The Paris Motor Show shines, somewhat, when the Germans are resting. Specifically, the Paris show runs in even years, when there’s no Frankfurt Auto Show. Frankfurt runs in odd years. Frankfurt in a bad year is bigger than Paris on a fabulous year, and this year’s Paris show was toward the softer side. Still, when BMW unveils the latest generation of the best-selling luxury-sport sedan ever, the 3 Series, you know Paris can’t be too bad.
Here’s our take on the top cars of Mondial de l’Auto Paris 2018, held in Paris’s Porte de Versailles exhibition center. In addition to the Mercedes-Benz B-Class and EVs from Audi and Mercedes, it was French automakers Renault, Peugeot, DS, and Citroën that, not surprisingly, stepped in to fill the gap for the home-team show.
The star of the Paris show was the seventh-generation 3 Series compact sedan. USA prices will start at $41,195 for the 330i with a four-cylinder turbo, which seems like a lot — but then the very first 1977 320i cost $36,000 at today’s prices. The new one is about the same size as the outgoing 3 Series. There will be a lot of tech standard and more available at high prices with very high levels of performance. (Example: surround view cameras, which most everyone offers. BMW adds clearance indicators showing proximity to hazards with green, yellow, or red spacing bubbles.) Infotainment will work with a BMW-developed conversational set of commands, and BMW plans for its take on Siri to be usable in the home. If Apple thinks it can build cars, why can’t BMW build natural language interfaces, and why shouldn’t BMW charge you to use Siri in your car, likely $80 a year?
3 Series headlamps will be LED. Steerable laser headlamps are an option.
The first cars in early 2019 will be the 330i rear- and all-wheel drive with the turbo four producing 255 hp with an eight-speed automatic. (No 3 Series manual transmission except on M3. It’s dead. 10 percent acceptance rate worldwide, far less in the US.) The M340i, not the same thing as an M3, gets a turbo inline-six with 382 hp (up 65). A plug-in hybrid 330e will be out in 2020. There also will be an M3. There is an outside chance we’ll see a diesel 3 Series, but it’s more likely plug-in hybrids will be BMW’s high-mpg play.
As the 3 Series grew chubbier, BMW club fanatics flocked to the 2 Series instead. BMW says improved performance was top-of-mind when designing the 2019 G20 (code name) 3 Series. Weight is down about 125 pounds; the formerly steel hood is now aluminum. The new 3 Series needs to be good because the competition from the Audi A6 (new in 2016) and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2014) is fierce.
Vinfast director of design Dave Lyon, Miss Vietnam 2018 Tran Tieu Vy, and David Beckham at VinFast launch at the Paris Motor Show at Parc des Expositions.
Beckham, Miss Vietnam Introduce New Car Brand
Almost as interesting as the cars themselves was finding out which British papers sided with the “off year for Paris but still not bad” faction, and which declared Paris “deader than a doornail,” such as the Daily Mail, which simply had to be there, however, since:
a) former footballer David Beckham was in attendance,
b) Beckham’s thinning hair (a standalone DM story) looked much thicker when he stood alongside
c) Miss Vietnam Tran Tieu Vy in a form-fitting dress as they
d) helping launched Vinfast, a luxury carmaker from Vietnam
e) whose first vehicles would come to market in 2019, and
f) wasn’t it interesting that Beckham had just beaten a speeding ticket (59 in a 40 zone in a Bentley) on a technicality?
g) but only his lawyer was in court and instead
h) Beckham and wife Victoria were in Paris “celebrat[ing] over a £1,300 [$1,700] bottle of French wine.”
The British do get to the essence of auto shows.