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Sneak Peek: 2013 BMW 3-Series

BMW will begin to roll out its next generation 3-series, codenamed F30, in 2012. The car will be built on BMW's new MSB architecture, which means it will share its strut front end layout with the next-gen 1-series (codenamed F20) rather than use the double wishbones of the 5, 6, and 7-series cars.

For the first time, there will be five different 3-series bodystyles. The four-door sedan, which will appear March 2012, touring wagon (Sep 2012), coupe (Sep 2013), and convertible (Mar 2014) will all follow the familiar 3-series formula. The newcomer to the family is the hatchback Grand Turismo version, set to appear in March 2013. The GT3 is much more lifestyle-oriented and sportier than the GT5. It has a deep and wide tailgate, but it is a single-piece unit rather than the heavy and complex two-piece hatch of the GT5, and there is more of a notchback silhouette to the rear end. In terms of height, the GT3 sits midway between the 3-series sedan and the GT5.

The four-door sedan is in essence a downsized 5-series, longer, sleeker and more homogenous than the model it supersedes, with none of the polarizing cutlines, flame surfaces, and quirky details. The coupe is not just a two-door sedan with a lower roofline but boasts bespoke sheet metal from nose to tail, featuring more sculptured flanks, a more steeply raked windshield and rear window, a sportier front section and a totally remodelled rear end. To enhance the passive safety performance, BMW has opted for prominent B-posts and thus for fixed rear side windows.

Contrary to earlier plans, the convertible is now likely to retain the controversial retractable hardtop, which is particularly popular in North America and China. There is a slim chance that we might see a 3-series Speedster with a manual fabric roof and a lowered windshield. If that does happen, this car would be engineered and marketed by the M division.

Both the wagon and the GT3 feature a longer wheelbase for additional rear legroom and more spacious luggage compartment. A full-length panorama glass roof with open/tilt mode will be an option for both models.

The next-generation M3 will only come in coupe and convertible versions. In both cases, the 420-hp V-8 will be replaced by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo straight six good for around 450 hp.

Star engines in the new 3-series will be a family of upgraded fours, ranging from 136-hp 1.6-liter to 252-hp 2.0-liter gas models and 150-hp 1.6-liter to 245-hp 2.0-liter turbodiesels. The top diesel engine also boasts a hefty 383 lb-ft of torque. The fuel savings over the current four-bangers range from 11 to 17 percent.

And if five bodystyles isn't enough, product planners are mulling a sixth: a stylish and dynamic three-door "shooting brake" wagon, which would open up a completely new segment. As of right now, though, it's not confirmed for production.