By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.2
In the 35-plus years since its introduction, the BMW 3 Series has come a long, long way. For 2012, the 3 Series has grown into a raft of separate model designations, ranging from the 328i Sedan to the 335is Coupe and diesel-powered 335d Sedan. In between these extremes are more coupe variants, a handful of additional sedans, two wagons and three convertibles, along with availability of xDrive all-wheel-drive (AWD) models.
There are sports sedans, sports coupes and sport convertibles. And then there is the BMW 3 Series. While any number of manufacturers will adapt key elements of BMW's mainstay into their product portfolio, no one - to date - has duplicated the 3's seductive combination of performance, handling and day-to-day utility. Drivers love it, geeks (especially those with an affinity for elegant engineering) love it, and families love it. True, Audi is making inroads into the American consciousness, and Infiniti's G37 represents a compelling performance alternative, but neither puts it all together quite like BMW.
If the balanced handling benefits of rear-wheel drive don't resonate, or you live in an area which places a premium on all-wheel drive, the 2011 BMW 3 Series may not be the best of your available options. And despite improved warranties and no-cost maintenance during that warranty period, older, high-mileage German is typically more expensive to maintain than older Japanese or domestic.
The seemingly still-new 2011 3 Series benefits from a number of small visual updates, including new hood and front fascia, new headlights featuring an "eyebrow" for the daytime running lights, reshaped exterior mirrors with enhanced aerodynamics, and a new rear treatment that visually widens the car. Additionally, the 3 Series coupe and convertible receive a new side-skirt design. On top of the visual changes is a host of new options, combined with new variations in color, trim and upholstery.
Driving Impressions For the committed BMW aficionado or someone relatively new to the marque, the driving experience is key to realizing - and benefiting from - your substantial investment. If you live...in an area not conducive to even the occasional full-throttle blast, forego the BMW. In fact, you should probably forego individual transportation all together. A balanced platform, communicative steering, composed ride and stop-on-a-deutschmark (now discontinued) braking make for one of the most entertaining experiences in the automotive realm. And with available all-wheel drive (xDrive) and diesel power, that ultimate experience or joy (take your pick) can now be experienced in the snowbelt or by the compulsive greenie. One note of caution: If you live in an area of the country where streets are poorly maintained, avoid the sport suspension. Its benefits on the smooth stuff won't offset its punishment on the rough stuff. Each 2011 BMW 3 Series model offers a 6-speed manual transmission or, for a fee, a 6-speed automatic. The only two exceptions are the diesel-powered 335d, which comes exclusively with the 6-speed automatic, and the 335is, whose optional transmission is BMW's 7-speed double-clutch automatic.
We were inclined to suggest the base 3.0-liter six for its essential goodness, but defaulted to the TwinPower Turbo for its almost sublime explosiveness. And then we were reminded of rising fuel prices and the diesel's 36 mpg highway rating. With the thrust of a V8 and the economy of a four, it's the right powertrain for the car - and the obvious choice for the times.
BMW's Ultimate Service
If you have the financial wherewithal to buy or lease a BMW, it's assumed you have the financial capability to weather the 4-figure service visit. Just because you can, however, doesn't mean you want to. A BMW may be about the joy of driving, but Ultimate Servce - where everything from oil to wipers to brake rotors are replaced free of charge (during the warranty period) - adds to the joy of BMW ownership.
Few, if any, carmakers know their brand DNA quite like BMW. The 2011 BMW 3 Series is longer, and the greenhouse - in relative terms - is less generous, but the basic 3 Series design rules apply: long hood, short rear deck, and good sight lines to better allow aggressive urban or suburban driving. The 2011 models benefit from modest updates to the front and rear, but these are modest - and do nothing to outdate their immediate predecessor.
In each of its successive generations the BMW 3 Series grows incrementally. Happily, each growth spurt nets a small improvement in interior comfort. Most of that, however, remains with front seat passengers, who enjoy comfortable and supportive accommodation. The 2011 3 Series is more typically targeted at professional couples and/or youngish families, and is never intended to be the principal people mover. Young professionals and their families will be very happy with the accommodation. For those needing more utility, the Sports Wagon remains in the lineup, as does an all-new X3 SUV for 2012.
All BMW models come with a generous level of standard equipment, and all can absolutely kill you - or, at least, kill a budget - with onerous ad-ons in the option column. Choose the high-performance variant of the standard 2011 BMW 335i, the 335is, and you'll find yourself driving a sport derivative imbued with all that's good for the performance enthusiast. The 335is upgrades include 20 more horsepower - to 320 - from the TwinPower Turbo, and that power is controlled via Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control. And the "s" provides extensive use of aluminum in various suspension components, sport suspension calibration, and an aero kit. Mounted on 18-inch rims, the tires are staggered in width with 225/40s in front and 255/35s in back. Inside, if you grow tired of the sounds of BMW's twin-turbocharged in-line-6, you can turn up the standard HD audio.
While every imaginable option variance is available on a 3 Series, the 335is Coupe is the notable odd duck. You might reasonably expect leather to be standard on the 2011 BMW 335is Coupe, especially in light of a $51K base price. And you would be wrong. Leather - in a variety of attractive flavors - will cost $1,450, while the Premium Package, affording you a digital compass mirror, BMW Assist with Bluetooth, lumbar support, auto-dimming mirrors and a universal garage door opener will add $2,650. Separate options include navigation for $2,100 and Harman Kardon surround sound for a relatively reasonable $875.
It used to be so easy. A "328" designation conveyed a 2.8-liter displacement, while the "335" would indicate a capacity of 3.5 liters. Despite our disconnect with the nomenclature, we won't argue with the results. The normally aspirated 3.0-liter in-line-6 produces an ultra-smooth 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. The 3.0-liter six fitted to the 335i models boasts twin turbochargers and 300 horsepower in standard guise, and 320 when you move up to the 335is. Finally, the 3.0-liter diesel, also an in-line-6, offers a 36-mpg EPA rating on the highway and 50-state certification. All can propel you from zero to jail in an amazingly brief sprint, and hang out all day on the autobahn - or your version of the autobahn.
328i Sedan & 328i xDrive Sedan / 328i Coupe / 328i Convertible /
328i Sports Wagon & 328i xDrive Sports Wagon
230 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque @ 2,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
328i Sedan: 18/28
328i xDrive Sedan: 17/25 (manual), 17/26 (automatic)
328i Coupe: 17/25 (manual), 17/26 (automatic)
328i Convertible: 17/26 (manual), 18/27 (automatic)
328i Sports Wagon: 17/26 (manual), 18/27 (automatic)
328i xDrive Sports Wagon: 17/25 (manual), 17/26 (automatic)
335i Sedan & 335i xDrive Sedan / 335i Coupe & 335i xDrive Coupe / 335i Convertible
3.0-liter inline-6 twin-turbocharged
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
335i Sedan: 19/28
335i xDrive Sedan: 19/26 (manual), 18/27 (automatic)
335i Coupe: 19/28
335i xDrive Coupe: 19/26 (manual), 18/27 (automatic)
335i Convertible: 19/28
335is Coupe / 335is Convertible
3.0 liter inline-6 twin-turbocharged
320 horsepower @ 5,900 rpm
332 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 (manual), 17/24 (automatic)
3.0-liter inline-6 twin-turbocharged diesel
265 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm
425 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/36
By Rob on Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 133,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Style, performance, comfort, stereo system"
Cons: "Expensive to maintain"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I've owned my 330xi for four years and put 80,000 miles on it. And I love it. It's great fun to drive on the highways, in the twisties, and in the snow. Repairs/replacements (brakes, shocks, struts, run-flat tires) can be fairly pricy, though. Shop around. Just can't beat the BMW driving experience."
By mjmarovi on Monday, October 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Performance, Handling, Styling, Build Quality"
Cons: "Stock Rear Differential is Open Design"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I am absolutely a gearhead and someone who pays close to attention to all of the details of how a car is made, it's aftermarket appeal, or the quality of the driving experience in stock form it delivers. Although many cars offer similar options as the 335i like heated and power seats, automatic windshield wipers (these are superior to others I've used/had in other makes version), moonroof, etc. there are some key differences in the 335i. BMW's rack and pinion steering is absolutely one of the best on the market. The car is predictable and you always feel like you are in complete control of the car but not pushing the car past what it can do. The powertrain is purely astonishing. Everything from the motor, transmission, and fuel system are designed to handle power levels far beyond it's stock rating. (which is underrated by about 10% by the way). This is great for someone who is looking into aftermarket enchancements for greater power, or someone who simply looking for long term reliability from a car in stock form. Once you combine the interior luxury (no it's not an Aston Martin of course), but the interior is completely functional. It's not overly flashy, but everything works and is very clean. The retractable cupholders are a great touch and storage is ample. What really sets this car apart for me though is the timeless exterior styling and the twin turbo inline 6 forged internals powerplant, or better known as the N54. Truly a fantastic car that is tough to be without jumping up into a much higher price point. It's the little things like the active headlights and additional side light that turns on when you make a turn, the automatic wipers, the adjustable seat bolsters, the twin turbo motor, you just know you're not in an average car."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Puerto Rican 335d on Friday, October 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent mileage,fun to drive,LOTS of Torque"
Cons: "EGR/DPF/Urea Tank all 3 are a pain on your 335d"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I ordered my car, the I6 Twin Scroll DIESEL is a beast once its moded, but there is a MAJOR flaw and it is that BMWoA did not see, and that is the infamous UREA tank, DPF and sensor will go out constantly luckily the warranty helps out. Also, the EGR(exhaust gas recirculator) is very detrimental for the engine and will cause CBU(carbon build up) something BMWoA i aware off and will not pay for , yes, you have to pay for the cleaning. Otherwise, the car is EXCELLENT, the other alternative is to forgo the DPF/EGR and code it out"
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Izzy on Sunday, October 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "great to drive on the highway, lot of fun."
Cons: "not smooth too many faults for price"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"grossly over rated car, also overpriced, there's a lag in the AWD pickup, the shock absorbers are not very responsive to road conditions, its jarring to go even over a small sudden bump. The gas tank needed a major repair while under warranty for faulty recording of gas levels. Great car to drive on a highway but not so much fun on a commute. Poor gas mileage in city drive. Not good in the snow."
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Bobby on Friday, October 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handles well but that was about it."
Cons: "The motor and the ride in particular were extremel"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"I had already owned a 2004 325xi and a 2005 325ci, both of which were great cars. The 2007 328xi that I had was a total nightmare from its extremely hard riding run flat tires to the sputtering V-6 engine. Just a terrible experience that has probably turned me off to ever owning another 3 series. Overall experience on this particular car was POOR."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By JWJ on Monday, September 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 85,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The car is truly awesome in a lot of ways. The torque makes everyday driving situations a joy. It has the power to push you back in your seat at very low rpm. It is fast and handles superbly. Rock solid and planted at triple digit speeds. Gets 37mpg at 70 and 29.5mpg at 90 on the interstate. However, if I had it to do over again I would not get the sport suspension unless you are going to be driving somewhere with very smooth roads, are under 40, or are a glutton for punishment. I have driven a 328 with normal suspension from the same year and it was much more pleasant on city streets but was not as razor sharp and flat in the curves.(Nor was it nearly as fast) What you get with this car is a sub 6 second zero-60, well handling, good looking, practical vehicle with outstanding highway fuel economy. Perfect for someone who travels a lot."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful