JEREZ, Spain - Most changes to BMW's new 3 series are invisible from the outside. The car is conservatively styled but packed with high-tech improvements.
The new 3 series is bigger than its predecessor, especially on the inside.
Just one component has been carried over from the previous generation, the oil plug in the six-cylinder engine, said Wolfgang Zeibart, who heads the 3 series project.
The car costs 20 percent less to build than its predecessor, he said.
BMW has added a new 2.0-liter, four-valve, direct-injection diesel to the existing 3-series engine range. A four-speed manual transmission is still standard, but BMW has added Steptronic five-speed automatic transmission as an option.
BMW has added electronic stability, cornering and anti-spin control systems.
A new head airbag, called the inflatable tubular structure, is standard on six-cylinder models. Twin front and side bags are standard on all models.
An electronic key allows up to four individualized settings for radio presets, seat positions, climate control and other features.
New headlights are a key design element in the nose. They have longer range and improved illumination. Xenon lights will be offered as an option.
Production of four-cylinder versions began in December. Six-cylinder models will start in May.
The sedan will be followed in 12 months by the coupe. The station wagon follows in 18 months and the convertible in about two years.
The current body styles will be produced until their replacements are ready. BMW does not have the capacity to introduce all variants at once, said Wolfgang Reitzle, BMW's head of marketing, sales and product development.
'If you shoot off like fireworks it's all over,' he said. 'We want our wood to burn on.'