At the Frankfurt auto show, German automaker BMW has confirmed that the next-generation BMW 3-Series will offer a four-cylinder engine. But it’s still two and a half years away.
The twin-turbocharged four-cylinder would likely be offered alongside its much-loved in-line six-cylinder engines, as well as a diesel, as BMW already offers in the 335d.
BMW of North America CEO Jim O’Donnell told Automotive News that a four-cylinder model will be added to the 3-Series lineup by spring 2012, in hopes to meet U.S. fuel economy guidelines seeking a five-percent annual improvement leading up to a 35.5-mpg national standard in 2016.
The move will at last leave performance rivals Audi and BMW both with four-cylinder base models; it’s also likely, but not confirmed, that Mercedes-Benz will bring four-cylinder models back to the lineup.
The BMW 3-Series is already offered with four-cylinder gasoline engines in other markets, with the BMW 320i one of BMW's best-sellers in Europe.
As recently as May, BMW had told TheCarConnection.com that there had not yet been any decision made regarding four-cylinder engines in the U.S., though the turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline four-cylinder that the automaker was considering would have to bring considerable performance and efficiency advantages.
BMW last offered a four-cylinder engine in the U.S. on the 1999 Z3 and 318ti; at that time the four-cylinder models didn’t sell well and had just acceptable performance along with fuel efficiency that wasn’t much better than the automaker’s in-line sixes. The smooth, strong, and efficient in-line six family has long been BMW’s best asset. However a decade later, with power output for turbo four-cylinder engines higher than they were for normally aspirated sixes, it’s likely that shoppers will be more accepting of smaller engines this time around.