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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
2012 BMW 3 Series photo

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
8.5
Out of 10

Based on 87 Ratings for the 2012 - 2016 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    7.9/10
    Quality
    8.4/10
  • Reliability
    8.7/10
    Performance
    9.0/10
  • Comfort
    8.5/10
    Styling
    8.9/10

Exceeds my expectations

By on Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "BMW handling and ride, gas mileage, looks"

Cons: "Rearview camera is not standard, mediocre seats"

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

"This is my family’s fifth BMW. I had a 2010 328i sedan and loved the performance. I have also driven the 2016 328i as a service loaner and was very impressed. When I first considered the 2016 320i it was with a lot of skepticism about the reduced horsepower compared to the 328. I am so glad I took it for a test drive. The acceleration is better than I expected, especially in Sport mode. I have an X3 with the 2.0 L Turbo and I would say the 320 in Sport mode is about as fast as the X3. Highway driving is great. I was cruising at over 80 mph and it seemed effortless. The handling and ride is excellent. It is everything you would expect in a BMW. The steering is precise, it can turn and stop on a dime. For those who are used to other luxury brands like Lexus or Mercedes, it may not be what you are used to. BMW owners will feel right at home. The car has fantastic leg room in the back seat (better than Audi A3 or A4 in my experience) and a huge trunk. It is a great combination of practicality with sportiness. Gas mileage is better than what I am getting on my X3. My only complaint is that the seats seem a little flat, but they are good enough. The sport package seats are better. I saved around $5,000 versus the 328 and it is money well-saved. The 328 is noticeably better in acceleration, but the 320 is a better value in my opinion. Both are excellent cars."

20 people out of 38 found this review helpful

I used love it before having too many issues

By on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
2/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
1/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Fun to drive, good looking car"

Cons: "Issues, CPO is not worth it to buy, Not good warr"

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

"I bought a 2015 used CPO with 8000 miles on it. It was a huge mistake to buy a CPO because it was just a name. After getting the car I had to take it back for service the day after for fixing the "Horn", "Bumper Scratches(never fixed via seller dealer" and also a week after for steering wheel vibrating shakes which has never been fixed after taking it to 2 different dealerships for more than 6 times. I though okay I have to deal with these issues and there is no other way. after using the car for 7000 miles and a few rain in California both of the side mirrors have a lot of spots like hard water and I tried to clean them up but they don't go away. I took it to the dealership and they declined to replace the mirror even I told them about the visibility issues driving overnight and they ignored me and told me all the BMW cars have the same issue when they get old. I opened a lemon case with my layer to return the car back and every week I have to take it to the service to get things fixed and there is something everyday wrong with this car. I also took it to other dealer ships to trade it in and they gave me 10k to 15k less than loan amount I have open for the car. I used to love BMW and it was my dream to drive a BMW but now I wish I never bought a BMW and I tell everybody not to buy. I hope someone from the company reads my message and help me to understand why they sold me a CPO car and low millage with too many issues and they don't even want to fix it.I wish I could return or sell this car without loosing any money and get another brand. I will never buy a BMW again. I hope USA BMW helps to get out of this bad situation and bad experience."

14 people out of 22 found this review helpful

Excellent handsome luxury sedan

By on Thursday, February 25, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000

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
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

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

"style inside and out is great. handling is wonderful. road and engine noise are kept to a minimum. ride is smooth but road bumps are felt a touch more than i would like. Overall, an outstanding car."

6 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Great car for the driving experience

By on Monday, January 04, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "Driving experience , performance, handling"

Cons: "Cheap leather, overall cost,"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"This is a great car for the overall driving experience. The 2 liter twin turbo has plenty of power coupled with the 8 speed automatic the car can be as much fun to drive as you want. Personally I think the interior is a little inferior to simliar cars I have owned (Jaguar) however the performance makes up for it. Can be a little pricey by the time you load it with the right options but I would not get a base model."

2 people out of 16 found this review helpful

Fun, expensive

By on Sunday, December 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,095

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "HUD - will never get another car without; I-Drive"

Cons: "Maintenance costs; attracts rocks & curbs"

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

"My 5th BMW, which have included two 5s and one convertible. This is a sedan with Heads Up Display and most bells and whistles. It's also my last BMW. I've had it with $1K visits to BMW service. The cars are great; price isn't even bad for what's included. Reliability is only OK, and Service is way out in left field for today's competition. Not worth it. Prolonged love affair over."

25 people out of 30 found this review helpful

Brand new 2015 White BMW 320i X Drive for sale

By on Monday, December 07, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000

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: "Brand new like car"

Cons: "N/A"

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

Front View of my car

"1st servicing done in November. Tire/Alloy insurance for years/36000 miles. Single hand driven 6000 miles. No scratch. No accidental history."

8 people out of 18 found this review helpful

Front View of my car

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