No, this isn’t the world’s fastest mid-cycle refresh of the new BMW 5-Series. It’s actually a special stretch edition of the Bavarian maker’s 3-Series, which will be making its debut at the upcoming Beijing Motor Show.
Despite the rapid emergence of a middle class whose buyers are much like those in any other major automotive market, there’s still a sizable market for chauffeur-driven vehicles. And that means a larger, roomier and more lavishly equipped back seats – like the one BMW will offer with the stretch 3-Series line.
The special 3-Series Li models will feature an 11 centimeter longer wheelbase – about 4 inches for metrically challenged Americans – almost all of that going to rear-seat occupants.
They’ll also get rear seat controls for climate control and other vehicle systems not always offered on conventional 3-Series models.
BMW plans to offer three version of the stretch 3-er, the 320Li, 328Li and 335Li, all using the maker’s TwinPower twin-scroll turbocharger technology.
The Bavarians will also introduce Chinese buyers to the new, standard-length 3-Series, as well as the full hybrid ActiveHybrid 3.
The stretch models will be produced at BMW’s joint venture assembly plant in Shenyang, and sales are scheduled to begin later this year. There appear to be no plans to market the stretch 3-Series outside China.
Most makers competing in the luxury market now offer several, and often numerous, stretch models. That’s the only way to appeal to Chinese entrepreneurs, government officials and foreign executives who continue to prefer being chauffeured.
The luxury segment has been one of the fastest-growing in the Chinese market over the last decade but has recently shown an unexpected loss of momentum, with some makers discounting their products heavily to maintain sales. Earlier this year, for example, Mercedes-Benz trimmed the price of some S-Class models by as much as 25%.
Tags: BMW 3-Series, auto news, bmw 320li, bmw 328li, bmw 335li, bmw 7, car news, long 3-series, long wheelbase 3-series, long wheelbase models, long wheelbase models in china, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, stretch 3-series, stretch bmw, stretch bmw 3-series, thedetroitbureau