2019 BMW 3 Series doubles down on tech with voice assistant, digital key

It’s hard to overestimate the impact of the BMW 3 Series. BMW’s small sedan helped redefine what premium cars could be, offering a blend of performance and luxury rivals have been trying to match for decades. Over six generations, the 3 Series has become the darling of car enthusiasts and a mainstay of luxury-car buyers. So expectations are high for the seventh-generation 2019 BMW 3 Series, which debuts at the 2018 Paris Motor Show.

On the outside, the new 3 Series doesn’t look dramatically different from its predecessor. But it uses a new body shell made from a mix of high-strength steel and aluminum. Despite being slightly larger than the outgoing model, the 2019 3 Series is up to 121 pounds lighter, according to BMW. The new 3 Series also boasts an impressively slippery drag coefficient of 0.26. The 3 Series also incorporates adaptive LED headlights with BMW’s Laserlight system, which redirects light automatically to avoid blinding other drivers while the high beams are on.

The first 2019 3 Series variant to hit showrooms will be the 330i, with standard rear-wheel drive, optional xDrive all-wheel drive, and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. BMW will then launch the M340i in both rear-wheel drive and xDrive guises, with a turbocharged inline-six producing 382 hp and 369 lb-ft. The 330e plug-in hybrid will return as well. The 3 Series has been a manual-transmission holdout, but the only gearbox mentioned by BMW for the 2019 model is an eight-speed automatic.

The 2019 330i will do zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds with all-wheel drive, and 5.6 seconds with rear-wheel drive, according to BMW, with a top speed of 155 mph for both versions when equipped with optional performance tires. The M340i will do zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with all-wheel drive. Expect the next-generation M3 performance model to improve on that.

Like all modern BMWs, the 2019 3 Series will be available with an array of driver aids. The adaptive cruise control system works at speeds up to 130 mph and can brake the car to a complete stop, according to BMW. On limited-access highways at speeds up to 37 mph, a traffic-jam assist system can keep the car moving without any control inputs; it uses a camera to ensure the driver is still paying attention. A parking assist feature can automatically maneuver the car into parallel or perpendicular spaces, according to BMW.

The updated iDrive infotainment system works through a standard 8.8-inch touchscreen and 5.7-inch digital instrument cluster in base models. The optional Live Cockpit Professional version enlarges the displays to 12.3 inches and 10.25 inches, respectively. The 3 Series also gets BMW’s new Alexa-like personal assistant, which responds to the prompt “Hey BMW” and natural-language commands like “find the nearest gas station.” BMW Digital Key lets owners use a smartphone in place of a conventional key fob. However, that function is only compatible with near-field-communication-capable Samsung Galaxy phones running Android 8.0 and above, on an approved carrier’s network.

The 2019 BMW 3 Series promises more tech than ever, but will that overwhelm this sedan’s traditional mission as a driver’s car? We’ll find out when we get some seat time over the coming months. The 2019 BMW 33oi goes on sale in the U.S. in March 2019, priced from $41,245 with rear-wheel drive and $43,245 with xDrive all-wheel drive (both prices include a mandatory $995 destination charge). The M340i will arrive later in 2019, followed by the 330e plug-in hybrid in 2020, and new versions of the related 4 Series coupe and convertible after that. No word yet on the return of the 3 Series wagon or Gran Turismo hatchback.

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