• The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB Came To Shanghai With Its Sights Set On the Audi A4 L and Mercedes C-Class L

Bimmer’s new long 3er will have stiff competition from some familiar foes

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The BMW 3 Series has a long-wheelbase variant, and it’s only available in the Chinese market. The newest version of the stretched 3 Series is on display at Auto Shanghai 2019,proving yet again that, at least in China, stretched sedans are the business. The 3 Series LWB shares most of its features with the standard 3er. The only benefit is that it’s longer, which, in turn, provides more interior space for its owners, particularly those who would want to stretch their legs in the back seats. The long-wheelbase 3 Series will go on sale in China by the middle of the year, where it will compete with similar stretched models like the Mercedes C-Class L, Audi A4 L, and Jaguar XEL. Production will take place in the country through BMW’s partnership with China’s Brilliance Auto Group.

The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB is a China-Only Masterpiece

The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB Came To Shanghai With Its Sights Set On the Audi A4 L and Mercedes C-Class L
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Should we really be surprised that stretched sedans are popular in China? The segment is booming in popularity in the world’s largest car market, and a number of automakers have taken advantage of it. Mercedes already sells the C-Class L and the A-Class L in the market. It also introduced the Mercedes-AMG A35 L at Auto Shanghai 2019. Audi’s in on the fun, too, with the A4 L, while Jaguar is looking to break into the segment with the XEL, joining the EXF, which has been on sale for a few years now. For its part, BMW has been selling stretched sedans in the Chinese market for a while now. The all-new 3 Series LWB is just the latest addition to the fold.

So, what exactly is the deal here? Why are the Chinese so infatuated with long-wheelbase sedans? While there’s no clear-cut answer to this question, it’s hard to imagine that prestige and status aren’t involved in this equation.

The Chinese have become increasingly sophisticated with their car-buying methods, particularly those with the financial means to buy prestige models like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Jaguar.

Brand status and everything that goes with it is intoxication, especially when it’s rewarded with a heightened sense of social stature. It’s not enough that BMW has the 3 Series or Mercedes has the C-Class. Chinese buyers want something better, and in the absence of meaningful upgrades in other areas of these models, that “something better” manifests itself in increased comfort and the perception of luxury. That’s where the stretched sedans come in. They’re basically limousines by virtue of their longer bodies, and the word “limousine” holds plenty of cache in luxury circles.

The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB Came To Shanghai With Its Sights Set On the Audi A4 L and Mercedes C-Class L
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The more obvious answer to the question of why stretched sedans are popular in China has everything to do with space and comfort. Buyers aren’t buying the 3 Series LWB because of its looks and features. If that were the case, the standard 3 Series is an equally palatable and, more importantly, a more affordable option. If anything, the design of the standard 3er is carried over to the LWB version. There are some changes to certain features, but they’re inconsequential at best. The big difference is the sedan’s length. The 3 Series LWB features a longer wheelbase, and that equates to more space in the interior.

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The numbers back it up, too. The new 3 Series LWB’s wheelbase measures 2,961 mm (116.57 inches) long. That’s 41 mm (1.6 inches) longer than the standard BMW 3 Series, which has a wheelbase of 2,851 mm (112.24 inches). That’s a longer wheelbase by a little over four inches, which, in turn, equates to an extra 1.7 inches of legroom for rear passengers. Granted, 1.7 inches doesn’t sound like a lot, but when it comes to rear seat legroom, it’s a world of difference. Overall, the 3 Series LWB measures 4,829 mm (1901.18 inches) compared to the standard 3 Series, which measures 4,719 mm (185.78 inches) long.

For perspective’s sake, the BMW 3 Series LWB is longer than some of its rivals. The Audi A4L, for example, measures 4,815 mm (189.6 inches) long with a wheelbase measuring 2,856 mm (114 inches) long. Meanwhile, the Mercedes C-Class L measures 4,765 mm (187.6 inches) long with a wheelbase measuring roughly around 2,920 mm (115 inches) while the Jaguar XEL has a wheelbase that measures 2,935 mm (115.5 inches) long.

It’s funny to think how much difference four inches make in the grand scheme of things. Not only does the extra length provide more space in the interior, but it also forces BMW to install elongated rear doors to make up the difference. By virtue of being longer, the 3 Series LWB’s rear doors make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the car. Notice the domino effect in all of this?

The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB Came To Shanghai With Its Sights Set On the Audi A4 L and Mercedes C-Class L
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It’s no secret that BMW is marketing the 3 Series LWB as a more upscale version of the standard 3 Series.

That’s why, despite the two models looking similar in more ways than one, the 3 LWB does have a number of other advantages over its shorter counterpart. The rear seats, for example, have been designed specifically for the LWB model with “special shaping and pampering upholstery” in mind. The seats come with new headrests, as well, to go along with a bespoke rear central armrest. There are also new headrests with “super-comfortable” cushions, along with a bespoke rear central armrest. Bimmer also installed an illuminated contour strip on the back of the front seats for improved ambiance. Likewise, the front and rear sill plates are also illuminated, and the 3 Series LWB boasts new speaker covers. Unfortunately, the increased interior space doesn’t manifest itself in the trunk where cargo space remains at 17 cubic feet. Still, that’s enough space to accommodate as many as three golf bags or a month’s worth of grocery bags.

The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB Came To Shanghai With Its Sights Set On the Audi A4 L and Mercedes C-Class L
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The new BMW 3 Series LWB is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine producing 181 horsepower and 221 pound-feet (300 Newton-meters) of torque. This specific engine is offered in the 325Li launch model with an eight-speed automatic transmission sending power to the rear axle.

There’s no hiding the truth behind the BMW 3 Series LWB’s popularity China.

In 2018 alone, sales of the 3 Series L reached a record 134,479 units.

In the first three months of the year, BMW’s year-on-year sales chart is also trending north with sales adding up to 41,134 sold units in the first three months of 2019. The figure represents a 20-percent increase in sales volume compared to the 33,792 units BMW sold from January to March 2018.

The 2020 BMW 3 Series LWB Came To Shanghai With Its Sights Set On the Audi A4 L and Mercedes C-Class L
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So the next time you’re wondering about the popularity of stretched sedans in China and why automakers like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and Jaguar are so quick to build the long-wheelbase variants, consider their popularity in the country. Really, that’s all you need to know.

Further reading

2019 BMW 3 Series
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Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 3 Series.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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Premium German carmaker BMW is presenting the second generation of a variant of its globally successful sports sedan developed exclusively for the Chinese market. The long-wheelbase version of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan will celebrate its world premiere at the Auto Shanghai 2019 show. Tailored specifically to the requirements of Chinese customers, it combines the new, elegantly sporty and emotionally rich design of the latest-generation BMW 3 Series Sedan with the most spacious and comfortable interior of any premium mid-size car, plus ground-breaking innovations in intelligent connectivity.

The long-wheelbase version of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan meets the needs of young, progressive customers in the Chinese market. It was developed alongside the new BMW 3 Series Sedan with standard wheelbase at the BMW Group’s Munich home in cooperation with Chinese engineers. With a wheelbase extended by 11 centimetres and exclusive equipment features, the long-wheelbase version of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan offers exceptional driving pleasure and outstanding comfort for rear passengers. It is also the first model available in China to feature the innovative BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which elevates intuitive operation and driver/vehicle interaction to a new level.

The long-wheelbase version of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan will be produced by BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) at its Tiexi plant in Shenyang, Liaoning Province (north-eastern China). The facility began operations in 2012 as the second production plant in the BMW Group / Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. joint venture. Among the models built here is the China-only variant of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan with standard wheelbase, which will likewise be unveiled for the first time at Auto Shanghai 2019.

The two body variants of the new sports sedan allow customers in China to plump for either extra dynamism or even greater comfort. Both model variants have all the ingredients to build on the successful history of the BMW 3 Series Sedan, which in China is headlined by an incredibly rapid growth in demand. Much of the credit here goes to the long-wheelbase version, which accounts for almost 80 per cent of 3 Series Sedan sales in China. All in all, around one in three new BMW 3 Series cars will be delivered to customers in China.

With this prognosis in mind and in keeping with the “production follows the market” principle, capacity at BMW Brilliance Automotive’s Tiexi plant has been ramped up once again. This demand-oriented production strategy is also contributing significantly to the burgeoning success of BMW models in other segments of the Chinese car market. Like the BMW 3 Series Sedan, the BMW 5 Series Sedan and BMW X1 are also offered in long-wheelbase versions developed specially for Chinese customers – and produced in Shenyang exclusively for the Chinese market.

New design language and distinctive proportions.

The distinct character of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan in long-wheelbase guise stems from its extra 11 centimetres of wheelbase and the associated increase in seating comfort and legroom in the rear compartment. Its body design blends the new, extremely precise design language and sporting aura of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan with distinctive proportions. The new car improves significantly on its predecessor’s aerodynamics by virtue of finely judged optimisations. Encompassing an exterior length of 4,829 millimetres and a 2,961-millimetre wheelbase, the exterior dimensions of the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan outstrip those of any other car in its class. BMW’s hallmark sporting prowess is embodied here by short overhangs, a long bonnet and a set-back passenger compartment. The four-door model’s stretched silhouette underscores its inherent elegance and hints at the enviable spaciousness of the interior.

The powerful stature and sporty looks of the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan are accentuated by the 18-inch light-alloy wheels fitted as standard. The long-wheelbase version of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan features LED headlights with extended features. The trapezoidal tailpipe embellishers of the twin-pipe exhaust system add an eye-catching design flourish to the rear of the car.

Interior: extra space and exclusive appointments.

The extended wheelbase and stretched flank lines of the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan are all about increasing spaciousness for rear-seat passengers. The rear doors are also 11 centimetres longer than those of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan with standard wheelbase, allowing particularly easy access to the rear seats. Add the special shaping and pampering upholstery of the rear seats to the mix and you have an outstanding level of rear-seat comfort over long journeys. The new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan also offers an extra 43 millimetres of legroom in the rear compartment over the new BMW 3 Series Sedan with standard wheelbase, which sets a new benchmark in the class. The newly designed headrest, with their super-comfortable cushions, and the central armrest between the rear seats are likewise designed to provide a cosseting driving experience, while roomy map pockets are integrated into the front seat backrests. The design of the speaker covers has been developed specially for the Chinese market. In another model-specific feature, the ambient lighting also includes an illuminated contour strip on the back of the front seats. The luggage compartment of the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan can swallow 480 litres of gear, including as many as three golfbags.

The comfort-oriented character of the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan is also highlighted by a host of other model-specific equipment features. The panoramic glass roof, for example, ensures an effective supply of fresh air and a light, airy ambience for the interior. The attractive specification also includes a sports leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons and electroplated applications, and three-zone automatic climate control (with separate controls in the rear compartment and active carbon filters to optimise interior air quality). Like the rear-seat passengers, the driver and front passenger settle into comfort seats with Sensatec trim. Pronounced contouring, exclusive stitching and comfort headrest also help to make both the front and rear seats exceptionally pleasant places to be. Defining features of the driver-focused cockpit include instrument cluster/Control Display grouping and the modern design of the centre console, which houses the gearshift selector lever, Driving Experience Control switch, Controller for the iDrive control/operating system and button for the electromechanical parking brake. Two USB ports in the rear compartment and another under the centre console armrest between the front seats allow those on board to plug in digital devices.

The acoustic glass of the windscreen and optimisations to other body details ensure an extremely effective level of soundproofing for the interior. The ambient lighting includes the Welcome Light Carpet, which generates a striking light graphic where the driver and passengers get into and out of the car. Added to which, the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan comes with illuminated door sill plates for both the front and rear.

Developed in Munich, made in Shenyang: the four-cylinder engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology.

A four-cylinder engine from the latest generation of power units developed by the BMW Group in Munich brings sports performance to the BMW 325Li launch model. The new petrol unit generates maximum output of 135 kW/184 hp from its 2.0-litre displacement and peak torque of 300 Nm (221 lb-ft). It is produced at the BMW Brilliance Automotive engine plant in Shenyang and features advanced BMW TwinPower Turbo technology. A twin-scroll turbocharger, High Precision Injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve timing and Double-VANOS variable camshaft control deliver instantaneous response, the appetite for revs drivers expect from a BMW, exceptional efficiency and minimised emissions.

The engine teams up with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission to send its power to the road through the rear wheels.

Advanced driver assistance systems pave the way for automated driving.

The selection of driver assistance systems on board is significantly more extensive than on the predecessor model, and their innovative functionality helps pave the way for automated driving in the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan. Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Change Warning, Rear Collision Prevention and Cross Traffic Alert are joined by Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function. Driving Assistant Professional also contains other features – including the Steering and lane control assistant, which takes its lead from road markings and vehicles travelling ahead and keeps the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan safely on track in traffic jams and bottlenecks. At speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph) and under certain road conditions, the automated driving mode can be used for an unlimited time as long as the driver maintains concentration on the road. To this end, their line of vision is monitored permanently by a camera integrated into the cockpit. Another element of Driving Assistant Professional is the Emergency Stop Assistant.

The Parking Assistant, which gives the driver a helping hand with manoeuvring and parking, is included in the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan. It takes over steering, braking and acceleration duties when parking in spaces parallel with and perpendicular to the road and when manoeuvring out of parallel spaces. The system also features Active Park Distance Control, the Reversing Assist camera, the Lateral parking aid and the reversing assistant.

Control/operation and connectivity: China premiere for the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant.

The modern, digital functions of the new BMW Operating System 7.0 – geared precisely to the needs of the driver – optimise intuitive operation in the new long-wheelbase BMW 3 Series Sedan. The system comes with BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which encompasses consistently designed, situation-linked and customisable screens for the fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.25-inch Control Display. Touchscreen functionality for the Control Display, the iDrive Controller, steering wheel buttons, voice control and gesture control (optional) give the driver various operating methods from which to choose.

Another new arrival in the field of control/operation and intelligent connectivity is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, an intelligent, digital character that responds to the prompt “Hey BMW” and is making its debut in a model offered for the Chinese market. One unique feature over other digital assistants is that drivers can give him a name. The arrival of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant ensures there is always a genuine BMW professional on board. He is able to explain all sorts of different functions (“How does the High Beam Assistant work?”), provide current status information (“Is the oil level okay?”) and help answer questions (“What warning messages do I have?”). The Intelligent Personal Assistant is, in short, the ideal co-driver and comes in particularly useful during everyday driving by responding to natural voice commands to help the driver with numerous tasks, such as enhancing productivity and on-board entertainment. The range of functions and skills available will be constantly expanded as part of regular updates, which can be carried out seamlessly on a smartphone and in-car by Remote Software Upgrade.

The long-wheelbase version of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan will only be available in China.

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