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2012 BMW M3

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2012 BMW M3 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 M3

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 M3 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 M3 Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.8
Out of 10

Based on 64 Ratings for the 2008 - 2013 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.6/10
    Quality
    8.9/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    9.4/10
  • Comfort
    8.9/10
    Styling
    9.3/10

Best all around car availabile

By on Tuesday, May 06, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "driving dynamics"

Cons: "gas mileage"

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

"This car uniquely balances comfort, convenience and performance - with the latter setting the performance standard for the segment. For enthusiasts who live by manual transmissions (like I was), the dual clutch transmission is just as fun and feeds your performance appetite. Only gripe is the gas mileage, but it is to be expected in such a performance oriented machine."

10 people out of 18 found this review helpful

A jack of all trades

By on Saturday, April 05, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,500

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
8/10

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

"I was able to buy this car new at about $1,000 below invoice. I'd driven this and a 911 during a track day event and no way in is a 911 worth twice the money. It's been reliable so far, and I do extra out of pocket oil changes every 7500 miles or so, since the dealer intervals are spaced too far apart (since BMW is paying for them for 4 years/50k miles). The only issue is that the interior squeaks. This is a known issue with the door seals. The remedy is a tape strip, but the strip is grey and it would look stupid in the doorwells of a blue car. A blast to drive. Boring and docile at low rpms. Rev it past 5000 rpm, keep it up there, and the thing drives like a monster."

6 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Happy camper

By on Saturday, March 29, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,500

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: "Speed handling comfort"

Cons: "Gas mileage"

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

"This car is an absolute blast to drive!Explosive acceleration, great handling. And rather comfortable for long haul trips. This car makes an average driver good, a good driver great."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

A great family coupe

By on Saturday, February 22, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,260

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Outstanding car, handles superbly in all situation"

Cons: "Expensive and gas guzzler"

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

"Love the M3, have the 2013 Frozen Blue Edition, MDCT transmission, carbon fiber accents, Novello leather,,all options. The last of the naturally aspirated V-8s. On the autobahn got the M3 to 175mph and the Nurburgring handling was exceptional. Driving normally 80mph, returned 24.5 mpg, not bad for a V-8, but do wish 7th gear was more tuned to road (lower rpm, better mileage), not too impressed with the MDCT as I came from a 911 Porsche PDK (7spd auto) and the mpg @75mph was 30.5 mpg. Overall a great car that could be better!"

2 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Best bmw I ever have had

By on Friday, January 24, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000

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
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Great fun great handling beautiful, convertible an"

Cons: "Weight"

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

"I've been driving bmw m3's since 1995. This 08 convertible m3 has been the best and most reliable. My only complaint is the extra weight of the convertible. My other ones were hardtops. Almost six years later and I'm still in love with it. I am however interested in the new m4 or a 911 carrera s. If I could I would keep it and buy the new car as well. The burble of that v8 with a six speed manual is intoxicating."

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

Still the best performance, all around car

By on Monday, December 17, 2012

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,530

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Excellent driving dynamics"

Cons: "Fuel consumption is not great; I average 19.5 mpg."

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

My 2010 BMW M3 coupe

"Having owned various cars before from Fords and Chevys to Cadillac, and rented a multitude of cars while on business travel, the BMWs have always been the most gas/power efficient and best driving dynamics among all I've driven. In particular the E92 M3 is so much better than the E92 335i that I owned. Specifically, the M3 suspension is better tuned, it doesn't bottom out over speed bumps at the same speeds and not as twitchy. I would recommend anyone to seriously drive a new or used M3 and compare the driving dynamics over smooth or rough roads and on straight and curvy roads and you'll really feel the difference! The 2010 M3 coupe, which I have has only one fault: Fuel consumption is not great; I average 19.5 mpg combined city/highway."

18 people out of 21 found this review helpful

My 2010 BMW M3 coupe

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