2023 BMW 3 Series Facelift Marries Small Grille With Big Screen
The 3 Series is changing for the 2023 model year, and it’s a mixed bag.
The BMW 3 Series is still perceived to be at the top of the heap among sporty compact luxury sedans, despite an onslaught of competition over the years. It's a shrinking market, sure, but BMW's iconic product is still a barometer for the enthusiast's car world. When the 3 Series changes, it means something. Now it's time for the current generation — the G80 — to get a facelift.
Unlike older mid-life refreshes from the Bavarian automaker, this one follows their recent trend of being more substanital than previous generations. Not in terms of dramatic styling changes, but in the total number of alterations on the inside, outside, and under the hood. Let's get two things out of the way first: The 3 Series now has a big curved screen inside, but it doesn't have nostrils that stretch up and down the entire front fascia. There are other details that you'll want to hear about, too. For now, though, just know that the older G80 3 Series is on the left, and the new facelifted model is on the right.
The design is now more angular, with blended character lines replaced by sharper edges. Likewise, the front and rear fascias now have less colored bodywork — the space is taken up instead by expanded grille openings and other features. The exterior changes are minor compared to the interior, though.
Both the instrument cluster and the sort of free-floating iPad-style infotainment screen we're all used to seeing on the dash have been replaced by one wide display. The physical climate control buttons are all gone, as is the physical shift lever. It's been replaced by a series of switches and buttons that are almost flush with the center console. This is a heavy refresh.
The changes mirror those made on vehicles such as the BMW i4, which uses a near-clone of this interior. Strangely, despite being electric and with just a single-speed transmission, the i4 maintains the conventional shift lever. Go figure.
These changes largely follow modern design trends. Having experienced a very similar (if not the same) version of this new display in another BMW model, this is a step in the wrong direction. It looks cleaner, but overall it's more complicated to use for driver and passengers. Why must climate controls be hidden inside a menu? I'm not sure. Even other vehicles with non-physical climate controls do a better job than this.
All is not lost, thankfully because there are mechanical changes to the top dog M340i that should make it more pleasant to drive. (The powertrains found in the 330i and 330e are mechanically unchanged for 2023.) A 48-volt mild-hybrid system was added to the M340i in the form of a starter-generator. The system harvests braking energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat and sends it back down the driveline via a secondary motor-generator. It can also step down to 12 volts to power accessories, meaning the alternator might not have to work as hard, saving fuel. There's a performance perk, though. The German automaker says this new system will "instantly give the engine sharper response when accelerating off the line or putting in a quick burst of speed for passing, and significantly [refine] the operation of the automatic start/stop function." Specifications of this system like the battery size, power of the starter/generator, and other details were not included.
The powertrains found in the lesser 330e and 330i models stay the same for this refresh, although they can now be ordered with some of the goodies on the M340i. The automaker's magnetically-controlled adaptive suspension now can be had on these cheaper models, for instance. The aggressive styling of the M-Sport package is also maintained. There is no avoiding the big screen, though. All models get a full-sized display, no matter the trim.
While the new facelifted 3 Series looks about the same on the outside, it's very different on the inside — and the M340i gets a bit more sophisticated, too. Pricing details were not included but we expect this new 3 to cost a tad more than the current model. The facelifted 3 Series should arrive later in the summer.
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