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2016 BMW 3 Series First Look

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 5/7/2015 Kelly Pleskot

Take one look at the refreshed BMW 3 Series, and you might not notice many changes from the previous model. And you'd be correct because the biggest alterations happen under the sheetmetal. For 2016, BMW's best-selling model shakes things up with all-new powertrains, some new nomenclature, and updates to the suspension.

The BMW 3 Series sedan comes equipped with an all-aluminum inline-six engine producing 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. This engine is available on the new range-topping 340i model, which replaces the 335i, and it has 20 more hp than its predecessor. Transmission options include a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and a six-speed manual available as a no-cost option for most trim levels. With the automatic, the 340i sedan sprints to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with two-wheel drive or 4.6 seconds with all-wheel drive, according to BMW. We suspect those numbers are a bit modest, as we tested a 2013 BMW 335i xDrive that clocked 4.4 seconds to 60 mph.

BMW promises improved handling and overall driving dynamics on the 3 Series thanks to a number of other updates. The chassis bears new front struts with five-bolt upper anchor points versus three on the previous model, as well as redesigned electric power steering and new rear damper technology. The new 3 Series should also roll less and steer more precisely. The six-speed manual has been revised with an optional rev-matching function and dual-mass flywheel on the 340i for smoother gearshifts.

After the gasoline version makes its debut, BMW will bring out a plug-in hybrid model known as the 330e. This green machine delivers a combined output of around 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, and it should be able to hit 60 mph in an estimated 6.1 seconds, according to the automaker. Drivers will be able to travel up to 22 miles in all-electric mode. It will likely use battery and motor technology from BMW's i3 and i8 cars, but we'll learn more closer to the model's launch in 2016.

2016 BMW 340i Sport Line

If you're still wondering what is visually different about the new 3 Series, look closely and you'll notice some key details. The "eyes" of the BMW 3 Series have moved farther apart to give the car a wider stance, and broader side air intakes in the front apron also contribute to the new look. Newly designed halogen headlamps are standard on most models, but new full-LED headlights are optional on lower models and standard on the 340i. In back, L-shaped light bars take a curvier shape. The 320i and 328d models now come with twin tailpipes. Three new exterior colors — including Mediterranean Blue Metallic, Platinum Silver Metallic, and Jatoba Brown Metallic — are available.

Inside the cockpit, new chrome accents and high-gloss surfaces provide subtle changes over the previous model. The glovebox features new ambient lighting, and cupholders in the center console now have a sliding cover. The new 3 Series also seems somewhat better equipped, as the content of the previous Sport Line is now standard on 328i, 328d, and 340i models. That brings along a sport steering wheel, larger alloy wheels, and blacked-out exterior details. An M Sport package features more options than before, and its list of equipment includes special M-branded aerodynamics, a leather steering wheel, and sport suspension. A related new option is the Track Handling package designed for driving enthusiasts; it brings a sport steering system, an adaptive M suspension, and M sport brakes. Equipment from the Premium package — including LED headlights, lumbar support, a moonroof, and Sirius satellite radio — is now standard equipment on the range-topping model.

BMW's navigation has been a bit of a sore point in its history, but the automaker promises new-generation technology. BMW says the new navigation is faster to load and is quicker while calculating a route. Maps should also feature more realistic 3D. Other available features on the 3 Series include a head-up display and a parking assist mode that helps drivers navigate into both perpendicular and parallel spots.

The 2016 BMW 3 Series lineup will continue on with both sedan and wagon variants. We expect the new gas-powered 3 Series will arrive in dealerships later this year, followed by the plug-in hybrid next year.

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