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2012 BMW 3 Series

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2012 BMW 3 Series Review

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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.

You'll Like This Car If...

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.

You May Not Like This Car If...

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.

What's New for 2012

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 the 3 Series

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.

BMW Diesel
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.

2012 BMW 3 Series Details
Interior

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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

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.

Optional Equipment

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!

Under the Hood

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.


328i Sedan
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
3.0-liter inline-6
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)


335d Sedan
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
4.0-liter V8
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)

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2012 BMW 3 Series Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.8
Out of 10

Based on 1045 Ratings for the 2006 - 2011 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    9.1/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    9.4/10
  • Comfort
    8.9/10
    Styling
    9.2/10

Overall, Awesome Car

By on Thursday, May 14, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 154,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Perfect blend of refined and sporty driving in one"

Cons: "When things go wrong, its more expensive"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"This was my first BMW and I love it. Sport package is a must. Makes the drive exquisite when driving aggressively and still comfortable during city or rough road driving. Sport seats and wheel are awesome. Paired with a 6 speed manual and its awesome. For the cost, you will hands down not get a better performing or looking car for this price that holds its value and runs forever. Have never had a break down with the car. Aside from regular maintenance, driven it cross country three times and never had any problems. However, when things do go wrong or maintenance is required, it is more expensive than other brands, because it is a BMW. Budget for it and you'll be good to go."

An absolute pleasure

By on Thursday, May 07, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Technology, ultimate driving machine, fun!"

Cons: "Technology integration can require updates/work"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I very much enjoy the vehicle. I traded in from a 2008 of the same car because I liked it so much. The technology advancements were significant on the 2012 model, it's very cool how it displays the album art and caller photos from my iphone as well as reads me my emails and text messages."

2 people out of 3 found this review helpful

This is my third BMW. I just love the handling.

By on Tuesday, May 05, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,245

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I am very happy with my 335 d. It drives so well and it feels safe and secure. The only drawback with a diesel car: on a trip, one has to plan in advance where to refuel to avoid surprises. Not all gas stations advertising diesel have diesel for cars !"

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

Perfect sports coupe

By on Sunday, May 03, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,700

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Handling, steering, acceleration, transmission"

Cons: "Interior quality could be a little better"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Beautiful handling - feels just right. Very planted and confidence inspiring. Confidence inspiring brakes. Good steering feel. Great exhaust note."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

I've enjoyed it, my favorite BMW to date

By on Saturday, April 25, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Fun Reliable Convenient"

Cons: "cup holders are shallow"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I bought the car new, it's a 2008, and it was perfect for me. I love to drive, and thoroughtly enjoyed the handling of this car. I just couldn't live without the carrying capacity and convenience of a wagon, and love the sporty look along with the zippy drive. Back home, the road are windy and hilly, and this car loved the terrain. I particularly liked the panoramic roof, it opened wide enough that I didn't miss the convertible I used to have! Have I mentioned how great the wagon is? I transported a full kitchen of ready to assemble cabinets from an Ikea back home to my place on the the Gulf Coast of Florida. Another time, I drove straight through 1100 miles, to make a deadline and definitely wished the seat was more plush, but that might have been the case with any car. I've had several BMW's through the last 25 years, and this is the smallest one yet, and it's been a gem, reliable, convenient and very fun to drive. I'm replacing it, because my husband has a long upper body, and at 6'3" and 245# finds the headroom a bit cramped for his height, but his head nearly touches the roof of his car, so he often offers to drive, even though I prefer to drive, hence the reason why my mileage is so low. (I secretly think he's jealous how much I love my car, and that the local fireman during the boot collection remarked that he didn't realize BMW made wagons, and that it looked sexy!) I wish BMW made this body style still, I'm not as fond of the "chunky" looking X1, so, not sure what else I'll buy. Maintainance was always done at the dealership, and since I never had anything beyond oil changes, tires and brakes, I can't complain about maintenance cost, but I also spent $4000 for the platinum extended warranty since I often travel long distance alone. Not that I expected to use it, but that I haven't needed it. As insurance, BMW warranties are expensive, but if I had needed it, I wouldn't have complained about the price! If I had any complaint, the cup holders were adequate and held my large Iced Tea securely. However, none of my BMW's had cup holders to get excited about, but I knew this going in. This car is for driving, so pay attention and leave the snacks behind!"

2 people out of 3 found this review helpful

Good 2nd car for single person

By on Monday, April 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
7/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "fun to drive"

Cons: "Extremely high cost of ownership"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4

"An auto mechanics dream. AC repair, brake sensors, brake pads, and other less costly repairs plus high cost routine maintenance and I have spent almost $5000 in the past 5000 miles. No wonder the warranty ends at 40,000 miles."

5 people out of 5 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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