By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.5
The first iteration of an all-new, sixth-generation 3 Series – the 328i Sedan – lands in U.S. showrooms by February or March of 2012, but demand for the current generation shows no signs of abating. From its introduction in 1975, BMW's 3 Series has morphed into more variations than one might have imagined. Thankfully, BMW's original intent has remained the same: Provide driving enthusiasts with a dynamic platform wrapped in reasonable comfort and sitting on a responsible footprint. Prices are well north of where they started, luxury and electronics abound, but the guiding principles found in the first generation remain in the fifth gen. And note that the 3 Series sedan continues as a 2011 model until the first quarter of 2012, when the all-new sedan debuts as a 2012 model.
If you regard driving as both an "act" and an "art," you'll enjoy the 3 Series. After 35 years, BMW's volume model remains the defining example when consumers reference a "sport sedan." That is, a nimble, responsive chassis embodying most of the attributes of a Grand Tourer, but clothed in more upright, practical bodywork. Whether you opt for the 2-door Coupe, 4-door sedan or M3 Convertible, the 3 Series execution remains faithful to the 1975 concept. Of course, when looking at the M3, it's the 1975 concept on drugs.
As good as the 3 Series is, it's not for everyone. With rear-wheel drive, the handling on dry pavement is more balanced, but less secure when roads are wet, icy or snow-covered. And that same commitment to rear-wheel drive intrudes on interior room; most competitive sedans and wagons in the price segment opt for front- or all-wheel drive to better balance on-road dynamics with passenger accommodation. Finally, if you hold onto a car longer than the finance period – or warranty period – you'll find "German" typically more maintenance-intensive than Japanese or domestic alternatives.
While near the end of its product cycle, the 3 Series received a number of visual and functional updates in 2011. To that end, the existing models benefit from little more than fine-tuning. Notably, as of 2012 the M3 4-door is no more; this is a 3 Series variant those wanting to travel at 150 mph (with their kids) will certainly miss. Going forward, the new sedan makes its debut first, after which BMW will fill in the coupe, convertible and wagon gaps.
Driving Impressions BMW has been playing this particular game – sport sedan, coupe, convertible and (if you will) sport wagon – about as long as anyone. To that end, they have reduced...handling to an absolute science, with all driver inputs – steering, throttle and braking – perfectly executed, unless "driver error" rears its ugly head. A balanced platform, communicative steering, composed ride and ach du lieber braking serve as the benchmark in the 3 Series' competitive segment. Of course, the various powertrains all deliver specific characteristics. For most, the "cooking" 328i models will happily deliver capable performance at a more reasonable cost. Those demanding higher levels of performance or who may reside or drive at higher altitudes benefit from the added performance of the 335i. The V8-equipped M3 takes the equation, of course, just that much higher, with 414 horsepower beneath your right foot. And for those more bent on moderation than madcap motoring, the 335d can reliably deliver over 30 mpg on the highway.
6-Speed Manual Transmission
At a time when many manufacturers have simply given up on shift-for-yourself shifting, BMW continues to not only offer a 6-speed manual, but excel at its engineering, production and execution. Balanced with a clutch actuation that is seamless, the BMW six speed is one of the best arguments EVER for self-employment. And it's a shame BMW dealers don't keep more in their inventory.
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.
Although today's 3 Series doesn't enjoy the greenhouse (glass area) of earlier generations, it remains an eminently hospitable perch for navigating today's traffic. And when you're not concerning yourself with surrounding traffic or scenery, you'll enjoy the comfortable access, relatively clean layout, informative instrumentation and high-quality materials. And despite BMW's iDrive having benefited from some recent streamlining and simplification, we continue to prefer a more conventional approach to ventilation and audio controls. Thankfully, that remains available at more modest trim levels.Exterior
No company, other than perhaps Porsche, has a better grasp of its design DNA than BMW. Today's 3 Series is immediately recognizable as a direct descendant of the first 3 Series, which arrived in the U.S. for the 1977 model year. And the design team accomplishes that with little or no reliance on retro influences, such as we see in much of today's ponycar fleet. That said, the 3 Series has grown dimensionally in each of its successive generations, and appears to be growing some more as the all-new 3 Series is launched next year. And the M3, now endowed with a V8, has lost most of the subtlety in its sheet metal...and all of its innocence.
In its base, $35,000 form BMW's 328i sedan is comprehensively equipped. Beyond its standard 230-horsepower DOHC 6-cylinder powertrain connected to a 6-speed manual transmission, the cooking 3 Series benefits from any number of functional enhancements, including Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control and 4-wheel disc brakes with Dynamic Brake Control. Outside, standard 16-inch alloys provide a contact patch, while inside dark burled-wood trim warms the interior, as does an AM/FM stereo with CD/MP3 player with HD radio. Standard automatic climate control cools it. Of course, going up the food chain increases the number of standard features – while exposing the customer to even more expensive options. The M3, as either a Coupe or Convertible, is loaded in stock form, and will accelerate a window sticker almost as quickly as a quarter mile.
We like the recent addition of the BMW Performance Power Kits to the menu of items available from your BMW dealer. You can now retrofit two versions of a performance add-on to your 6-cylinder 3 Series. BMW's Version 1 optimizing engine software, while Version 2 takes that software (adding 20 horsepower) and protects it via an auxiliary water cooler and an enhanced radiator fan. Costs are $599 and $1,199, respectively, plus the cost of labor. From BMW, of course, there are literally hundreds of ways to personalize your BMW, from comfort and convenience items to class-leading performance enhancements. Notably, on a great many models – even at window stickers north of $40,000 – leather remains an extra-cost option!
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 a disconnect with the nomenclature, we won't argue with the results. The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in the new 328i Sedan is a sweetheart of an engine. The normally aspirated 3.0-liter in-line six in the 328i coupes, convertibles and xDrive sedans produces an ultra-smooth 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. The 3.0-liter six fitted to the 335i models boasts 300 turbocharged horsepower in standard guise, and 320 when you move up to the twin-turbo 335is – or opt for the Performance Power Kit. The 3.0-liter diesel, also an inline-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. And should you prefer an extended stay in prison, consider BMW's M3. With 414 horsepower from its 4.0-liter V8, this one delivers acceleration and top-end speed fully rivaling the more exotic – and restrictive – Sports/GTs.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: na
328i Coupe / 328i Convertible / 328i xDrive Sedan /
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 Coupe: 18/28
328i Convertible: 17/26 (manual), 18/27 (automatic)
328i xDrive Sedan: 17/25 (manual), 17/26 (automatic)
328i Sports Wagon: 17/26 (manual and automatic)
328i xDrive Sports Wagon: 17/25
335i Sedan & 335i xDrive Sedan / 335i Coupe & 335i xDrive Coupe / 335i Convertible
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
335i Sedan: 17/26 (manual), 17/28 (auto)
335i xDrive Sedan: 16/25 (manual), 17/27 (automatic)
335i Coupe: 19/28 (all)
335i xDrive Coupe: 19/27 (manual), 18/27 (automatic)
335i Convertible: 19/28 (manual), 18/28 (automatic)
335is Coupe / 335is Convertible
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6
320 horsepower @ 5,900 rpm
332 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 (manual), 17/24 (DCT automatic)
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 diesel
265 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm
425 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/36
M3 Coupe/M3 Convertible
414 horsepower @ 8,300 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
M3 Coupe: 14/20
M3 Convertible: 13/20 (manual), 14/20 (DCT automatic)
By Bond95492 on Thursday, February 19, 2015
I don't own this caroverall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfort ride, 3 Modes Offered"
Cons: "Trunk space, I Drive/Changing Mode lock"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"I actually got the BMW 328i as part of a rental upgrade and was happy to try out this vehicle since this is one car I was considering for my next car purchase. Overall the interior seating is comfortable and the car seemed to handle well. I loved that you can go from a Econ mode to a Sport mode quickly. I definitely felt the difference when switching to a different modes (especially to the Sport mode). The car was very quiet on the road. In most cases I was going 80 mph without realizing it. It was an automatic and the shift gear was electronic and took some time in getting use to (from getting into drive, reverse and parking), but once you got used to it was good. The stereo sound and linking to my device for music was easy and the music sounded good. However, the volume is extremely low when it came to broadcasting my Siri. Was using this as part of traveling and found it useless. Needless to say we had two phone so I used the other for navigation while the other played the music. I didn't experience a low volume when making a call, so I was a little perplexed why the car had trouble on this item. Now the grips of the car. It is a key-less car, meaning that you have a button to start it. However, there was no interior trunk opener. To open the trunk it required me to get out the keys from my pocket and use the remote. If there was a button in the car, it wasn't stage clearly. Another thing I found was the trunk space was extremely small. I could only fit one standard suit case and 2 carry-on and one kids suit case. The standard suit case could not be placed on it's side (up right position). It is a standard dimension suit case and did not have this issue in my VW Passat. There was room above the suit cases, but I was still off by half an inch to stack a smaller suitcase. This was frustrating (only 4 of us traveling) when loading up the car and I'm really good about utilizing every possible configuration to maximize space. Needless to say one suitcase had to travel with the kids in the back seat. This became a concern since I didn't want to leave the suitcase in the backseat only for the car to be broken into. While I praised the stereo above, the controls of the stereo are only found on the steering wheel and the I-Drive Touch Interface system. Unfortunately, when transferring from each car modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport) the main info screen changes as well and locks out the the music screen that was on display. You had to wait for the screen to go back from the mode screen to the music screen before you can do anything with regards to music. If not you wind up being locked into the mode screen. This happen to me for a couple of times when I changed my driving mode and tried changing my music to fit he drive. Unfortunately, I got locked into the car mode screen multiple time which was quite frustrating. The last gripe I have with this car was the cup holders. For a hot coffee enthusiast like myself, I drink my coffee with a sleeve. Now when placing the cup of coffee into the cup holder the cup and sleeve fits with no problem, but when removing the cup to take a drink the sleeve gets caught on a lip of the cup holder. To make matters worse, it is a pain to fish out the sleeve from the cup holder. The lip is caused by two mismatched size holes. Really made me wonder how this could of happened and gotten missed when designing this part of the car. Overall, I was originally supposed to get a Chevy Impala as a rental car but glad I was able to try this car out. It would have been interesting to compare these two and provide some feedback, since this is the other car I'm considering in buying. Even with some of the quirkiness of the car design, I have to admit it the ride was smooth when in the comfort mode. Unfortunately, I it is not enough for me to consider this car as part of my next future buy line-up."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Jordan on Monday, February 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,400overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Drive, ride, looks, feel, MPG"
Cons: "Several features that should be standard are not"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car has almost everything you could ask for in its class and then some. It looks great, drives exceptionally well and gets great gas mileage (I average 24 or so in the city and 35 on the highway - on premium). The 4 years of free service are an excellent touch to sell this car. One MAJOR flaw however - the car does not come standard with HID headlamps, or the bi-xenon headlights with the Halo's. BMW is famous for their projector headlamps and halo rings... and their best selling model doesn't have it standard? Don't even get me started on the backup equipment... Compromises were made, but the final product executes as it should, but for a price."
21 people out of 46 found this review helpful
By Minnotte on Saturday, January 24, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Luxury and power well matched. My only gripe is the awkward shifting it makes at slow speeds when I first get going out of my driveway in the parking lot ...it seems to jolt. Next time I'm getting the smooth shifting 5 series."
26 people out of 45 found this review helpful
By Dream reaper on Sunday, January 18, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "acceleration, build quality and fun to drive"
Cons: "storage, costly options, few standard features"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've owned this vehicle for 19 months, and my overall impression is favorable. On the positive side, the car has exceptional build quality, a rigid chassis, powerful turbo charged 4 cylinder engine, and once the turbo gets spooled up, this thing runs like a hungry cheetah! On the down side, every option comes a la carte and at a premium cost. I live in New England, therefore I opted for the XDrive, cold weather pkg., Nav & leather seats, which stickered at over $46,000.00, yet no back-up camera- no reason for a car in this class not to have a backup camera standard. Also the steering is far too light, and not reminiscent of previous generation 3s. That said, this car is not about practicality. If that were the case, I would have purchased a Honda Accord. In the end, the car really is a joy to drive, sips gas, when I'm not putting my foot in it, and has been exceptionally reliable. Would I purchase another? YES!"
23 people out of 41 found this review helpful
By turk on Sunday, December 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 567overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"This is one of the noisiest vehicles I've ever driven. It comes with run-flat tires which make add to the dynamic noise. On concrete road surfaces, you can't hear yourself think. The nav/radio/info device is quirky. It works sometimes and not at other times. It changes from radio to nav information on its own. Sometimes the automatic trunk opening system works; sometimes not. The other day I walked past the back of the car and the trunk opened. It's opened twice on the road while the car was moving. Still, I don't know what I'd chose besides this car if the dealer offered to take it back. I guess I'd chose my old 2004 325!"
44 people out of 82 found this review helpful
By Lenny on Tuesday, December 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "The Ultimate Driving Machine"
Cons: "Not cheap."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My first BMW. Fast, comfortable, roomy, and excellent fuel economy. I commute 65 miles daily, and and impressed by the over 30 mpg mileage. Seat warmers, steering wheel warmer and awd make it a great winter car. Much roomier cabin than the previous 3 series(my wife has a 2011), faster and better mpg's, but steering lighter, not the same feel. Very reliable- only non scheduled maintenance was for a frozen fuel door and 2 flat tires."
24 people out of 40 found this review helpful