopts a larger lower central intake and more stylised side inlets.
We’re relieved the kidney grille has not been altered/enlarged to match many of the other newer, more contentious designs from BMW. Flanking them are a pair of slimmed-down headlights with new headlights and daytime running light signatures.
Along its side profile, you’d be hard-pressed to point out any real differences to the outgoing 3 Series that debuted in 2018. However, the rear end has clearly gone under the knife with a much more pronounced diffuser-like element from which sprouts the dual exhaust exits (on the 330i sedan and 330e Touring pictured).
It should be noted, though, that both the cars that BMW has chosen to showcase as part of this reveal are specified with the M Sport package so expect other variants to do things a little differently. Included are 18-inch M light-alloy wheels and optional adaptive suspension, among other items.
Like the exterior trim pieces up front, the rear lower sections here are finished in high gloss black, a decision sure made in an attempt to mask its visual bulk, but we’ll leave it to you to decide if this is a step forward in the looks department. Apart from this, the tail lamp housing and the illuminators within are carried over from the outgoing car.
New Curved Dashboard Display
Stepping inside, the switch to a sweeping curved display enclosure is the most visually striking centrepiece of the new 3 Series cabin. Again, this was previewed by last month’s i3 and mirrors the newest BMWs from the iX to the more recently revealed 7 Series and i7.
Though the instrument clusters in the Munich automakers have been digital for some time, it has always been placed within a traditional binnacle. Here, the 14.9-inch central touchscreen is paired with a 12.3-inch driver’s display, both powered by BMW’s Operating System 8 software.
A concession here is the slightly downsized air conditioning vents and a more minimal control scheme for the 3-zone climate control system since much of those features are accessed via the touch panel instead.
Another clear differentiator from the previous G20 is the gear selector, which is now controlled by a recessed toggle switch instead of the chunkier selector seen previously. The central tunnel area is considerably less cluttered as a result, but it also means it’s less likely we’ll ever see a manual from a BMW of this size again, even in the M cars.
Tweaks To Powertrain Recipe
Speaking of performance, for the most part, the powertrain selection is unchanged from the pre-facelift 3 Series. As you’ll find out, the non-M petrol flank is manned by just 2 engines. Things kick off with a 318i and 320i that uses a 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol to output 156PS and 250Nm or 184PS and 300Nm via an 8-speed ZF automatic.
New to the bunch is an entry-level PHEV called the 320e. This uses a 163PS/300Nm version of the B48 mill paired with a 109PS electric motor for a combined system output of 204PS and 350Nm.
The 330i such as the one pictured here uses the same B48 to develop a much beefier 245PS and 400Nm while the 330e plug-in hybrid pairs a slightly down-tuned version of this 2.0-litre mill (184PS/300Nm) to the same 109PS e-motor from the 320e. This results in a system output of 292PS and 420Nm.
The M340i still straddles the line between regular 3 Series and a full-on performance model. Here we find the venerable B58 3.0-litre turbo-petrol inline-6 but now augmented with a 48V starter-generator MHEV system for improved efficiency and an 11PS overboost function to the engine’s 374PS and 500Nm standalone output.
This mild-hybrid setup is also given to all variants of this 3 Series LCI equipped with a diesel engine, ranging from the base 318d to the M340d and its beastly peak torque of 700Nm, but we’ll refrain from elaborating too much on this given the unlikely prospect of them being offered in Malaysia, much to our disappointment.
BMW has confirmed that the new 3 Series LCI will be rolling out to their priority markets starting in mid-year 2022, though it is still unclear how quickly it might reach Southeast Asia and Malaysia. The 3 Series Touring will only be coming in 2023, though this is even more unlikely to reach our shores.