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Rehatched: Redesigned version of BMW's smallest model arrives in just two months.

New 1 Series hatch and 3 Series range to lead the BMW new-model charge into 2012

31 Aug 2011

THE recent arrival in Australia of the facelifted 1 Series Coupe and Convertible ranges – including the potent new M Coupe this week – marks the start of a hectic 12-month launch program that will involve major and much-needed makeovers for some of the German marque’s top-selling passenger cars.

BMW's new-model influx will begin at the more affordable end with the arrival of the second-generation 1 Series hatchback in October, followed early next year by another all-new core model in the redesigned 3 Series.

Further up the price range and between those arrivals, BMW Australia will release a stylish new 6 Series Coupe, some new engines for the Z4 sportscar and additions to the mid-sized 5 Series range – including the new fifth-generation M5 fire-breather.

Further down the track, the new four-door 6 Series Gran Coupe is due in the third quarter of 2012, before mighty new M6 models arrive in 2013.

It all adds up to new-model momentum for BMW, which has been increasingly reliant on its ‘X’ SUVs, particularly the new X3 and X1, for the bulk of its sales in recent times.

So far this year, BMW sales have traced the decline of the overall market, down five per cent, even though X3 sales are up 82 per cent and X1 is up 51 per cent.

As well, the newest of its passenger sedans, the 5 Series, has found new form, with sales so far this year almost doubling to 807 units and taking the fight up to the class-leading Mercedes E-class.

But BMW’s perennial top-seller, the seven-year-old 3 Series, is suffering the ravages of time, sliding 19.3 per cent this year, while the 1 Series Hatch is down 20.3 per cent. The 3 Series coupe/convertible sportscar range has fared even worse, down almost 40 per cent.

The cavalry is on its way, however. The new five-door 1 Series hatch will be first cab off the rank, with a ground-up new model coming next month, offering a choice of three four-cylinder engines – two 1.6-litre petrol and one 1.8-litre diesel – and two transmissions: a six-speed manual and unprecedented (in the class) eight-speed auto.

As BMW has already announced, pricing will start from a sharp $36,900 (plus on-roads) – well down on the current cheapest ‘1’, the $39,000 116i.

From November, the 5 Series will get an extra shot in the arm with the addition of the turbo-charged 2.0-litre N20 four-cylinder petrol engine in two variants – 180kW and 135kW.

14 center imageFrom top: BMW 1 Series hatch, 5 Series sedan, 6 Series Coupe, M5.

Originally launched in the X1 xDrive28i and destined to spread across the BMW range, this engine will create a new entry-level 520i in the 135kW format, while the more powerful version of the N20 will replace the 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine to create a new 528i.

These same engines will also slide into the Z4 around the same time, replacing 23i and 30i variants to become 20i and 28i.

Before Christmas and ahead of the predicted launch timing, the 6 Series Coupe will arrive to join the recently released 6 Series Convertible, gaining the same turbo 4.4-litre V8 650i and turbo 3.0-litre V6 640i model split.

Before the end of summer, the all-new 412kW M5 is expected to lob, probably about February, depending on production timing.

Employing a more highly strung version of the 4.4-litre turbocharged V8 in place of the V10 in the superseded model and yet gaining about 10 per cent more power and 30 per greater fuel efficiency, the new M5 will be the most powerful production BMW in history (see separate story).

A matter of weeks after the M5 launch, the most important car in the BMW universe arrives, the sixth-generation F30 3 Series, in March or April.

Expect the aforementioned N20 turbocharged four-cylinder engines to take centre stage in the new 3 Series, along with a new high-performance 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.

Starting with the conventional 3 Series sedan, you can also expect coupe and convertible versions to be progressively rolled out. Audi A5 Sportback-rivalling five-door hatchback and high-riding X3 coupe-SUV derivatives have also been mooted in Europe, as well as a petrol-electric hybrid version at some point.

BMW Australia is looking to the new 3 Series in particular to steady the sales ship and propel it into 2012 as it looks to regain the ascendency against arch-rivals Mercedes-Benz and, increasingly, Audi.

The exclamation point on the roll-out of fresh metal will come in the third quarter of next year with the arrival of the new 6 Series Gran Coupe.

A rival for the Mercedes CLS and Audi A7, the 5 Series-based four-door ‘coupe’ has been spotted in testing at the Nurburgring.

Like the 5 Series sedan and 6 Series coupe and convertible, the Gran Coupe is expected to come with a variety of high-performance, mostly turbocharged powertrains up to and including the M-enhanced 4.4-litre turbo V8 that is about to appear in the new M5.

BMW new-model launch pad:

October - 1 Series Hatch range
November - 520i, 528i
November - Z4 20i, 28i
December - 6 Series Coupe
February - M5 sedan
March - 3 Series sedan
Q3 2012 - 6 Series Gran Coupe
2013 - M6

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