The controversial Bangle era of design is over at BMW, and the revised 3-Series reflects this fact with a new, more elegant look. Though slightly softer and more luxury-oriented than its predecessor, the 3-Series remains one of the better-handling sports sedans on the market, and it now offers two fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder engines in addition to a forced-induction version of BMW's legendary straight-six.
For the time being, the latest redesign will only apply to the 3-Series sedan and wagon, as the 3-Series Coupe and 3-Series Convertible are expected to arrive later wearing the 4-Series moniker.
Charting the Changes
Visually, the latest 3-Series adopts the same conservative design language first seen on vehicles like the 5-Series and 7-Series. However, the new-generation 3 is 3.5-inches longer and two inches wider than the outgoing model, giving the car an overall athletic look.
Despite a bigger footprint, the latest 3-Series retains a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and is actually 88 pounds lighter than the model it replaces.
As a result of those expanded dimensions, the 3-Series boasts more cabin space, particularly for rear-seat passengers. BMW also says that the 3-Series trunk can comfortably hold three-golf bags.
Another significant element of the redesign was the return of four-cylinder power to the 3-Series lineup after an absence of nearly 15 years.
New for the latest model year is the entry-level 320i model, which uses turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. Available with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic - the gearbox choices for all 3-Series engines - it scoots from zero-to-60 mph in 7.1 seconds with either transmission.
Those looking for more power can opt for the 328i model, which uses a version of the 320i's mill that develops 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft or torque. As a result, the 328i scoots from zero-to-60 in a relatively brisk 5.7 seconds.
BMW's 335i remains on offer, delivering 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 3.0L six-cylinder. That added grunt is good for a zero-to-60 time of 5.4 seconds.
All engines come standard with rear-wheel-drive but can also be paired with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system.
BMW has gone to improve fuel efficiency, including such technologies as auto stop-start, Brake Energy Regeneration and even an air conditioning system that can disconnect completely from the engine.
The 320i is rated at 22/34 mpg with the manual and 23/33 mpg with the automatic and 22/33 mpg with AWD. The 328i offers the same mileage except for the RWD manual model, which bests the 320i by a single mpg in the city. The 335i returns 20/30 mpg with the stick, 23/33 mpg with the automatic and 20/28 and 20/30 mpg for the manual and auto AWD variants, respectively.
BMW has yet debut the M3 version of the new car, but buyers can opt for an M Sport package in the meantime (more information below).
BMW offers the latest 3-Series Sedan in base configuration and four optional "Design Lines:" Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line, as well as an M Sport Line (late introduction).
All models will come with goodies like a 6.5-inch color display with iDrive, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, step-up wheels (17-inch on 328i, 18-inch on 335i), while the 335i adds HID headlamps, wood interior trim, a moonroof, powered front seats and an anti-theft alarm.
Sport Line models come with black exterior styling bits, a 10mm-lowered suspension, red piped-and-stitched leather or leatherette seats, a black headliner and various red accents throughout the cabin. Luxury Line 3-Series models substitute the Sport's gloss black or aluminum interior trim with inlayed wood, wile the exterior receives additional chrome styling bits including more grille slats and chromed grille surrounds. Luxury and Modern Line 3-Series models will be offered exclusively with leather seats with a specific seam pattern and either contrasting stitching (Luxury) or piping (Modern). Modern builds on Luxury with matte chrome exterior and interior trim, a choice of aluminum, pearl metallic or textured wood interior trim and a "dark oyster" dashboard and steering wheel.
Options for most models include navigation (part of the Technology Package), a rearview camera with surround view, SiriusXM and Harman/Kardon audio, as well as an M-tuned suspension, variable sport steering and 19-inch alloy wheels.
All 3-Series models come standard with dual front, front-side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Optional safety features include a Lane Departure Warning system (which alerts the driver should the 3-Series begin to wander into the next lane) and a Forward Collision Warning system (which alerts the driver to impending collisions). A blind spot warning system is also available.
Often used as the benchmark in the small premium sedan segment, the 3-Series is directly in the crosshairs of competing models like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan, the Audi A4, the Infiniti G37 and the Cadillac CTS.