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2008 BMW 3 Series

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2008 BMW 3 Series Review


Over the last decade BMW's product line has enjoyed an unprecedented period of expansion. During that entire time, the 3 Series has remained its consistent sales leader. Last year the high- high-profile 328i and top-line 335i Coupes followed the Sedans in gaining all-new sheetmetal, interiors and engines. Distinctive looks, improved mechanicals -- including the introduction of the world's first twin-turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine -- and an even more sporting demeanor bode well for these new two-door variants, particularly the 335i, in the competition against prime foes like the Infiniti G37 and the Mercedes-Benz CLK 350.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you've been a long-time admirer of the 3 Series Coupe but have wished for a bit more refinement, the 2008 BMW 3 Series Coupe won't disappoint. Add the performance benefits of a twin-turbocharged six, all-wheel drive and loads of new functional technology and you've got a formula that takes it one step closer to BMW's "ultimate" descriptor.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The combination of a declining dollar and an increase in standard equipment has resulted in a significant price bump for the new 3 Series Coupe. With the 335i basing at just over $40,000, and even the 328i with its 230-horsepower naturally-aspirated in-line six-cylinder commanding in excess of $35,000, those on a restricted car-buying budget may want to look to the upcoming 1 Series instead.

What's New for 2008

The all-wheel-drive 335xi joins its coupe stable mates the 328i, 328xi and 335i.

Driving the 3 Series
Driving Impressions

An engagingly supple chassis (even in Sport guise) and near-50/50 weight distribution, complimented by excellent ergonomics and better-than-average outward visibility, make for one very compelling driving experience. That, of course,...

... has been a hallmark of BMW since the late-Sixties launch of the legendary "2002" model. What owners of earlier 3 Series won't be prepared for, however, is the scintillating performance provided by the twin-turbo six. The use of two turbochargers may seem extravagant, but the end result of fitting a pair of smaller turbos, each feeding three cylinders, is seamless and near-immediate acceleration that sends the 335i streaking from zero to 60 miles per hour in an exhilarating 5.3 seconds with a manual transmission or 5.5 seconds with the automatic.

Six-Speed Manual Transmission
While many automakers have abandoned the extra degree of driver involvement that only a manual transmission can provide, BMW continues to celebrate it with a superb six-speed gearbox. The optional six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic will be the choice of most 335i buyers, but we'll continue to argue the merits of the slick-shifting manual.

Automatic Seatbelt Arm
Given the Coupe's slightly longer doors, having to reach back for the seatbelt every time you enter the car can be a bit cumbersome. While the concept of an automatic seatbelt "presenter" isn't new, BMW's take on the challenge represents a just-right combination of elegant engineering and gee-whiz execution.

2008 BMW 3 Series Details

BMW describes the 3 Series' interior as "efficient, elegant and electrifying." We'd argue only with the latter tag, finding the dashboard layout appropriately focused on driver needs and passenger comfort, but continuing to fall short of the segment standard bearer, Audi. The three-spoke steering wheel is a perfect point-of-contact to the driving experience. Those dashboards not equipped with a navigation system won't suffer the confusion associated with BMW's iDrive integrated controller, but do benefit from clearly labeled instrumentation and switchgear within easy reach of the driver. The Coupe provides room for four, pairing comfortable, supportive front seats with well-contoured individual "buckettes" in the rear that feature split, fold-down backs for added flexibility. You can order either alloy or wood interior trim; we like the sporting tone of the alloy.


Slightly longer and lower than the last-generation 3, the 2008 BMW 3 Series Coupe is wrapped in exclusive sheetmetal that's aggressively distinct from the 3 Series Sedan. Its more angular nose features a unique hood and fenders and corner-following xenon adaptive headlights are underscored by a mesh-covered lower intake. A character line down the side reinforces the Coupe's more chiseled appearance, yet the overall theme is as organic as any previous 3 Series. At the rear the stubby decklid and LED taillight treatment is again mildly differentiated from the sedan, although there's no doubt about the family heritage.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The feature set of the 3 Series Coupe has been impressively upgraded to enhance functionality, comfort and convenience. In addition to the new powertrain elements, other key items include standard Logic7 Surround Sound audio, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), run-flat tires, xenon adaptive headlamps, front airbags, front side-impact airbags, front and rear Head Protection System (HPS) airbags, power moonroof and dual-zone climate control with microfiltration and adjustable rear-seat vents.

Optional Equipment

Choose a 335i and you might also consider the Sport Package option, with its 18-inch alloy wheels, performance tires and snug sport seats. Other available items include Premium and Cold Weather packages, a six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission, DVD-based navigation system, SIRIUS Satellite Radio and Bluetooth wireless. With the 335i Coupe's $40,000-plus price of entry we find leather an interesting option -- at this level, we think it should be standard.

Under the Hood

The in-line six has become an endangered species for many automakers, falling prey to both safety considerations (a V6 provides a more generous crush zone because it's shorter) and manufacturing rationalization (a V6 can sometimes be manufactured on the same production line as a V8). Thankfully, BMW brings a slightly different perspective to the game and offers the best reason yet to continue its time-honored configuration. In the 335i Coupe you enjoy the remarkable smoothness for which BMW in-line sixes have long been known, along with the impressive motive force provided by twin turbos, direct fuel injection, 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Those finding the prospect of a 230-horsepower 328i too prosaic and a V8-powered M3 a tad excessive will be more than pleased by the balance provided by the 335i Coupe.

3.0-liter in-line 6
230 horsepower @ 6500
200 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2750
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/28 (manual), 19/28 (automatic), 17/25 (AWD, manual), 17/25 (AWD, automatic)

3.0-liter in-line 6 Twin Turbo
300 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
300 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26 (manual), 17/26 (automatic), 16/25 (AWD, manual), 17/25 (AWD, automatic)

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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