BMW 3 Series

2016 BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series has grown and softened in recent years, but all the cars in the series have dynamics expected from a BMW. The rear-wheel-drive versions are the best. They also get excellent fuel mileage.

There are a lot of 3 Series variants, with different powertrains and body styles, including wagon, sedan and hatchback Gran Turismo. There is also a coupe and a convertible, but they are labeled 4 Series.

The 2016 BMW 3 Series gets some updates. The taillights and headlights have been given distinctive light signatures, air intakes are wider, and fascias and bumpers at both ends have been slightly reshaped, while the nose has been raised a bit to meet safety standards for pedestrians. Its a bit more aggressive looking.

The BMW 320i sedan competes with the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and the Audi A3 sedan.

The BMW 320i uses a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine thats tuned to make 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. That same engine powers the BMW 328i, but its tuned to make a spirited 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque in that car. If its high mileage you want, the BMW 328d brings it, with a four-cylinder turbodiesel that makes 180 horsepower but more significantly a beefy 280 pound-feet of torque. At the top of the power heap theres the BMW 340i, using a new 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder making 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

The all-wheel-drive BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon uses the 240-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter, while the 328d xDrive Sports Wagon uses the turbodiesel.

The 3 Series Gran Turismo is a five-door hatchback thats about eight inches longer and three inches taller, on a wheelbase thats four inches longer. All Gran Turismo models come with all-wheel drive. The BMW 328i Gran Turismo uses the 240-hp 2.0-liter, while the BMW 335i Gran Turismo uses the 3.0-liter inline-6 making 300 horsepower. The Gran Turismo is a relatively new invention, a BMW thats heavier and softer, and feels it. It trades away traditional BMW response for family values.

Rear-wheel drive comes standard on all sedans, with xDrive all-wheel drive available. The standard transmission is an 8-speed automatic, but a 6-speed manual, just for fun, is available at the same price for the 320i, 328i, 340i, and 340i xDrive.


2015 BMW 3 Series

Still one of the best sports sedans on the market, the BMW 3 Series continues into the 2015 model year with only a few changes in features, such as Bluetooth audio streaming, which comes standard. With a variety of powertrains and body styles, the BMW 3 Series offers stylish design, the latest in-car technology and best-in-class driving dynamics.

A dizzying number of models comprise the 2015 BMW 3 Series lineup. Sedans are available in gasoline and diesel variants, most with a choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive. There's the entry-level BMW 320i, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; the popular BMW 328i and BMW 328i xDrive, with a more powerful version of the same engine; the exhilarating BMW 335i, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, and the efficient BMW 328d and BMW 328d xDrive diesel sedans, which use 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 180 horsepower and 280 pound feet of torque, the latter available at just 1750 rpm.

Sports Wagon body styles offer more space than the sedan, with car-like performance and maneuverability. They're available only with turbocharged four-cylinder engines, powered by either gasoline (328i xDrive) or diesel (328d xDrive). As the xDrive model name suggests, Sports Wagons come only with all-wheel drive. Cargo space in the wagon is plentiful at 17.5 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, enough for two large suitcases and multiple small carry-ons.

The 2015 BMW 3 Series GranTurismo is the roomiest of the bunch, with a more upright shape compared to the wagon. It's available in BMW 328i xDrive and BMW 335i xDrive variants (gasoline only) and comes exclusively with all-wheel drive. The GranTurismo offers nearly 3 inches more rear legroom than either the sedan and wagon, and boasts 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place.

As before, 3 Series models are available in different lines, including Luxury, Sport and M Sport, each with its own unique exterior and interior trim. The different trim levels available on the sedans also have unique features on the inside. Each line lends the 3 series its own character, from warm and modern to cool and athletic.

Refined handling and BMW's classic 50/50 weight distribution make all 3 Series cars a joy to drive. With the switch of a drive mode, any variant can go from comfortable daily driver to racy canyon carver. Engine, transmission, steering and brakes work in harmony. The 328 gasoline engine is perfectly suited to everyday driving, while the BMW 328d diesel engine excels when it comes to long-range efficiency. The BMW 335i is the most fun, however, with its powerful engine and plentiful torque.

The 2015 BMW 3 Series sedan remains the benchmark among luxury sport compact cars such as the Audi A3, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Though all offer similar dimensions and features, none can quite match the weight balance and performance-oriented dynamics of the BMW. Sports Wagons have fewer competitors, and include the Audi Allroad, as well as the smaller Audi A3 sportback, which are both also available with a diesel TDI engine. Volvo offers the utilitarian XC70 and the most stylish V60, both of which start at about $5,000 less. The 3 Series Gran Turismo lacks any apples-to-apples competitors, though it's a viable alternative for drivers who want more space without the stigma of a station wagon.


2014 BMW 3 Series

The 2014 BMW 3 Series lineup expands dramatically with a new Gran Turismo, a new Sports Wagon, a new diesel-powered model, and the availability of xDrive all-wheel drive. The sedans were completely redesigned for the 2012 model year, and the 3 Series lineup is now in its sixth generation.

The 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is larger and roomier than the previous-generation version and is available in all-wheel-drive BMW 328i xDrive and BMW 335i xDrive variants. Also joining the 3 Series lineup is the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon, which has been updated with the latest-generation architecture and a choice of two engines: the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine found in the 328i sedan, or an all-new diesel version.

The new diesel engine, available on both the sedan and wagon, is a 2.0-liter TwinPower four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower and 280 pound feet of torque, the latter available at just 1750 rpm. The diesel-powered BMW 328d sedan comes with the standard rear-wheel drive or xDrive all-wheel drive. All BMW 328d Sports Wagons come with xDrive all-wheel drive.

As is typical with diesel power, fuel economy is admirable in the BMW 328d sedan and wagon. Rear-wheel-drive 328d sedans are EPA-rated 32/45 mpg City/Highway, and the 328d xDrive sedan and wagon are rated 31/43 mpg City/Highway.

Also new for 2014 is BMW Assist eCall, an emergency crash notification system, as standard equipment on all its 3 Series models, along with 10 years of service. Previously, the eCall services were only available when bundled with certain optional packages.

The 3 Series coupe and convertible have been discontinued for 2014, and are replaced by the all-new BMW 4 Series. A new high-performance M3 is scheduled to reappear later for 2014, after taking a hiatus for one model year. Sedans, all-new for 2012, carry over basically unchanged for 2014.

The most affordable car in the lineup, the BMW 320i, uses a less powerful version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in the 328i with a modest 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. The 2014 BMW 320i earns an EPA-estimated 23/36 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual transmission and 24/36 mpg City/Highway with the automatic. All-wheel-drive BMW 320i xDrive models are automatic-only and achieve 23/35 mpg City/Highway.

One of our favorites is the BMW 328i, with the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 making 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. This version accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds with 8-speed automatic or in just 5.7 seconds with 6-speed manual. The same feat takes the Audi A4 2.0T 6.5 seconds. The BMW 328i achieves an EPA-estimated 22/35 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual, and 23/33 mpg City/Highway with the automatic on both RWD and AWD models.

Most powerful is the BMW 335i, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are the same 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, with a 0-60 mph time of just 5.4 seconds with either gearbox. Fuel economy estimates are just 20/30 mpg City/Highway with 6-speed manual, but an impressive 23/33 mpg with the 8-speed automatic. AWD models get 20/28 mpg with the manual and 20/30 mpg with the automatic. Premium gasoline is required for all 3 Series models.

ActiveHybrid3 is a 3 Series model that combines an electric motor and lithium-ion battery with the 335is 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. Its good for 335 net horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It works well, but it only slightly bests the fuel efficiency of the gasoline-powered models: ActiveHybrid3 is EPA-rated 25/33 mpg City/Highway. Considering the near-$15,000 price premium, we recommend the 328i or new 328d for the best combination of performance and frugality. ActiveHybrid3 may beat them in terms of emissions, however.

The 2014 BMW 3 Series sedan remains the benchmark among luxury sport compact cars such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and Lexus IS. The BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon is most closely matched by the Audi allroad. Though all offer similar dimensions and features, none can quite match the weight balance and performance-oriented dynamics of the BMW. The new Cadillac ATS is perhaps the closest contender on the racetrack, though its angular American styling is in sharp contrast to the German and Japanese cars. The 3 Series Gran Turismo lacks any apples-to-apples competitors, though its a viable alternative for drivers who want more space without the stigma of a station wagon.


2013 Acura ILX

The BMW 3 Series continues to be a staple of the BMW model lineup. The compact luxury car now has more variants than ever, and with its combination of new and carryover models, it can be confusing to sort out which is which.

Sedans were completely redesigned for 2012 and carry over basically unchanged for 2013. Known as the F30, the sixth-generation four-door marks the end of BMWs old E-code naming scheme. Theyre slightly bigger, faster and more fuel-efficient than the previous E90 generation (2006-2011).

New to the lineup this year is the 2013 BMW 320i, an entry-level 3 Series sedan that uses a less powerful version of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine found in the BMW 328i. Its available with either rear- or all-wheel drive and makes a modest 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. Manuals are only available on rear-wheel-drive cars, while BMWs xDrive AWD models are only available with the automatic. Performance isnt the 320is strong suit, with a relatively pokey 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds with either transmission, although its on par with the Mercedes-Benz C250. Speed is electronically limited at 130 mph.

For more oomph, the BMW 328i uses a more powerful version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, good for 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. BMW says the 328i can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds with 8-speed automatic or in just 5.7 seconds with the 6-speed manual. This same feat takes the Audi A4 2.0T 6.5 seconds. For 2014, a diesel version, dubbed the 328d, will be available in the U.S.

The quickest of the lot is the BMW 335i, powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices are the same 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, with a 0-60 mph time of just 5.4 seconds with either gearbox.

Fuel economy estimates for the 2013 BMW 320i sedans are 23/36 mpg City/Highway equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission, 24/36 mpg with the automatic, 23/35 mpg for the all-wheel-drive BMW 320i xDrive model. The BMW 328i achieves an EPA-estimated 22/35 mpg City/Highway with the 6-speed manual, and 23/33 mpg with the automatic on both RWD and AWD models. The BMW 335i rates just 20/30 mpg with 6-speed manual, but an impressive 23/33 mpg with the 8-speed automatic. The BMW 335i xDrive gets 20/28 mpg with the manual and 20/30 mpg with the automatic. Premium gasoline is required for all 3 Series models.

Also new for 2013 is the ActiveHybrid3. The 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid3 pairs the 335is engine to an electric motor, the 8-speed automatic and a lithium-ion battery. Its good for 335 horsepower net and 330 pound-feet of torque, yet despite promises of increased efficiency, the hybrid only slightly bests the gasoline-powered models with 25/33 mpg City/Highway. Considering the near-$15,000 price premium, we recommend sticking with the 328i for the best combination of performance and frugality. The ActiveHybrid3 offers lower emissions, however.

Coupe and convertible versions of the 3 Series, meanwhile, carry over from the old E92 and E93 body styles. (Read our 2011 reviews of them for detailed impressions.) BMW 328i coupes and convertibles get a 3.0-liter inline-6 that makes 230 hp and 200 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. 335i coupes and convertibles are powered by the same turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 found in the sedans.

2013 is the last year of production for the current-generation 3 Series coupe, which will be redesigned and renamed the BMW 4 Series. Look for the coupe and cabriolet to be redesigned and introduced as either 2013 or 2014 models. Also coming for 2014 is an all-new BMW Sport Wagon, based on the new generation of 3 Series sedans.

The BMW 3 Series remains the benchmark among luxury compact sports sedans, a class that includes the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and Lexus IS, all strong entries. This class is mostly rear-wheel drive, though Audi is the exception with its front-wheel drive platform. Other front-wheel-drive entry-luxury cars, such as the Lexus ES, are comparable from a features standpoint and are similarly sized but do not offer the sporty dynamics of the rear-wheel-drive based sports sedans. All are superb cars, but the 3 Series sedans in particular display a brilliant balance between performance and driving pleasure.

 

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