The BMW 3 Series is facing stiff competition from the redesigned Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class but it appears work has already begun on the next-generation model.

The BMW 3 Series is facing stiff competition from the redesigned Audi A4 and Mercedes C Class but it appears work has already begun on the next-generation model.

Set to arrive in 2018, the next 3 Series is expected to adopt a sportier design with sharper creases and harder edges.  Those can't be seen on this particular prototype but the model is still in the early stages of development and a lot can change in the next two years.

The interior remains more of a mystery but reports have suggested the company will focus on improving the model's craftsmanship, character, and quality.  If the rumors pan out, BMW will add higher quality materials and additional equipment.  The next-generation model is also slated to better carpets and improved seals to reduce the amount of noise that penetrates the cabin.

Specifications remain elusive but the model will ride on a new platform that is constructed from aluminum, carbon fiber, and high-strength steel.  This should enable the car to be lighter than its predecessor but the weight saving likely won't be as dramatic as those seen on the 5 and 7 Series.

Engine options remain unconfirmed but will likely include an assortment of four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel options.  We can also expect to see some eco-friendly variants including a plug-in hybrid and possibly even a model with a fuel-cell powertrain.

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