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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 1059 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

A fast car to drive and it still turns heads!

By on Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 46,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fast, i drive is easy to operate"

Cons: "ride could be smoother, must use premium unleaded"

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

"My last car was a m-benz and I regretted ever buying it but my BMW although pricey is worth it. The 335 ix drive has lots of power and the AWD is a must for the winter. The ride isn't as smooth as preferred but expected because of the run flat tires which is a great safety feature. I have had no mechanical problems to date. Maintenance is costly but a must....after all it is the ultimate driving machine"

7 people out of 14 found this review helpful

It's a sporty car and it's close to an M3

By on Tuesday, August 04, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 38,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
6/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Power, handling, fuel efficiency, comfort."

Cons: "2 doors."

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

"I remember the E36 M3 from 1996. That car was perfect for handling, but the power was missing. Fast forward to 2010 and the 335 is loaded with so much more power, fuel economy and comfort it's easy to forget this is a coupe. Plenty of power, and luxury for anyone."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

I love driving this car!

By on Sunday, July 26, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
Not Rated
Reliability
Not Rated
Quality
Not Rated
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "I paid a fair price because I shopped around."

Cons: "Love driving in the BMW 328i. No complaints!"

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

"Hi,I rented a 328i BMW on a trip out of the country.I drove around for over a week in the car . I fell in love with driving the BMW 328i.I loved driving it so much I bought one when I came home.I studied up on the BMW for months before buying one.I don't want to give the impression of jumping into buying one because I studied up on the BMW 328i model and read too many reviews to count.I couldn't be any happier with the deal I made for my awesome car.I can tell you the most important thing was to buy extended coverage plan.Everyone I read about said they were happy with the car except the people who had no coverage and had to pay out of pocket.It may cost more but the car is worth every penny.People who wrote their reviews about their BMW 328i helped me to decide to buy my BMW 328i.The most things that were negative about the car from others in reviews were trunk room being kind of small and back seat is kind of small for three adults.Hope this information helps you to decide in your car purchase.Take care."

7 people out of 8 found this review helpful

Consumer Reports was correct

By on Saturday, July 25, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
6/10

Pros: "engine, handling"

Cons: "cup holders, rear visibility when backing up"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7

"I bought this car because it was only one of two cars from any brand that had all wheel drive for winter driving in NH, enough room for wife, kid, 2 large dogs & luggage and a manual transmission. CR described he car as an excellent vehicle except for the cup holders and rear visibility. No one can say enough nice things about the inline 3 liter engine. The only reason for a more powerful engine is the inability to drive a manual transmission. Unfortunately 2011 is the last year the xDrive wagon could be ordered with a manual transmission."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

Tons of fun to drive

By on Monday, July 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Fun to drive, fast, poor mans M3, head turner"

Cons: "No spare"

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

"I've had the pleasure of having this car for 2 years. This car drives great - it's very sporty. It has great pull in any gear. I have the coupe. It's tight to get into the back but once your back there, there is plenty of leg room. I with there was more room in the trunk for a spare...I guess all sports cars these days are going with run flats so they don't need spares."

7 people out of 12 found this review helpful

Will not let you down!!

By on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

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

"I love my 20009 BMW 328i. I have owned this car for 3 years and have not had any trouble with it. It drives awesome. Smooth ride and handles like a dream. Quick and responsiveness are a definite plus! Gas mileage has been great compared to heavy SUVs I have owned in the past. BMW is definitely the ultimate driving machine. This car will not disappoint!!"

4 people out of 7 found this review helpful

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