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BMW enacts second midlife update on 3 Series. Image by BMW.

BMW enacts second midlife update on 3 Series
Seventh-gen Three receives new infotainment, a longer-range PHEV derivative and sundry other changes.
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What's all this about?

BMW has treated its important seventh-gen 3 Series to an midlife update, or LCI (life-cycle impulse) in its own speak.

Hold on, hasn't this Mk7 Three already had an LCI?

Indeed it has, back in 2022, when the looks were subtly revised and the interior benefited from the new Curved Display digital dashboard, complete with BMW Operating System 8 software for the infotainment. All very flashy.

So, er... what has changed this time?

Not a great deal, if we're honest. Visually, in terms of the physical shape of the Three, absolutely nothing is different. All that has been added to the range are two new body colours, which are Arctic Race Blue and Fire Red, both metallics, and then a fresh design of 19-inch bicolour alloy wheels.

Inside, again it's subtle primping rather than drastic surgery, but that OS8 infotainment has already been superseded by OS8.5 technology, the 3 Series now featuring a new homescreen, what BMW terms 'QuickSelect' configurable shortcut functionality, and the very latest version of its intelligent personal assistant voice control. Every 2024 Three will also come with new designs of steering wheel, illuminated air vents and three-zone climate control, while certain versions see an additional seat textile called BMW Performtex join the family.

Right, so it's just software and seat covers, is it?

Not quite. While the only carry-over drivetrains for the UK appear to be the 184hp 320i four-pot 2.0-litre petrol, the 292hp 330e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the M340i xDrive high-performance derivative, the middle of these has got a battery almost twice as big as it had before. Now standing at 19.5kWh usable, as opposed to 10.4kWh previously, BMW says the 330e can go more than double the distance on electric power only compared to the car it replaces - the official claim is 63 miles, whereas it was just 28 miles before.

You also get those outrageous PHEV official WLTP combined economy numbers as a result, with the 330e purportedly capable of anything between 256.8- and 353.1mpg, but if those sound fantastical figures (and they will be, unless you regularly plug the car into the mains and then drive it almost exclusively on its electric motor only), then rejoice: BMW has been admirably candid and printed what it calls 'depleted battery' returns for the 330e. These are a much more realistic 35.8-39.8mpg, which make it slightly less economical than the 320i (38.7-43.5mpg). In truth, though, only infrequent mains-charging sessions for the PHEV should see its average economy stabilise at more diesel-like levels of 50-60mpg, and there's no doubt that while 63 miles of zero-emissions motoring to a charge might be a pipe dream, the car will definitely do significantly more distance real-world on its electric power alone as a result of the larger battery pack.

Speaking of diesels, none of them are coming back for the 2024MY UK range. BMW has quoted a ten-strong 'launch' line-up of Saloon and Touring variants in the regular array, starting with the 320i Sport Saloon at £39,045. Transforming that car into an M Sport sees the ticket go up to £40,295, while the 330e Sport four-door is £46,080 and the M Sport £47,330. For the Touring equivalents, you're looking at anything between £40,845-£49,130, as the estates command a straight £1,800 premium over their equivalent Saloon relations.

Short of an M3, the range-topper will initially be the M340i xDrive, the only car in the range with features such as a six-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and mild-hybrid fuel-saving technology, and this 374hp flagship costs £57,845 as a Saloon and £59,645 for the Touring.

You've just mentioned the M3 - is that simply forgotten about, then?

Au contraire, mon ami. Both versions of the M3, namely the superb Saloon and the tremendous Touring, gain their own new design of alloy wheel, some different headlight signatures, additional interior trims... oh, and the small matter of another 20hp, taking peak power up to 530hp. That sees the M3 Saloon xDrive running 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds, with the all-wheel-drive wagon just a tenth behind at 3.6 seconds, while the top-speed limiters can be raised from the standard 155mph to either 180mph on the four-door or 174mph for the estate. These two cost from £82,420 and £84,700 respectively, although there's no price listed for a rear-wheel-drive Saloon at this stage.

Matt Robinson - 28 May 2024

2024 BMW 3 Series. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 3 Series. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 3 Series. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 3 Series. Image by BMW.2024 BMW 3 Series. Image by BMW.

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