This is the most important new car of the year. Scratch that. With all due respect to the VW Golf, this is the most important new car of the next few years. It is, impassioned Internet hounds, the all-new BMW 3 Series.
BMW has released lots of information about its bread-and-butter model; the car that has the biggest responsibility of ringing enough cash registers to allow the creative freedom to build fabulous M cars.
So, here we are. It's the sixth-generation of the venerable junior executive, and retains its trademark rear-wheel-drive and 50:50 weight distribution, together with a chassis that's 50mm longer and 37mm/47mm wider front and back than the current model.
BMW has stiffened up the body, and the five-link rear chassis setup from the E90 has been "improved and refined", while up front, aluminium struts, wishbones and swivel joints complete the fully independent setup. BMW also claims the electromechanical power steering doesn't trade any accuracy or precision. This is something they have to get right.
And powering this new body - lightened by up to 50kg - is a dizzying range of turbocharged engine variants. First up, the 316d and 318d diesels will produce 116bhp and 143bhp respectively, while the 320d will come with a 184bhp version, and a 163bhp Efficient Dynamics model. That latter variant records a claimed 68.9mpg and returns just 109g/km of CO2, and is now available with an eight-speed auto. A six-speed manual is also available.
The 320i, powered by a new turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, will produce 184bhp and just under 200lb ft of torque, while the 328i gets a 245bhp/258lb ft version of this engine. Sadly, it replaces the old naturally-aspirated sixer from the 325i and 330i, but records a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds and fuel consumption of 44mpg, which is some consolation.
The 335i gets the same twin-turbo 3.0-litre six-pot as before.
BMW is fitting 17in alloys with run flat tyres (groan) as standard to every single Three, except the 320d ED, while variable sport steering and M sport suspension with electronically controlled dampers are, naturally, an option.
Inside, the new 3 Series gets 15mm more knee room and 8mm more headroom in the rear, while the height of the rear door and its opening angle have both been increased to ease your ingress/egress. Boot space on the saloon rises to 480 litres, up 20 litres from before.
In addition to BMW's standard trim line-up (ES, SE, Sport, M Sport) comes ‘Modern' and ‘Luxury', and standard spec across all cars includes air-con, Bluetooth, a 6.5in colour screen with iDrive, keyless starting, USB, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and automatic boot opening.
The new BMW 3 Series will make its public debut at the Detroit motor show in January 2012, and will go on sale in the UK on 11 February 2012. Prices start at £24,880 for the 316d ES.
And, here's a little liqueur to help digest this information: BMW has confirmed that a four-wheel-drive 3 Series will appear near the end of 2012, along with a hybrid powertrain that marries the 335i's 306bhp straight-six with a 54bhp electric motor. Anyone else lightly combustible over a possible four-wheel-drive, high-performance Three?
Are your internals becoming highly combustible by this news?