2009 BMW 3-Series

The 2008 Paris motor show is still three months away, but we've already got the skinny on the 2009 BMW 3-series, slated to debut en France.

Like the 2009 7-series, which also premieres at the Paris show, styling changes to the new 3-er are evolutionary, not revolutionary. While the car's overall profile differs little from the previous model, the '09 model is, perhaps, slightly more expressive.

The leading hood gently flows into the grille section, while the bumper's perimeter cascades into the center of the car. While nowhere as dramatic as the flame-surfacing found on the Z4, BMW designers emphasized the character lines on the sides of the car, particularly right along the 3-series' beltline. The 2009 3-series also sports new lamps in front and rear; the bi-xenon headlamps also feature LED turn signals, while the rear LED lamps cast light in a three-dimensional pattern.

Interior changes are just as subtle. Although designers made slight ergonomic improvements (e.g. placing window switches on the driver's door), the largest change lies with the use of the second-generation iDrive controller. With a set of control buttons placed around the knob itself, the new system looks remarkably like Audi's Multimedia Interface (MMI) system, and may prove more intuitive than prior iterations.

From a powertrain perspective, the big news for the U.S market is the advent of the 335d diesel and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. While the 330i and 335d are relegated to six-speed manuals and automatics, 335i cars can be equipped with the dual-clutch 'box, which is similar to that found in the M3.

Although we'll bring you live shots and more details live from the Paris show in October, expect to see the new 3 arrive in North American showrooms this winter or in early 2009.

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