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2012 - 2013 BMW 3 Series Sedan


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It’s not very often that a smaller vehicle is a company’s flagship, but we don’t care what BMW might tell you about the 7 Series , the 3 Series is the automaker’s top dog. Its styling has always worked and never been vulgar like some other models in the BMW lineup. Additionally, it’s won more awards from the automotive press than the Los Angeles Lakers have NBA titles.

Believe it or not, the 3 Series has been around since 1975, but it really came into its own in 1992, when it won the first of 19 straight "Car and Driver 10 Best" awards. In 2006, it won the "World Car of the Year" and also the What Car? "Car of the Year" awards. Under the hood, the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six won the "International Engine of the Year Award" for 2007.

To keep up with this impressive tradition, the sixth generation 3 Series unveiled at BMW’s plant in Munich has been built as a revolution and not as an evolution. The new model sets new benchmarks in terms of sporting prowess, elegance, and comfort, and has grown significantly in size compared to its predecessor.

Update 06/28/2013: This review has been updated to include the 2013 model year.

Click past the jump to read more about the BMW 3 Series.

Exterior

BMW 3 Series Sedan

Compared to its predecessor, the new 3 Series has grown in all dimensions, but still retains a perfect balance of sportiness and elegance. People will immediately recognize the new 3 Series, thanks to its sweeping bonnet, short front overhang, long wheelbase and set-back greenhouse typical of BMW.

According to BMW, the new 3 Series will be sportier than ever. For that, it has received a wide, squat interpretation of the upright, slightly forward-slanting BMW kidney grille and LED accent lights positioned like eyebrows above the striking twin to-the-grille headlights. The two larger intakes will replace the central air intake of its predecessor, while extra small vertical intakes positioned on the far left and right of the main ducts will help create the "Air Curtain."

On the side, BMW has opted for powerfully taut surfaces with sweeping lines for a more dynamic stance. Alongside the C-Pillar runs a fine contour line from the roof into the boot lid, giving the roof an even lower appearance from the side.

Finally, the rear gets news rear lights in customary BMW L-shaped design positioned at the outer edges of the back end and, of course, the two lines below the rear spoiler and above the bumper, which frame the rear stylistically.

Dimensions

Wheelbase110.6 inches
Front track width60.3 inches
Rear track width61.9 inches
Weight3,545 lb
Weight distribution, front/rear – Manual Transmission51.1/48.9 %
Weight distribution, front/rear – Automatic Transmission51.5/48.5 %

Standard Interior Features by Model

BMW 320i (2013 only)

  • Star Spoke 17 x 7.5 light alloy wheels and 225/50 run-flat all-season tires
  • Tire Pressure Monitor
  • Halogen high- and low-beam headlights
  • Halogen free-form front fog lights

BMW 328i Standard Exterior Features

  • Star Spoke (Style 393) 17 x 7.5 light alloy wheels and 225/50 run-flat1 all-season tires
  • Tire Pressure Monitor
  • Halogen high- and low-beam headlights
  • Halogen free-form front fog lights (not available with M Sport Line)

BMW 335i Standard Exterior Features

  • Star Spoke (Style 396) 18 x 8.0 light alloy wheels and 225/45 run-flat1 all-season tires
  • Tire Pressure Monitor
  • Xenon Adaptive Headlights with dynamic auto-leveling, Corona headlight-surrounds, and LED accent lights
  • Halogen free-form front fog lights (not available with M Sport Line)

Interior

BMW 3 Series Sedan

The exterior is not the only aspect that has grown in dimensions, as the interior also offers more space, a wide variety of storage compartments and even greater practicality. BMW specially designed the cockpit to offer the driver easy access to the important controls. The fuel gauge, speedometer, rev counter and oil temperature gauge come with a black panel display, while the standard-fitted iDrive monitor with high-resolution display recalls the latest flat-screen televisions normally found in living rooms rather than cars.

Thanks to the extra exterior dimensions, the interior offers 0.59 inches of additional knee room and 0.31 inches of extra headroom. Next to this, BMW is also offering plenty of drink holders and storage compartments.

Customers can choose between three trim levels: Sport Line, Luxury Line, and Modern Line, each offered with distinctive standard features. For example, the Sport Line offers contrasting black and red accents on the interior: red trim rings, red scales in the circular dials, red stitching on the sports steering wheel, and a base trim strip in high-gloss black with coral red accent strips.

The Luxury Line focuses mostly on increasing the luxury level for the driver. It adds a high-gloss chrome trim strip running horizontally above the air scoop, chrome elements on the interior, high-gloss wood strips and a choice of two upholstery materials.

The Modern Line offers satin aluminum for a more contemporary look.

Standard Interior Features by Model

BMW 320i

  • 8-way manually adjustable front seats; includes 2-way manual headrests
  • Leatherette upholstery
  • Floormats
  • 3-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with controls for audio system, cruise control, and Bluetooth® wireless communication for hands-free mobile phone

BMW 328i

  • 8-way power front seats; includes 2-way manual headrests, and driver memory with 2 presets for exterior mirror and seat positions
  • Leatherette upholstery
  • Split fold-down through-load rear seats
  • Floormats
  • Anti-theft AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system with Radio Data System (RDS)
  • 3-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with controls for audio system, cruise control, and Bluetooth wireless communication for hands-free mobile phone
  • iDrive system with 6.5-inch full color flat-screen display (8.8-inch in ActiveHybrid 3), Controller and 8 programmable memory buttons

BMW 335i

  • 8-way power front seats; includes 2-way manual headrests, and driver memory with 2 presets for exterior mirror and seat positions
  • Leatherette upholstery
  • Split fold-down through-load rear seats
  • Floormats
  • 3-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel with controls for audio system, cruise control, and Bluetooth wireless communication for hands-free mobile phone
  • Anti-theft AM/FM stereo CD/MP3 player audio system with Radio Data System (RDS)
  • Auxiliary audio input for portable music players
  • HD Radio with "multicast" FM station reception

M Sport Package

BMW 3 Series Sedan

The BMW 3 Series M Sport package includes a new M Sport suspension that drops the ride height by 0.4 inches, 18 or 19-inch M alloy wheels, special body parts, chrome tailpipes, and exclusive exterior paintwork.

For the interior, the M Sport package gets distinctive cloth/Alcantara sports seats, trim elements with blue accent strips, an M Shortshifter (in models with a manual gearbox), M door sill finishers, an M driver’s footrest, and the new M leather steering wheel.

The M-Sport package will also allow the driver to use the Driving Experience Control switch to vary the basic suspension characteristics between more comfortable or sportier settings.

Engine

BMW 3 Series Sedan

For 2013, the new base model is the 320i. This new base 3er gets its power from a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers a total of 180 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 200 pound-feet of torque from 1,250 rpm to 4,500 rpm. The 320i sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and hits a top speed of 130 mph.

Next there is the 328i version powered by a TwinPower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers a total of 240 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and a peak torque of 255 pound-feet delivered between 1,250 and 4,800 rpm. This version can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 130 mph.

The next model is the 335i. It is powered by a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine with TwinPower Turbo technology. The engine delivers a total of 300 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and a peak torque of 300 pound-feet delivered between 1,200 and 5,000 rpm. The 335i sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and up to a top speed of 155 mph.

All the three engines are be offered with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, but as a first in its class, the new 3 Series is also be offered with an innovative eight-speed automatic transmission.

Thanks to optimized control technology, the optional eight-speed transmission boasts extremely fast shift and reaction times and direct downshift capability. The electronic transmission controller can also alter the shift characteristics as required, to cater either for a more sporty or for a more relaxed, fuel-saving driving style.

Additionally, all the three models in the 3 Series lineup are offered with an optional xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive system, starting in late 2012. This system sends power to all four wheels for the surest footing. Under normal conditions, engine’s power is spread out with a rear-wheel bias. But the moment the system senses excessive wheel slip, it subtly shifts torque to meet the changing conditions, offering maximum available traction and superior handling on all surfaces.

Prices

Model2012MY MSRP2013MY MSRP
320i SedanN/A$32,550
320i xDrive SedanN/A$34,550
328i Sedan$34,900$36,850
328i xDrive SedanN/A$38,850
335i Sedan$42,400$43,150
335i xDrive SedanN/A$45,150

Safety

The 2012-2013 3 Series Sedan is about as safe as you can get, as the IIHS rates it "Good" across the board and made it a top safety pick for 2013. The IIHS stated that the crash dummies’ movement was well controlled and the risk of injury was low. The NHTSA rated the 3 Series five stars in all categories, minus the "Frontal Crash" segment, where it received a four-star rating. It did, however, receive a five-star overall rating.

Driving Impression

We’ll preface this by saying "dude, it’s a Bimmer, how do you think it drives?" With the sudden divorce between the 3 Series Sedan and Coupe variants in 2012, the four-door model was able to become more elegant on the road than ever before, thanks to its electric power steering and new chassis. Sure, the 3er Sedan has lost a bit of its sporty characteristics, but that will all be fixed when BMW releases the 4 Series in 2014.

Edmunds had this to say about the 3 Series "It has a smoother ride, making it a superior long-distance cruiser." But Edmunds also saw some flaws in the new setup: "We aren’t as impressed by the new steering in the 3 Series, though, as it doesn’t feel as sporty or engaging as the steering in the older coupe and convertible."

Competition

2014 Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes C-Class

BMW might have the advantage of being the first German maker to announce a new generation for its mid-size sedan, but the other two are also working hard.

Mercedes. for example. is preparing to launch a new generation C-Class sometime at the end of 2013. It will adopt a new exterior language, most likely similar to what we have seen in the S-Class, plus revised petrol and diesel engines.

2015 Audi A4

Audi A4

A new generation A4 is also under development. It should be ready in time for the 2015 model year and according to the first details we have, it will adopt a more dynamic design and improved technology.

Under the hood, the next A4 will be offered with a wide choice of engines, including a new 1.4-liter TSI engine with an output of either 122 horsepower or 180 horsepower. This new engine will come with cylinder-deactivation technology that will reduce fuel consumption. A plug-in hybrid variant is also a possibility.

2014 Cadillac CTS

Cadillac CTS Sedan

On the American market however, the three German sedans will have to face a very successful sedan: the Cadillac CTS. The model just entered a new generation and is most powerful than ever.

The CTS is offered with a choice of three engines: a base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 272 horsepower, a 3.6-liter V-6 engine with 321 horsepower and a 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine that delivers a total of 420 horsepower for the Vsport version.

Conclusion

While it may not be one of the prettiest sedans on the market, the 3 Series is surely one of the most luxury one. It offers plenty of options to choose from, so, if your wallet is large enough you can customize it just like a limousine.

It would have been nice though if BMW had some alternative that could fill the gap between the 335i and the M3.

Category RatingDetails
Driving A-New chassis gives the sedan a better ride, but numb electric steering kills it
Performance AThe base 320i is the only "slow" model on the list and it still hits 60 mph in only 7.1 seconds
Look B+Love the new to-the-grille headlights, but the overall body style is dated
Value CStandard leatherette (fancy vinyl) for $32k, not so hot...
Overall B+The 3 Series Sedan is still one of the top luxury sedans available, but it is quickly losing ground to cheaper competition from Cadillac and Audi
LOVE IT
  • Impressive new look
  • New engines added
  • Great fuel economy
LEAVE IT
  • Just three models for the US market just yet
  • Top version can get a little bit expensive


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