2019 BMW 3 Series – price, specs and release date

Upcoming executive saloon is tasked with reclaiming its class-leading status from the Audi A4...

BMW 3 Series front

The arrival of a new BMW 3 Series usually requires us to redefine what ‘best in class’ means. BMW’s compact executive saloon has gained iconic status, so much so that it has even become shorthand for describing its rivals. The Audi A4? That’s Audi’s 3 Series. The Giulia? That’s Alfa Romeo’s 3 Series. And so on.

The 3 Series has earned its status by consistently doing everything well and being exceptional in a number of areas. Most notably, it’s invariably engaging to drive, has strong, frugal engines, offers high-quality materials and sets technology benchmarks.

BMW 3 Series rear

But the 3 Series hasn’t been regarded by What Car?’s testers as the class leader since 2016, when it was usurped by the Audi A4 as it went on to win our overall Car of the Year crown. Others have moved the goalposts, too: Mercedes-Benz with its sumptuous C-Class, for instance, and first Jaguar and then Alfa with the driving thrills afforded by the XE and Giulia. 

None of this is to suggest the outgoing 
3 Series is a bad car, of course. It signs off, to be replaced by the car you see before you, still holding an overall four-star rating. As a base from which to build, that is a remarkable position to be in, and one that few seven-year-old cars can lay claim to.

Stephan Horn, the product manager for the new 3 Series who kick-started its creation five years ago, says the focus was to improve the car most significantly in three key areas: adding agility without compromising comfort, improving the look and feel of the interior and reducing wind and road noise.

BMW 3 Series interior

2019 BMW 3 Series technology

The new 3 Series is built on the same base as the current 5 Series and 7 Series luxury saloons and is therefore larger, lighter and safer than the outgoing model. The lengthways growth is largely dictated by the latest safety regulations. More significantly, the front wheels are farther apart than before, as are the rears. This gives the car not only a wider, sportier stance but also inherently better stability. 

In addition, the engineers have made space for an innovative new damping system that, combined with stiffer suspension springs, is said to not only make the 3 Series sharper to drive but also, when the road surfaces get particularly bad, allow the car to maintain a flat, comfortable ride. 

“We didn’t want the car to be thrilling but exhausting, but rather thrilling and composed,” says Horn, who points out how much development work was done on Welsh roads. 

BMW 3 Series front

Our first drive in a prototype of the car suggests they work well, and it’s also worth noting that buyers can dial up that sportiness by moving up the trim levels from SE or Sport to M Sport, which sits 10mm closer to the ground, and then by opting for the M Sport Plus pack, which includes even more advanced suspension and the option of a limited-slip differential, which helps control the car under extremely fast driving.