Okay guys, I've got the skinny on the next 3(4) series due summer 2005.
Firstly the names. It has been confirmed that BMW will move towards odd numbers (1,3,5,7) for the 4 door models and will dub the 2 door coupe and cab versions as the 4 series. The saloon will be known as the E90, the touring estate as the E91, the coupe will be the E92 and the cab will be the E93. We all knew most of this anywho but I thought it'd be worth mentioning.
The dimensions are still unknown but the car will be slightly longer and slightly wider than the current model and based on an extended 1 series platform. The 4 pots will be offered with 16" wheels while the more powerful 6's come with 17"s.
The body, unlike the recent 5 and 6, will be made of steel. The aluminium used in the front sections (of the 5 and 6) was deemed 'uneconomical' for mass production. They will instead use materials refered to as 'tailored blanks' which are basically sheets of steel in differing thickness to promote rigidity and save weight.
The engines.... oh the engines.... (this is the good bit). They are keeping the current range of engine sizes in the petrol 2.2, 2.5 and 3.0 litre versions, but the power is increasing by 12%. The '05 330i will kick out 255bhp and 221lb/ft. Following the booming trend in Europe, the diesel range is being given specific attention. The range will include 1.8 and 2.0 4 pots, 2.5 and 3.0 I6's and (the one I was wishing for... and potentially my next car) the daddy diesel 335d. It will feature the same twin turbo 3.0 engine (found in the the E60 5 from late 2004). This phenomenal engine produces 268bhp and a WHOPPING 413lb/ft torque!!!! The dawn of diesel is here (nearly). The engines will feature magnesium in construction to control the weight. Engine management is being simplified to allow dealer repair and maint. costs to be reduced (and presumably easier to tune than the current)
We all know about the new M car engine too, but for those who don't it will be a lightweight 4.0 V8!!! You can imagine it'll kick out just over 400bhp and around 300lb/ft. Combine the 4.0 engine with the badging outlined above and you will have the 2006 BMW M4. The end of an era.....
Gearbox options include the usual manual and auto option. BMW are currently working on a DSG style box (a la audi) due for release in 2006.
The only 'bad' news from me is about the price. With the release of the 1 series due in Europe during the next 2 months, BMW are shifting the 3/4 series up half a class. The price will be shifted to reflect this and will rise about 10-15%. This is a well needed move for BMW in light of the recent years high volume sales of the 3 series. BMW sold over 500,000 E46's in 2003 worldwide and a lot of those were 318i's and 318d's. Seeing a bmw at every corner lends to diluting the prestige value of the brand and which is why the 1 series is set to take it's place as the cheap option. The 3 series can then retain it's pride and dignity.... even if it does hit us all in the wallet.
I hope some of this is new to you and not just boring repetition.
There are good times on the horizon...... and it's lined with BMWs!!!!