By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 8.4
The iconic BMW 3 may be the industry's most benchmarked vehicle. Virtually all competing automakers – most notably Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus – have tried to match (or surpass) its beautifully balanced dynamics, upscale image and enthusiast appeal with luxosport compacts of their own, and some have come close. But none so far has quite bulls-eyed that elusive target. Making that challenge even more difficult is the 2013 addition of available xDrive all-wheel drive (AWD), a still-quick but more fuel-efficient ActiveHybrid 3 model and (soon) a sports wagon. To make the nameplate more accessible to the masses, BMW offers a new entry-level 320i model that delivers 3-Series prestige at a buyer-friendly price. The previous-generation coupe, convertible and performance-based M3 variants are carried over as 2013s for now, but all-new versions on the new platform are not far away.
If you are a true driving enthusiast (or want to be seen as one) and can afford a true enthusiasts' compact sports sedan, equipped as you want it and wearing that pricey propeller badge, you will enjoy the BMW 3's image, driving dynamics and (down the road) strong resale value.
If you can see beyond the vaunted BMW badge and would like an equally satisfying luxury-sports compact for similar or significantly less money, there are a lot of excellent alternatives beginning with the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS and the new Cadillac's ATS.
At nearly $3,300 less than the previously entry-level 328i, the new 320i gives BMW a lower entry point for the 3-Series without compromising its luxury pretentions. Other noteworthy additions for 2013 include available xDrive AWD and a new ActiveHybrid model, which teams a 55-hp electric motor with the TwinPower turbo-6 for a combined 335 horsepower and a modest boost in fuel efficiency.
Driving Impressions A major element of the 3 Series' appeal is its grin-inducing driving dynamics. We've tested the sedans and coupes on slow, fast, twisty and hilly roads and on challenging race...courses, and they go, steer, corner and brake as well as, or better than, anything in their segment. Especially impressive is the balance of cornering prowess with comfortable ride. The fuel-saving stop-start feature shutters when it kills the engine at rest, and again when it restarts as the brake is released, but it can be switched off. The delightfully torquey turbo-6 is good for 5.4-second 0-60 bursts, but the surprising turbo-4 is only about a half-second slower, with the down-powered 320i version turning in a time of roughly 7.1 seconds. As a bonus, the twin-scroll turbo used on both powerplants are virtually free of turbo lag. But if the standard variety fails to arouse your senses, the 414-horsepower M3 is sure to plaster a smile on the face of even the most discerning enthusiast.
BMW PARKING ASSISTANT
This feature helps you to maneuver into parallel parking spaces by first measuring a potential space's size to be sure the car will comfortably fit, then automatically steering into it. The driver just has to operate the accelerator and brake and keep an eye on the area around the car.
SURROUND VIEW SYSTEM
Cameras in the outside mirrors provide a bird's-eye top view of the area around the car to aid maneuvering in tight spaces, while the selectable Side View function uses cameras in the sides of the front bumper to monitor traffic crossing in front of the car.
BMW calls its 2013 3 Series interior "straight out of the BMW design handbook," meaning an uncomplicated look with tight fits, simple shapes and upscale materials. The cockpit, angled toward the driver by seven degrees, presents important controls within easy reach, and the rear cabin is a bit roomier than before. The four circular dials are speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge and oil temperature – but there's no coolant-temperature or oil-pressure gauge. The console-mounted iDrive controller is handy to both driver and front passenger, and its freestanding central screen boasts a flat-TV-like trans-reflective, high-resolution display.Exterior
When BMW's 1977 3 Series replaced the respected but ungainly 2002, its styling was a pleasant surprise. Thirty-six years later, its evolving design has never again surprised, and that's a good thing. Line up all six generations, and the evolution is apparent. Each new 3 Series logically follows the one before it, remaining conservative but contemporary for its time. Even to the casual observer, there is never a doubt what it is. Today's slightly longer and taller model differentiates itself mostly by adding more character lines and creases and visually connecting its headlamps to its signature twin-kidney grille. Similarly, the equally-iconic M3 maintains its long-standing tradition of elevating the 3 Series' athletic looks to the next level by way of distinctive front and rear fascias, quad exhaust outlets, and a wider, more aggressive stance.
As expected, 2013 BMW 3 Series sedans come well equipped with Leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, cruise control, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, halogen head- and fog lamps with automatic headlight control, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive brake lights, run-flat all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 9-speaker audio system with HD Radio and a USB port. Still, a power driver seat and a fold-down rear seat are extra-cost options. Standard Driving Dynamics Control offers ECO-PRO, Comfort and Sport settings, while standard safety features include stability and traction controls, anti-lock braking, active head restraints and eight airbags.
The 3 Series option list boggles the mind. Among the more interesting are a Parking Assistant and the Surround View camera (see Favorite Features), navigation with real-time traffic, Active Blind Spot Detection, lane-departure warning, collision warning and automatic collision notification. Available Comfort Access pops the trunk lid when you wave your foot under the bumper, Variable Sports Steering offers different steering ratios for varying conditions, and a head-up display projects key information in the driver's line of sight. An M Sport package adds adaptive sport suspension, aero aids and M wheels, while three packages called "Lines" (Luxury, Modern and Sport) let buyers customize their car's appearance.
Three gasoline engines are offered in 2013 3 Series lineup: A 2.0-liter turbo-4 in 320i and 328i models (detuned in the 320i), the 3.0-liter inline turbo-6 (now available in nearly all BMWs) in 335i models, and a potent 414-horsepower naturally-aspirated V8 reserved for the range-topping M3. Each boasts the unique combination of BMW "Valvetronic" fully variable intake-valve lift, "Double Vanos" dual-cam phasing, and direct gas injection. Both turbocharged mills offer a choice of 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission driving the rear or (with newly-available xDrive) all four wheels. A 6-speed manual gearbox or a quick-witted dual-clutch 7-speed automatic is available on M3 models. Unlike its high-performance challenger, the Audi S4, the M3 is not available in all-wheel-drive configuration. The new ActiveHybrid 3 marries a 55-hp electric motor (packaged inside the 8-speed automatic housing and driven by a lithium-ion battery) to the turbo-6 for a combined 335 hp (not the sum of both peak outputs, since both engine and motor can't operate at max power simultaneously).
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
180 horsepower @ 5,000-6,250 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/36 mpg (manual), 24/36 mpg (automatic), 23/35 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
240 horsepower @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
255 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/34 mpg (manual), 23/33 mpg (automatic)
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/30 mpg (manual), 23/33 mpg (automatic), 23/28 mpg (AWD)
3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 (hybrid)
335 horsepower @ 5,800-6,000 rpm
330 lb-ft of torque @ 1,200-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 mpg
414 horsepower @ 8,300 rpm
295 lb-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 mpg, 13/20 mpg (convertible, manual)
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."
2 people out of 4 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!"
9 people out of 16 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!"
43 people out of 81 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
By Robert on Thursday, November 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun To Drive"
Cons: "Cost, unknown long term reliability"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My first BMW, and it has exceeded every lofty expectation I had for it. Smooth, endless power - great low end torque and horsepower. Good manual transmission; choosing that helps balance out the driving modes of the vehicle. I drive a good mix of urban highway and in town, not a lot of stop and go. MPG over 30 in 20,000 miles. While driving in Sport mode most of the time. Precision road feel, excellent vehicle dynamics. Recommend getting the adaptive suspension - it is like magic. Great looks, room for 4 adults in comfort for a long trip."
19 people out of 31 found this review helpful
By Chris on Saturday, November 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,100overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, comfortable"
Cons: "Interior materials could be better."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The 320i is a car that doesn't do very many things, but what it does do it does right. Some people might believe that the 320i is the "watered down" BMW for buyers that only want the badge, but that's the opinion of people that haven't yet owned one. It's feels just as balanced, it's just as sharp, and it's just as enjoyable as you'd expect a BMW sport sedan to be. My car does have the sport package that firms the car up a little, but it's still extremely comfortable to drive while giving the car a more sporty feel. Steering is on the lighter side due to the electric assist, but it's still very good and very sharp. The 320i is down on power from the 328i, but it doesn't feel underpowered at all. In everyday conditions, it feels very responsive and torquey down low with very little turbo lag. Honestly, it feels nearly as strong as the 328i in most driving conditions. It's only when you're driving hard do you realize how much less power the 320i has. It absolutely has more than enough power for most people. If you're looking for a sports sedan I believe it is the best bang for your buck not only in the 3-series line, but of any car in the small sports sedan class. Also, fuel economy is great with 27-28 mpg average. The interior is very nice, but it's kind of a mixed bag. Plenty of quality materials mixed with some cheaper materials that you wouldn't want to see in a luxury vehicle. Interior comfort and space is excellent for the class. Controls are easy to use for the most part, but you will spend some time learning how the iDrive system works. The car's interior is a very nice place to be overall. If there's one option that I think everyone should get, it would be the sport package. It isn't just rims and some black trim, it is a true sport package with a tighter sports suspension, a fantastic M sport steering wheel, better seats higher performance staggered rims and tires for about $1,500! That's a steal, perfect for someone that just wants to enjoy the driving experience and not spend $45,000+ on a car! Like I said, this car is everything you'd expect in a BMW 3 series but for several thousand dollars less."
22 people out of 30 found this review helpful