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2018 vs. 2019 BMW 3 Series: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Eric Brandt October 2018
  • The 2019 BMW 3 Series gets a big update over the 2018 model.

  • Manual transmission availability is very limited for the new 3 Series.

  • The all-new 3 Series hopes to recapture some of its sporty heritage while remaining a smooth and comfortable luxury sedan.

The BMW 3 Series is widely credited with being the first of its kind; a modern luxury sport sedan. For decades, the 3 Series has been a standard-bearer in entry-level luxury cars, serving as one of the models that all other cars in this segment are measured against.

There's an all-new 2019 3 Series on its way to dealers next spring. Will it have what it takes to continue the 3 Series legacy? Let's take a look at what's different and what's similar between the 2018 and 2019 BMW 3 Series.

Exterior

The untrained eye might not notice, but the BMW 3 Series has an all-new aesthetic for 2019. It carries over many of the same design elements of the outgoing model, particularly the signature kidney grille and similarly shaped headlights. The back of the new 3 Series has L-shaped taillights, and the whole car has a bit more of a clean and cohesive design than the previous generation.

The sizes of the two cars are also a little different. The 2019 model is taller and wider by less than an inch, and it's about three inches longer than the 2018 3 Series. The 3 Series has been steadily growing over the years going from a compact to what could be considered a midsize.

You might need to do a double take to notice that it has a new exterior, but we think the 2019 BMW 3 Series is nicer-looking than the 2018 car it's replacing.

Interior

There are bigger differences on the inside of the 2019 3 Series than there are on the outside. They both have clean and refined interior designs, but the inside of the 2019 model looks more modern with an available all-digital dash and a more integrated infotainment screen in the center stack.

As for interior room, we don't know the exact dimensions of the 2019 model yet, but the car's extra length, height and width will afford it a little more interior space for all five seats.

The previous-generation 3 Series was starting to show its age on the inside, going mostly unchanged since the 2012 model year. The all-new seventh-generation model does a nice job giving it a modern update to help keep it competitive with other luxury sedans in this class.

Mechanicals

The 2019 BMW 3 Series offers two different engines in the U.S. market. The base engine in the 330i model is a twin-turbo 2.0-liter inline-4 that's been revised for the 2019 to make 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That's an improvement of seven hp and 37 lb-ft compared to the same engine in the 2018 model. The difference is reduced internal friction plus a new, lighter camshaft. Another big difference is an 8-speed unit replacing the old 6-speed automatic transmission.

If you upgrade to the 2019 BMW M340i, you'll be treated to a turbocharged inline-6 that makes 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This engine is also linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Other perks of the M340i include sport steering, M Sport suspension and brakes and an electronically controlled differential.

The 2018 BMW 3 Series offers a 320i model with a less-powerful, entry-level turbocharged 4-cylinder, a 330e hybrid option and a 328d diesel variant. As of this writing, no diesel offerings have been announced for the U.S. spec 2019 3 Series, but we can expect a hybrid 330e for the 2020 model year.

Both engines for the 2019 model in the U.S. come standard with rear-wheel drive and are available with all-wheel drive. Unfortunately for enthusiasts, BMW is only offering manual transmissions in rear-wheel-drive diesel-equipped 3 Series models, which means you won't be able to get both a gas engine and a manual transmission.

Technology

There are several attractive features both standard and optional in the all-new 2019 BMW 3 Series. A few standard features include LED lighting all around, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers and some driver assistance tech like lane-departure warning, collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.

The standard infotainment system in the new 3 Series is the BMW iDrive 6.0 system, which has an 8.8-inch screen. You can upgrade to the iDrive 7.0 system, which gives you a 10.25-in screen that includes over-the-air map updates for the navigation system and even includes a digital assistant prompted by saying "Hey BMW," kind of like Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant.

One of the more interesting optional features in the 2019 3 Series is a digital key system that turns your smartphone into a key. It can lock and unlock the doors using NFC, and can even start your car just by placing it in the car's optional wireless charging pad. Other options include a parking assistant system, a "display key" with a little screen on it, laser headlights and self-righting wheel center caps that will never look crooked.

Pricing

Since BMW has cut out the 320i model on the low end, it means a higher starting price for the new 3 Series. The 2019 BMW 3 Series will have a starting price of $40,250 when it arrives at dealers next spring. The 2018 model starts quite a bit lower at $34,900, but the 2018 330i has the same starting MSRP as the 2019 model at $40,250.

Most of the other cars in this class start right around the $35,000 mark, which now makes the 3 Series one of the most expensive entry-level luxury sedans on the low end.

Conclusion

The driving dynamics of the new 3 Series remains to be seen, but on paper, BMW's all-new entry-level sedan is a big improvement over the outgoing sixth-generation car. The seventh-gen 3 Series is promising to deliver better performance and more luxury and tech at the same price-point of the car it's replacing.

It would be nice to see a lower starting price, but we don't think the 320i model will be too badly missed if it never comes back. With a new look, a new interior and more promising engines, it looks like BMW took a good car and made it better in every way.

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Used 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan
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New 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan
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New 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan
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MSRP $63,485
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New 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 vs. 2019 BMW 3 Series: What's the Difference? - Autotrader