Captured: Next-Gen BMW 3 Series Seen Winter Testing

Production of the current BMW 3 Series is expected to wind down sometime in 2011, allowing the automaker to usher in an all-new sixth-generation car for the 2012 model year. Unsurprisingly, the company is already hard at work developing the new 3, as indicated by Motor Trend's spy photos of the car undergoing cold weather testing.

BMW seems to have worked long and hard to disguise the new 3, going so far as to black out the space between its distinctive kidney-shaped grille openings, but it's fairly easy to identify this as being a new Bimmer. The sedan's overall shape and door panels are similar to the current car, but some details suggest designers strived to incorporate styling cues from the current 5 Series. A more upright grille, along with reflectors placed in the lower edges of the rear bumper, help tie 3 to its larger sibling. New headlamps and taillights are expected to further establish the visual relationship between the two, but this test car only wears temporary projector lamps for testing.

We expect the new 3 to gain a larger, more stylish interior, along with a revamped roster of available engines. In addition to the typical turbocharged and normally aspirated I-6 engine choices, BMW is expected to reintroduce an inline-four-cylinder engine offering. Along with the traditional coupe, sedan, and wagon variants, BMW is expected to offer the 3 Series in a Gran Turismo hatchback form, which could replace the wagon altogether in North America.

We're still uncertain as to when BMW will publically unwrap the new 3 Series, but since the car is expected to reach European dealers in the second half of 2012, a Geneva unveiling in March isn't entirely out of line.

Source: Motor Trend

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