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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 1070 Ratings for the 2006 - 2012 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    9.1/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    9.3/10
  • Comfort
    8.9/10
    Styling
    9.2/10

2007 335i Awesome car!

By on Friday, January 22, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000

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
8/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Great car, fun to drive, engineered to last"

Cons: "seems too small in the front passenger seat."

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

"I ordered this car and picked it up in Spartenburg, SC great experience at the performance driving center. Basically I never had any issues with this car. After two weeks of ownership I had installed the performance programming which dramatically bumps the power and torque. Despite the added power hwy mileage stayed at 26 mpg cruising at 80+ mph and all the options including the active cruise still works flawlessly and much better than my newer 2013 infinity QX a testament to BMW's engineering."

2011 - Best looking 3-series model, last I-6

By on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

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
8/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Styling, stance, engine power, fun to drive"

Cons: "Interior designed for smaller people, beware"

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

"This 2011 328i xDrive is my first BMW. I waited 20 years to buy one. I've owned three Saabs, two classic VWs, and a handful of Chevrolets. Last car was a reliable 2007 Chevy Impala with a V6. I bought this 1-owner BMW two years ago from a certified pre-owned dealer with ~27K on it. Daily-driver. ZERO mechanical issues so far. Oil changes, wipers, brakes, etc. all covered by my warranty, zero maintenance cost so far except two new rear tires. The inline 6-cylinder is a dream. No turbo, no gimmicks, just power. The 2011 is the last model year with this engine, for what that's worth to you. Car looks great - front fascia, rear lights, hood shape - the 2011 looks better than the 3's before AND after it. The only complaint I have is the backseat - it is small and tight, and that's with the front seat positioned forward for a short guy like me at 5'7". Tall people look elsewhere, front or back seat. Thankfully my wife and I only have one child, and she's short too. Fun to drive, great styling, great engine."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

unreliable

By on Saturday, December 19, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 75,000

10 3.0
overall rating 3 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
3/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
3/10
Quality
3/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
5/10
Comfort
6/10

Pros: "fun to drive"

Cons: "too much maintenance. cheap plastic parts"

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

"I had 3 series since 2000. The first one, a 1987 model was very good, a daily driver. The second was a 2002 model, very good that my son now drives, at 151kmiles. Then I bought my wife a 2011 328 which now has 55kmiles and I drive a 09 335i. Both Late models consistently eat a quarter of oil every 3000 miles. They also like chewing on spark plugs and ignition coils. The 2011 had plugs replaced at 50kmiles, completely worn, along with a 5th cylinder ignition coil. Water pumps go between 45k miles and 70 k miles, expect to spend around $1,200, and don't delay replacing these, they are plastic made and will fail. If you drive on a failed pump your engine will fry. Window regulators are made of cheap plastic, expect to replace them after 50 k miles. A/C compressor used to fail at 120 k miles, the E90 models start growling at 60 k miles. Also, the heat in Texas makes the interior panels peel off. In summary, it seems like BMW currently makes 60k mile cars. I doubt I will have another one. I will miss the sharp driving but it is just not worth the hassle."

8 people out of 8 found this review helpful

Good Car But ...........

By on Saturday, December 12, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
7/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
4/10

Pros: "Very good performance"

Cons: "Very poor standard equipment"

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

"I bought it with 32K a year ago. Today it has 54K miles. I had to replace two coils, other than that only regular gas (24 MPG) and premium oil change (Each 17K miles). I will get a temporary spare tire so I won't use anymore run flats, they are very expensive. The car handling , acceleration, brakes and general performance are very good. The rear seat do not fold down, there is no rear view camera. Can you believe it? They are standard equipment on any Ford. I won't buy any car without them as standard equipment. Are you listening BMW."

5 people out of 10 found this review helpful

Fun to drive but expensive to own past 100K miles

By on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 118,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive, perfect size, great seats"

Cons: "expensive to own past 100K miles"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5

"My 8 year old car drives better than it did when it was new because I'm running Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires instead of run flats. I still love driving it, it's tight and according to automotive journalists, it drives better than new 328s! And reliability was excellent until about 100K miles, I've never been stuck on the side of the road and nothing major has gone wrong. BUT based on personal experience and extensive research, quite a few items need to be repaired between 100K and 200K miles that cost $500-$1,000 each. So the question is: "Do I keep this great sports sedan with a smooth in-line 6, sports and premium packages and manual transmission or do I sell it to avoid fairly high maintenance costs?" I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell me what's going to need attention during the next 80K miles so I could make an informed decision. As it stands now, I'm spoiled. It would take $50K to replace it with a better car (like a M235i)."

15 people out of 24 found this review helpful

NO longer the ultimate driving machine

By on Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000

10 3.0
overall rating 3 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
3/10
Value
4/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
4/10
Performance
1/10
Styling
1/10
Comfort
1/10

Pros: "CAn't think of one"

Cons: "loud road noise, run flat tires no spare"

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

"I had a 3 series x drive from 2003 - 2014 and I LOVED that car. Loved it! When the miles racked up, I knew I had to let it go. So based on my experience with my old BMW I bought a 2011 328x drive. I have never hated a car as much. Now, compared to other brands, perhaps it's not the worst, but compared to every other car I've had, I hate this one. Run flat tires! Whose brilliant move was that? Drives like a truck and there is no spare! 4cyl engine? Who knew? I thought they were all straight 6's -my fault for not researching better. It is the most gutless thing I could imagine. where are the manual shift BMW's? What's the point of a BMW with an automatic. The heater/AC fan is so poorly designed that it makes so much noise when on(even low) I can't hear rear seat passengers. No back seat storage bins at all. Did I mention how much I hate this car? I'm going to lose about $10k but am trading on an Audi. At least there is a spare tire, and a reasonably quiet fan."

10 people out of 29 found this review helpful

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