1998 - The fourth generation; May 1998 sees the arrival of the fourth generation of the BMW 3 Series, offering yet a further increase in power, comfort and safety. The new model is four centimetres longer and wider than its predecessor, the interior also having grown accordingly. At the end of 1999, the BMW 3 Series climbs to third place in the registration statistics, something a car in this class has never achieved before.
The brand’s first diesel direct injection engine makes its debut in the 320d and the 318i is equipped for the first time with two balance shafts. The technically most prominent measure implemented on the six-cylinder petrol engines is the introduction of double VANOS. Along with the intake and exhaust camshaft, this fully automatic and infinitely variable adjustment technology provides the engine with a ‘beefier’ torque curve and further reduced emissions. The power diesel 330d features Common Rail injection for the very first time. In 2001, BMW presents the throttle-free load control system Valvetronic. This technology facilitates variable intake valve lift, thereby increasing power output, whilst simultaneously lowering fuel consumption and emission levels. Only a short time later, Valvetronic goes into large-scale production.
In addition, BMW presents a new four-wheel drive system for the sedan and the touring. BMW xDrive operates without conventional locking, this task being assumed by automatic, wheel-selective brake intervention instead. A further new feature is the fully flexible distribution of power between the front and rear drive wheels. Moreover, fourth-generation trendsetters include the BMW 3 Series Coupé and the 3 Series Convertible, which are now available with a diesel engine and cleverly combine driving fun, styling and practicability.
Source: BMW press