2012 BMW 3-Series – What’s Different?

Charlie Fraser
October 17, 2011

The all new BMW 3-Series has just been launched. We take a look at whats new, show side by side shots comparing it against the old one and give our verdict on the update.

The 2012 BMW 3-Series is the 6th Generation 3-Series. This latest model will go on sale in February 2012 and isn’t just a facelift, but a whole new model.

So far photos and details have only been released for the 3-Series Saloon, though the Convertible, Coupe and Touring versions will all eventually get the same updates.
N.B. The new 3-Series has launched now, check out our full guide to the 2012 BMW 3-Series Saloon.

On the outside

The new 3-Series Saloon looks very similar to the outgoing 5th Generation model, but is 93mm longer and 6mm narrower. It looks sportier than the last one, with larger trademark kidney grilles and more shaped headlights. It does look similar to the rather controversially styled new 1-Series, but we rather like the new styling.
The dark blue car is the new model, the grey car is the previous model.
New 3-Series Saloon
Previous 3-Series Saloon
Round the back it’s almost impossible to spot the difference. The new rear lights are more sculpted, and the boot appears to be wider, but there are few other visual clues.
New model
Old model
Side on the new model has a slightly raised bonnet hump and the rear boot kicks up to have a more defined spoiler. Again, not easy to tell though!
New model
Previous model

On the inside

The interior changes are a lot more obvious. The sat-nav screen now sits on top of the dashboard (rather than in it) and the whole dash across the cabin looks sleeker and lower.
New 3-Series Saloon Interior
Previous model interior
There’s also a completely new steering wheel available in the M-Sport trim, which looks unlike any other we’ve seen. It’s a lot less bulky than before and looks to give a better view of the dials behind.
M-Sport Interior
The centre console is angled 7 degrees towards the driver, but the position of the iDrive control has been designed to be used by both the driver and a passenger. Interior quality is reportedly up and there’s more customisation, with a wider choice of interior trims and colours.
BMW claim that space in the back has increased, with 15mm of additional knee room and 8mm more headroom for anyone in the back. Luggage space has also grown, up 20 litres to 480 litres.

Under the bonnet

From launch there will be four engines on offer, with a further three joining the line-up just a month later. Why they don’t all come out at the same time we don’t know! The four engines are as follows: (Numbers in brackets for automatic versions, where different)
328i – A four-cylinder 2.0 litre Petrol giving 250hp and 350Nm Torque. 0-60 in 5.9 secs (6.9 secs), 44mpg and 150g/km CO2, which is £130 in vehicle tax a year. This engine replaces the old 325i and 330i. Priced from £29,060
335i – A six-cylinder 3.0 litre Petrol giving 306hp and 400Nm Torque. 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, 35.8 mpg (39.2 mpg) and 186g/km CO2 (169g/km), which is £245 (£190) in vehicle tax a year. Priced from £35,525.
320d – A 2.0 litre Diesel giving 184hp and 380Nm Torque. 0-60 in 7.5 secs (7.6 secs), 62.8mpg (64.2mpg) and 120g/km CO2 (118g/km), which is £30 in vehicle tax a year. Priced from £28,080.
320d Efficient Dynamics – A 2.0 litre Diesel giving 163hp and 380Nm Torque. 0-60 in 8.0 secs (8.1 secs), 68.9 mpg and 109g/km CO2, which is £20 in vehicle tax a year. Priced from £28,080.
Then a month later, three more engines will be added, though full stats haven’t yet been revealed:
316d – With 116hp
318d – With 143hp
320i – With 184hp
New 3-Series Saloon in Sport Line Trim
All engines will be available with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual. Every engine will also get the ‘Drive Performance Control’ as standard, which allows the selection of three different driving modes: Eco Pro, Sport, Comfort. Sport + will then be a fourth mode for Sport trim models, or when specified as an option.
The Efficient Dynamic engines will feature stop-start, brake regeneration, more economical aerodynamics and more efficient tyres.
All models apart from the EfficientDynamics will receive 17” wheels as standard with run-flat tyres. The ED models get 16” with non-run-flat tyres.
New model in ‘Modern’ Trim

Mechanical Tweaks

There have been a huge number of changes to the set-up of the car. First off is an all-new chassis, there’s also a new suspensions system and an all-round stiffer body. All with the aim to make it even better to drive.
The new Saloon gets electromechincal power steering, with the 328i and 335i models receiving a Servotronic speed-sensitive set-up, which is also optional on other engines.
New model in ‘Modern’ Trim

Trim levels

It’s going to take you a while to work-out what trim level you want, there’s now a choice of six. BMW boast that “Even the trim on the key fobs differs between the various versions.”
ES will be the entry-level trim (but is only available on the 316d). Next up is SE, then there’s Sport, Modern and Luxury and finally the M Sport.
To explain what each trim has would take forever, so we’ll write a separate article explaining them in detail.

Future models

BMW have already announced that by the end of 2012 there will be a four-wheel drive option and a hybrid engine, called the ActiveHybrid 3, which will match the 335i with a 40kW electric motor.


The external differences aren’t huge between the outgoing 3-Series Saloon and the new one, but the styling changes do freshen it up. Inside it certainly looks a lot more modern and less cluttered.
The engine line-up is very impressive, with low running costs and decent performance on all the popular engines. The new chassis and all the other tweaks will undoubtedly make it better to drive, but we’ll be interested to see what the reviews make of the run-flat tyres, as these have been one of the biggest complaints from owners of the current 3-Series.
Prices have only risen very slightly, at most by a few hundred pounds for some engines, though standard kit has increased.
There’s no doubt it’ll be a huge success for BMW and we’ll soon be seeing these new saloons everywhere!
Check out our full guide to the 2012 3-Series. With reviews, user reviews, videos, photos and stats.