BMW's 3 Series sedans and wagons are all-new for the 2006 model year, which marks the launch of the latest generation of the German automaker's highly acclaimed compact models. The generational shift includes a new design, new engines, new suspension, more rigid body structures, more room in the rear seat and for cargo, and new safety features. A similarly new 3 Series coupe and convertible are due as 2007 models, with a new 400-plus horsepower V8-engine M3 version to follow.
Over the course of several decades, and dating back to the famed "2002" models (which were produced from 1968-1977), the BMW 3 Series has established itself as an automotive icon, the standard for compact sports sedans and coupes that combine practical luxury with dynamic performance. The 3 Series begins its next generation with the 2006 model year, which launches the sedan and wagon versions of the vehicles. coupes and convertibles will follow, along with the latest version of the famous M3 prepared by BMW's M (Motorsports) division. The new M3 will feature a 400-plus horsepower V8 engine derived from the M5's 500 horsepower V10 engine. Until they are launched, however, the 2006 coupes, convertibles, and M3 are carryover models, with the only big change being the addition of standard leather seating in the M3 coupe for 2006. There are many changes, however, for the sedans and wagons, including a new body design and stiffer structure, new suspension, innovations in steering, brakes, and stability systems, as well as more interior room for those sitting in the back seat and for cargo, and more luxury and safety features. Also new are engines that provide more power and improved fuel economy.
For 2006, the next-generation 3 Series is available as the 325i, 330i, 325xi, 330xi, and the 325xi Sports Wagon. The 325 models are powered by a 215-hp, 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine. The 330 models provides 255-hp from an engine that features BMW's first use of magnesium/aluminum composite engine construction, three-stage variable induction system, and other advancements. The engine also uses Valvetronic variable valve lift like BMW's larger vehicles. All new 3 Series have six-speed transmissions, either manual or automatic. They also have double-pivot front suspension geometry, a new five-link rear suspenison, dynamic stability control with expanded functions, run-flat tires, exterior ground lighting, push-button start/stop, automatic climate control, audio systems with sub-woofers, side-curtain air bags, and pedals that decoupee in a frontal impact to better protect the driver's feet. A long list of options includes a multi-panel sunroof for the wagon, Xenon adaptive headlamps, Sport seats with adjustable backrest width, iDrive and voice command with GPS navigation system, heated front seats, and satellite radio.
The carryover coupes include the 325Ci and 330Ci. The convertibles are the 325Ci and 330 Ci. The 325 models are powered by a 184-hp, 2.5L inline six, and the 330s by a 225-hp, 3.0L I-6. The M3 coupe and convertible are driven by a 333-hp, 3.3L inline six-cylinder engine and feature numerous suspension and brake performance upgrades.
The BMW 3 Series competes in the Compact Premium segment in the U.S. light-vehicle market, where combining luxury features with the sort of dynamic capabilities found in more compact cars scores big with those who may be entering the luxury car class for the first time. While accounting for less than 5 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle fleet, this category includes a large number of nameplates and competition is fierce.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM the BMW 3 Series led this category in calendar year 2005 with 106,950 sales. Next came the Acura TL (78,218 units in 2005), Infiniti G35 (68,728) and Cadillac CTS (61,512). Other entries included the,Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Acura TSX, Saab 9-3, Lexus IS Series, Jaguar X-Type, Audi A3, Lincoln Zephyr, and three Volvo models: the S60, S40 and V50.