With today’s debut of the 2023 3 Series, BMW intends to remain the “yardstick” by which all other compact sports sedans are measured.
But with some tough new competitors — and a market continuing to shift from sedans to SUVs — can the Bavarian automaker live up to expectations?
The 2023 BMW 3 Series is a midcycle refresh, the automaker having given the sedan a complete makeover in 2019. So, there was no reason to expect a major overhaul. But the new model does deliver some notable updates, both in terms of design and technology, as well as under the hood, where we’ll be seeing new electrified options.
Evolution, not revolution
On the whole, the 2023 model goes through an evolutionary update.
The nose retains the familiar version of BMW’s double-kidney grille, rather than adopting the huge — and oft-derided — version found on the latest 4 Series. There are new LED headlamps and running lights, and a large lower grille.
The hood adopts a crisper form to tease what can be found beneath. But the side profile has barely changed. Out back, look for new trapezoidal chrome exhaust finishers, as well as revised diffuser.
Inside, the most notable change comes in the form of the new Curved Display that stretches nearly from the driver’s door pillar to the far side of the center stack. Under that single piece of glass you’ll find a 12.3-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster, as well as a 14.9-inch infotainment display.
While most high-line competitors have moved to eliminate as many buttons, knobs and switches as possible, the 2023 3 Series retains the automaker’s familiar iDrive controller. But a driver has several alternative ways to connect. There are the steering wheel controls and the new infotainment system gets the new Operating System 8 which, BMW claims, is faster and designed for expanded connectivity.
New voice assistant
Among other things, the new operating system introduces an Amazon Alexa-like voice assistant. Simply say, “Hey BMW” to change the temperature, set a destination or, among other things, check on the weather.
The 2023 model adds a new WiFi hotspot capable of pairing up with as many as 10 different smartphones, tablets and other devices. And it features the now requisite satellite radio plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A mix of models
As is the norm, BMW will launch with a narrow list of models and then expand the line-up with more variants, such as a full M performance sedan, and a plug-in hybrid expected to deliver about 20 miles of range in all-electric mode.
At launch, there’ll be the turbo-4-powered 330i, which runs power to the rear wheels, as well as the all-wheel-drive M340i xDrive. That package pairs a 48-volt starter-generator with a 3.0-liter inline-6. The system is expected to boost fuel economy but, says BMW, it “also offers the driver an electric boost effect that can instantly give the engine sharper response when accelerating off the line or putting in a quick burst of speed for passing, and significantly refines the operation of the automatic start/stop function,” BMW notes.
The automaker has yet to reveal final powertrain specs, but the mild hybrid is expected to get both better mileage and improved performance. Eventually, sources suggest, the 3 Series line-up will produce anywhere from 255 to 500 horsepower.
More than 16 million BMW 3 Series models have been purchased since the nameplate first appeared in 1975 — including 1.1 million bought by folks who’ve slipped behind the wheel of the seventh-generation model. But it’s getting tougher to remain, as BMW claims, “the yardstick of sporty driving pleasure by which all other contenders in the premium midsize segment are measured.”
Competition and pricing
Certainly, Mercedes-Benz would like to topple the king-of-the-hill with the all-new C-Class line just coming to market. And BMW has had to fend off not only established competitors, but newer entrants like Genesis, its G70 line being named North American Car of the Year when it debuted three years back.
All U.S. versions of the 2023 BMW 3-Series will be produced in Mexico.
BMW also has yet to release pricing, but the 2023 3 Series line is expected to start at around $42,000 — which would give the new sedan about a $2,000 price advantage over the new Mercedes C-Class.