2008 BMW 3 Series Review
By KBB.com Editors
What's New for 2008
Now in its fifth generation, BMW's 3 Series carries on as one of the world's premier driving machines. Both Sedan and Sports Wagon variants received a major engine upgrade last year, changing the familiar 325 and 330 name badges to 328 and 335, with the later receiving a twin-turbocharged engine. Even the more affordable members of the family -- rear-wheel-drive 328i Sedan and Sports Wagon and all-wheel-drive 328xi Sedan and Sports Wagon -- offer an impressive roster of comfort and convenience touches in addition to their crisply-tuned suspension packages, standard Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), powerful anti-lock brakes (ABS) and handling characteristics that continue to win rave reviews from driving fans everywhere.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're a genuine driving enthusiast who still believes that there's just something special about German automotive engineering, virtually any selection from the 328i and 328xi menu could be just what you're looking for. Even at its entry level, the 3 Series package provides an engaging mix of character, quality and performance.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you prefer a suspension tuned more towards ride comfort than control, want a rear seat with lots of legroom or need a spacious trunk, the 3 Series may be less attractive than some of its European or Japanese competitors -- although the Sports Wagon does offer impressive cargo room even with the rear seat up. BMW's iDrive integrated controller that's included with the optional navigation system also has been criticized for its unnecessary complexity.
Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are available on models equipped with the six-speed STEPTRONIC transmission and Sport Package. The 328 models receive new 16-inch alloy wheels and chrome-tipped exhaust pipes, while HD radio is made available across the line.
Driving the 3 Series
True to tradition, even the entry-level 3 Series offers a full measure of BMW's legendary driving DNA. Fortified with abundant power and torque, both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive variants, in either...
body style and with either transmission, are plenty fast from zero to 60 mph and easily capable of coping with any kind of traffic situation. There's a precise feel to the steering and the well-sorted suspension provides exceptional confidence through even the most challenging corners. While some may find the ride a tad too taut -- particularly when fitted with the optional Sport Package -- we think the handling advantages more than offset any minor comfort tradeoff. BMW's excellent xDrive all-wheel-drive system also makes dealing with inclement weather considerably less stressful.
Order a 3 Series with a manual transmission and you'll enjoy the benefits of this subtle but effective helper that automatically applies the brakes for a few seconds whenever you're stopped on a hill to help prevent the car from rolling backwards while you engage first gear.
Optional Active Steering
This high-tech adjunct to the standard power steering varies the effective turning ratio to correspond with vehicle velocity, making it easier to maneuver at low speeds while enhancing stability under freeway cruising conditions.
2008 BMW 3 Series Details
Although slightly roomier than any of its predecessors, the 2008 BMW 3 Series remains a compact sedan that provides better accommodations in its firm but comfortably supportive front bucket seats than in the rear bench -- where six-footers are apt to feel a bit confined. The clean, elegant look is highlighted by standard leatherette upholstery set off by Burl Walnut, Poplar Natural Wood or aluminum trim. Legible white-on-black instruments and a multifunction steering wheel on a tilt and telescoping column reinforce its driver-centric character, while models fitted with the optional navigation package get an alternative "double-wave" dash to accommodate the central video display.
A relatively long wheelbase coupled with short front and rear overhangs, plus a slight wedge shape, gives the compact 3 Series a dynamic flair that reflects common styling cues with the larger 5 Series and 7 Series, elements that are further reinforced by the signature twin-kidney grilles. Unique headlamp and taillight treatments help define the 3 Series' character, and the 17- and 18-inch wheels that are part of the optional Sport Package impart an even more aggressive stance than the standard 16-inch alloy rims. All 3 Series models are fitted with extended-mobility run-flat tires, so no spare is included.
In keeping with its performance heritage, the 2008 BMW 3 Series emphasizes precise handling by augmenting its well-tuned suspension with the comprehensive Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system. DSC interfaces with the car's powerful anti-lock brakes (ABS) as well as with Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) on rear-wheel-drive models or Hill Descent Control (HDC) on all-wheel-drive vehicles. In addition to the expected power assists, the 3 Series offers numerous comfort and convenience touches, including cruise control, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system and a single (Sedans) or dual (Sports Wagons) power moonroof. All models feature run-flat tires, dual front and front-side airbags plus BMW's front- and rear-seat Head Protection System (HPS).
Key single extras include a six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission, eight-way power front seats with driver memory, corner-following Xenon Adaptive Headlights, Comfort Access keyless entry and start, distance-maintaining Active Cruise Control, Active Power Steering that varies effort and ratio with vehicle speed, a navigation system with real-time traffic information and iDrive integrated multifunction controller, Dakota Leather upholstery, Logic7 Sound System, HD radio and SIRIUS Satellite Radio. The Cold Weather Package includes headlamp washers and heated front seats, while a Premium Package brings leather plus a subscription to BMW Assist that includes real-time help and concierge service at the push of a button. The Sport Package nets tauter suspension, sport seats and 17-inch wheels and tires.
Under the Hood
Although the 328i and 335i share the same 3.0-liter engine displacement, how BMW tweaks each engine makes all the difference in the world. In the 328 models, an ultra-smooth 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine makes a respectable 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. In the 335, twin turbochargers up the output to 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Another welcome touch is BMW's sophisticated Double VANOS variable valve-timing system that bolsters low- and mid-range responsiveness while helping make the engine even more efficient.
3.0-liter in-line 6
230 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
200 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/28 (Sedan, manual, 2WD), 19/28 (Sedan, automatic, 2WD), 17/27 (Sports Wagon, manual, 2WD), 18/27 (Sports Wagon, automatic, 2WD), 17/25 (AWD)
3.0-liter in-line 6 twin-turbocharged
300 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
300 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26 (manual, 2WD), 17/26 (automatic, 2WD), 16/25 (manual, 4WD), 17/25 (automatic, 4WD)
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