2016 BMW 3 Series gets updated look, new straight-six engine

A plug-in hybrid model called 330e will join the lineup next year.

BMW has introduced the updated 2016 3 Series Sedan and Sports Wagon.

The bulk of the changes for the upcoming model year are found under the hood. The 340i, the new range-topping 3, inaugurates an all-aluminum turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine that makes 320 horsepower between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm and 330 lb-ft. of torque from just 1,380 rpm. The six comes standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual with a rev-matching function is available as a no-cost option.

The rear-wheel drive 340i reaches 60 mph from a stop in 4.8 seconds while the all-wheel drive model takes 4.6 seconds. Both versions are electronically limited to 155 mph.

The rest of the lineup carries on without any major mechanical updates. The entry-level 320i packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 180 horsepower, the 328i features an upgraded version of the turbo four that makes 240 horsepower and the 328d uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine tuned to make 180 horsepower and a stout 280 lb-ft. of torque.

BMW has improved the 3 Series Sports Wagon's handling and feedback with a re-tuned suspension a less intrusive stability control system and a new power steering system. Clearly, the Munich-based automaker is trying to put the sports back in Sports Wagon.

The visual updates are minor and largely limited to new halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. Full LED headlights come standard on the 340i, and a new Adaptive Full LED Headlights with Automatic High-beam System is available as an option on most models.

Lights aside, the 2016 3 stands out from the outgoing model thanks to redesigned bumpers on both ends, full LED tail lamps, new alloy wheel designs and additional paint colors. The story is the same on the outside, where the 3 gains a gloss black center console, covers over the cup holders, an additional storage bin, new ambient lighting and a sprinkling of chrome trim.

Gasoline-burning models are available with a new Track Handling Package that bundles BMW's Variable Sport Steering, an Adaptive M Suspension, M Sport Brakes with blue calipers and 18-inch alloys wrapped by Michelin Super Sport tires.

The 2016 BMW 3 Series will go on sale across the nation this summer. Pricing information will be published in the weeks leading up to its on-sale date.

What's next?BMW has confirmed it will introduce the first-ever plug-in hybrid 3 next year. Called 330e, it will be powered by a plug-in hybrid drivetrain rated at approximately 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque, enough to send it from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 140 mph. With the gasoline-burning engine turned off, the 330e will be able to drive on electricity alone for up to 22 miles.

Finally, the 340i's straight-six will power a long list of upcoming BMWs ranging from the M2 to the 2017 7 Series.

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