By on October 2, 2018

Image: BMW

The car’s everything you’d expect a next-generation German sports sedan to be. Lighter, slipperier, more efficient, and slightly larger in footprint. Handling dynamics are reportedly improved — a requirement that, if missed, might necessitate the need for nationwide group therapy.

It still looks like a BMW 3 Series, too, as wary designers employed at German luxury marques aren’t known for their overt craziness, Chris Bangle notwithstanding. But tradition, while seemingly intact in this next-gen 3 Series, goes out the window the minute you search for transmission options.

Call it a case of the purist bubble obscuring real-world demand, but BMW’s decision to offer the 3 Series without a manual transmission option in the United States has enthusiasts up in arms. The brand clearly did so for a reason, though. Three-pedal availability has dwindled rapidly in the BMW stable as take rates plummet.

A BMW spokesman confirmed to Jalopnik that the absence of a stick in just-released media materials was because, “The manual is only available on smaller engine variants…that we do not get in the U.S.”

“We only have confirmation of the 330i, 330e and M340i models coming to the U.S.,” the spokesperson continued when pressed. “There are no current plans for lesser hp variants.”

Image: BMW

What American buyers do receive, at least for now, is two engines — a turbocharged four-cylinder and inline-six — all mated to an eight-speed Sport Steptronic automatic with launch control. Offering either model wouldn’t have made either model faster, the BMW spokesman implied, as this tranny’s wider gear spread moves the vehicle quicker off the line. That doesn’t help the rare traditionalist buyer who just wants to row his or own gears, but what can you do? Your congressman doesn’t care.

For 2019, the 3 Series dons a new modular platform (in use by the 5 and 7 Series) that increases overall body stiffness by 25 percent, BMW claims. Body weight drops by up to 121 pounds, depending on model, while wheelbase and front and rear tracks increase by 1.6, 1.7, and 0.9 inches, respectively. Overall length grows 2.9 inches, width by 0.6 inches, and height by half an inch. Weight distribution is 50:50. Meanwhile the model’s coefficient of drag drops to 0.23 from the previous generation’s 0.26, aiding highway fuel economy. Front air curtains and a nearly sealed underbody help in this regard.

In the interest of a flatter ride and less upset, an new continuously variable damping system adds extra hydraulic cushioning at the front and compression limiting at the rear. Lift-related damping also appears on the M Sport suspension. This setup sees the vehicle sit 0.4 inches lower than its standard sibling, with firmer springs and thicker anti-roll bars aiding tossability. BMW claims a 20 percent increase in damping force during fast compression and rebound comes with the M Sport suspension. While either of these setups should satisfy most drivers, BMW offers Adaptive M, bringing electronically controlled dampers on board, as well as three drive modes.

Either of the latter two suspensions can be had with an M Sport rear differential. This differential, which snatches power away from the inside wheel in turns with greater finesse, should overcome the vehicle’s tendency to oversteer during rapid direction changes.

Image: BMW

As we said before, power comes in two flavors. 330i and 330i xDrive models see a turbo 2.0-liter making 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque — an increase of 7 hp and 37 lb-ft over the engine’s predecessor. Aided by the weight loss and rejigged tranny, the 330i should complete a sprint to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. In the M340i models, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six generates 382 hp and 369 lb-ft. Zero to 60 should pass in 4.2 seconds, Bimmer claims, though that figure isn’t yet set in stone.

Aesthetically, you’ll be able to tell the 2019 3 Series from its predecessor by revamped headlights (an evolution of what came before) and a twin-kidney grille with a single chrome surround. Actually, it won’t always be chrome. Select M Sport as a trim line (the other options are the de-facto Sport and Luxury), and the grille goes gloss black, with lower front and rear fascias and side sills undergoing an aggressive styling treatment. The Luxury trim line adds an extra heaping of a certain shiny material no high-zoot sedan can do without.

Out back, L-shaped LED taillights add further inches to the car’s perceived width, and bumper and tailpipe treatments change depending on which trim line the buyer choses. Along the flanks, Bimmer added athleticism via an upward-sweeping lower character line that accentuates a slight rear fender bulge — something that’s far more noticeable when viewed from the rear. The previous-gen car’s strong upper character line is split in two in this model, with one arcing aft from the front fender to the beltline, and a new, slightly lower one tracing just above the rear wheel well.

Image: BMW

It’s not worth going into all the interior improvements, except to say you’ll be given more choice in materials, and middle rear-seat passenger won’t fidget as much. Rear legroom grows four-tenths of an inch. Oh, and there’s a bare minimum of 10 speakers, with 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround audi as an option.

Centered in the dash is an 8.8-inch touchscreen, with a 5.7-inch digital instrument display staring you in the face. However, if glitzy screens make you instinctively reach for your wallet, there’s a digital cockpit on offer. In this guise, a 12.3-inch screen serves as your instrument cluster, while a 10.25-inch touchscreen running the iDrive 7.0 operating system handles infotainment and navigation duties.

Accessing certain functions and settings while keeping your hands on the wheel can be as easy as barking instructions at the car. BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, which debuts on this vehicle, is just like it sounds, responding to “Hey, BMW!” Your digital helper learns as it goes, and improves itself via OTA updates sent from the automaker.

Exhausted yet? You’ll have time to recover. The 2019 3 Series doesn’t arrive at dealers until March 2019. Pricing starts at $40,250 (plus $995 destination) for a base 330i, with xDrive all-wheel drive adding an extra two grand. M340i models appear next spring, with pricing announced closer to the release date. There’ll also be a new plug-in hybrid version, plus the necessary M3, but Bimmer isn’t giving out all info in one fell swoop.

Image: bmw

[Images: BMW Group]

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46 Comments on “2019 BMW 3 Series Carries on the Tradition, but Leaves a Manual Transmission in the Past...”


  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It hurts my brain to think that they finally offer a mechanical LSD electr. controlled dampers, and not offer a manual. But I’m waiting for the posts saying I didn’t buy an F30 manual, so its my fault.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    That’s sad. The two years I had a manual 330i back in the day were the two funnest years of driving. Hard to imagine spending 40k on a sports sedan without a stick.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    It looks great, I’m sure it’ll drive very well and it will be a sales hit for BMW. Still, it’s crazy how large cars are becoming. This 3 series is only 12 inches shorter than my 90’s long wheelbase 7 series!

    The hoffmeister kink is a bit odd, there’s an extra kink as it curves up now. All in all a good design, and perfect DLO.

  • avatar

    That takes BMW (and Audi) off my possible buying list.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    Honestly, it just looks like BMW is tacking the progress of the 3 series to the people who were buying the E36 25 years ago. As those buyeres got bigger and softer, a bigger and softer 3 series followed suit, never pushing the maturing buyer towards moving up a grade.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I like the design. There’s some Lexus GS in the taillights but that’s not a bad thing.

    The M3 should have a manual from what I’ve been reading. The 340 is appealing, but no stick no sale to me.

  • avatar

    Artificial insemination is better too…. doesn’t make it better.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I know what you meant to say, and I don’t fully disagree, but your wording (“better…doesn’t make it better”) is working against you here. And it’s also not the best analogy–at least in animal husbandry, AI actually is superior in just about every respect to hiring a stud.

  • avatar
    deanst

    “Oh, and there’s a bare minimum of 10 speakers, with 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround audi as an option.”

    Does VW know about this?

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Well I suppose the 2 series is sort of the spiritual successor to the 3 series models that everyone thinks of when they think of the 3. Perhaps my need for 4 doors will be no more when I am next in the market.

  • avatar
    Mojohand2

    So much for all that happy horsesh*t about returning the 3 series to its roots. Bah.

  • avatar
    vvk

    No clutch pedal — no sale. And it’s ugly, too.

    I have owned BMWs for the last 15 years. No more. My 550i will likely be my last.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    The modern headlights make the grille appear a bit as enlarged-nostrils; otherwise, a clean look.

  • avatar
    KevinC

    You can tell how wide the thing has gotten by the width of the center armrest. Looks like it came out of a Suburban. And what the heck is that ginormous blank square panel above the shifter? I need another E46 someday, this newer stuff just keeps getting crappier with each succeeding generation.

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    The price of entry going up $5,350 by dropping the 320i is an interesting move. I still see a reasonable number of those “I should probably be driving a nicer Accord” on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      You can bet it’s coming back for 2020: the current 320i didn’t pop up in the US until he second model year of the F30. Soak the early adopters, then push the lease special.

  • avatar
    stuki

    What a waste. The 3 died when they started saddling them with runflats. Now some sicko dug up the corpse, just so he could kill it again.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    Ahhh, I no longer have to resist the temptation to buy a 3 Series. Happy day.

    The Ultimate Driving Machine my patootie.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Looks pretty good for a Camry. Is V6 an option still or did Toyota switch to 4-cylinders exclusively?

  • avatar
    parpadk

    What a softball write-up and boring just like the car. So much opportunity for more earnest analysis and commentary here. This car is a nice turd wrapped in leather/pleather with a great radio option…no thanks…unless it’s an Uber and I’m sitting in the back “winning” an extra inch. Maybe BMW will one day get to their senses and make a “t” version like Porsche did recently on the 911 catering to actual drivers. Or just get a 235m. Nein, danke.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    No manual, no sale.

    It’s OK.

    We live in a bizzaro world now, where Cadillac ATS has replaced the 3-series as the best-driving sport sedan.

    As far as I’m concerned, the last real BMW was the 128i / 135i.

    Even the naming convention on the new ones is fake (“330i” for 2.0 liter, “340” for a 3 liter. Something that we would (rightfully) mock Detroit for doing.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Automatic only? Check. Increased size and weight? Check. Full of infotainment tech? Check.

    Ultimate Driver’s Car? Not so much.

    As a long time (life time?) fan of the marque, my heart hurts that the 3-series has gone down this road. While I don’t (entirely) blame BMW for simply giving the US consumer what he wants, I also no longer have any desire for a new 3-series. And that damn-near kills me.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Automatic garbage

    BMW is dead; the 2-series is their ghost.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I wonder how many of the auto haters have driven a car with the ZF8. It’s excellent.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      Tell me more about how sitting in a chair and pressing the go-forward button on the floor is different when you call the transmission a zee eff eight

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      I have, it’s not really.Golf R DSG is fairly fun, but nothing beats dancing on the pedals as you downshift to 2nd gear on a tight corner.
      Incidentally, ATS manual I drove felt exactly like the 330i zhp I used to own.
      I agree with other posters that the G70 manual will likely be the best driver, and in my opinion is better looking.If I were in the market again for a sports sedan , I’d probably look at the G70 6mt first and then if automatic were my only option , a Giulia with an extended warranty or an IS350 FSport or Fline whatever its called.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I guess we have to agree to disagree. I’ve driven modern Ferraris at the track. Not once did I say “man I wish this had a 3rd pedal”. I was actually glad it didn’t have one as I could focus on other things…. which is the point. If the only fun part of driving a car is downshifting with its manual transmission, either the rest of the car sucks or you are being unreasonably limited in your definition of driving fun.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Around a track, in a car with enough power, automatics are fine. But on the street they really are the great equalizer: Makes an 86 or Ferrari rather indistinguishable from an Avalon hybrid. Aside from the greater comfort of the latter.

        • 0 avatar
          06M3S54B32

          “If the only fun part of driving a car is downshifting with its manual transmission, either the rest of the car sucks or you are being unreasonably limited in your definition of driving fun.”
          I agree 100% with you, and I have an E46 M3 manual. I’ve driven PDK/DSG and DCTs. . They all blow away playing with a third pedal. I’d never go manual again, and most likely won’t have to as most cars worth owning (for me)are going auto-manual. They are faster in every sense of the word, more efficient and let you concentrate on driving. Stick shifting is pure nostalgia.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            I mean for me, these big turbocharged 4 banger sedans are bit far from the pure driving experience everyone seems to think a 3rd pedal would offer. To me it would seem to make more sense to actually go buy one of the old 3 pedal cars… an E46 330i goes for peanuts, weighs hundreds of lbs less than its modern equivalent, and has a way less corrupted driving experience for a variety of reasons that go beyond the transmission.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Shame on you TTAC, for not mentioning anything about wagon availability (or lack thereof).

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    My the Bimmer haters are out in force. Speaking as the driver of a 2 series, this doesn’t give me any reason to trade up – I don’t need the extra space, since it might come at the expense of some of the driving enjoyment.

    That said, the lamentations over the manual are really overblown. Most of these folks weren’t going to buy this anyway. Also, having driven the 8 speed automatic in my own car, I have to say it’s an amazing transmission. Faster than I could ever shift – and given that I daily drive, my left leg thanks me daily. Yes, the 2 series still comes with a manual, but there were like 3 available in the entire US when I looked. The reality is Bimmers with manuals have been DOA on the market. It’s sad, on some level, but every other sports sedan manufacturer has moved to auto only, so that’s the state of the world.

    I love my 228i – it is probably the best car I’ve owned – but I don’t envy BMW the task of updating a legend given the state of the market. Versus a new A4 or C class, I think this looks very competitive.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Must be a paid shill! It’s impossible to enjoy a car with an automatic transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      NG5

      I am kicking around trying to get a 2 series. It sounds like a really wonderful car. By chance did you get to try the 6 cylinder version? If so, how did it compare? I think the numeric you’ve written goes to the 4, I can never remember their nomenclature. I have nothing against a turbo 4, as I currently drive one – I just miss the inline 6 feeling and sound.

  • avatar
    lon888

    You pay big bucks for this car and that’s all you get for your infotainment screen? My wife’s KIA cost much, much less that one of these things and it has the same size screen. Cheap Germans.

  • avatar
    NG5

    I grew up for several formative years driving a manual transmission Frankensteined together BMW 1602/2002 with, I think, an E30 LSD in the back. It was my dad’s main car but also in my dad’s tradition it was sort of a project car. For most of the time I drove it, it did not have a functioning radio, and I can’t remember if it had AC. When I last went car shopping I looked for a car that made me feel something when I was driving around; the technology and performance was an afterthought. I ended up buying a Fiesta ST new (manual trans only) near three years ago now, and still love it. I have always dreamed of returning to a RWD BMW car, but I can’t feel the badge on the hood when I’m driving it. I won’t say losing a manual makes it impossible for a car to have character, but it does make it demand less immediate attention. When I was driving the old bimmer, there were many times I didn’t miss the radio – driving the car was satisfying enough. So it is with my current car. Even though the radio works, I often forget to turn it on. I daily drove several automatics over the past decade and mostly I remember the qualities of their radios more than the sounds of their engines.

    Hopefully this new vehicle is able to deliver some of the excitement of going fast alongside its technological improvements. Even without a manual, at this point we are becoming constrained to consider them. For cars which feel special to drive and also have automatics in this segment, it sounds like AMG is the brand to beat. I wish BMW luck, as I have some loyalty to the company, but I never enjoyed the ones I drove because of their feature content or technology. It was the engagement and refinement of the drive itself. Perhaps it is the nature of product update media, but I’ll be skeptical until I’m in the driver’s seat. It seems like the recent crop of automatics could much more responsive as some have said here – I didn’t look at any the last time I was shopping. There’s a lot more options once you tick that box, though, and if I’m not directly connected to the engine then a part of me thinks I might as well get a hybrid or electric car. So call me a wait-and-see on this.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    It’s a good looking car, but it cements in my mind – my decision to buy my Tremec manual SS sedan, it’s the BMW of yore… just a lot cheaper to run.

  • avatar
    focal

    All automatics feel the same to me and losing the three pedals makes me look elsewhere. All brands are in play and i’ve driven BMW for so many years now. I have a F30 RWD 328i 6MT. Rare in Canada and I’ll drive it a lot longer now.

    The Genesis G70 looks amazing inside and still has the stick. Good choice, but I’d also be happier with a Golf 4motion wagon than an auto BMW.

    If I’m going auto, I’ll go all the way to electric.

    I’m so happy that I broke the bank and picked up a GT4 3 years ago. That’s a life time car to own.


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