Not perfect, but pretty darn close
- Turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is the real deal, providing ample power and efficiency
- 8 speed automatic transmission is so good we never wished we had a manual
- Although a bit softer than before, handling is still typical BMW, meaning sublimely good
- Interior technology is finally up to par, especially the iDrive interface, which actually works quite well
- The engine auto start-stop function is almost comically unrefined; someone loan BMW a hybrid so they can see how it’s done
- New exterior design is not as elegant or cohesive as before, although the more aggressive snout definitely screams “move-over!” to other drivers
- Add a few options and the price easily soars to nearly $50,000, which is not the best value for a small luxury sedan
What We Really Think
The new BMW 3 Series is not perfect. Despite what you may have heard, the next generation of this perennial favorite isn’t so flawless that all other sports sedans should just huddle in a corner and cry. But it’s pretty darn close.
The brilliance begins with the powertrain. In a controversial move, BMW abandoned its in-line six-cylinder engine for the 328i and replaced it with a turbocharged, direct injection 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 240 horsepower. Although a bit noisy at idle, with an almost diesel-like clatter, the engine revs smoothly and offers a huge helping of torque across the rpm range where you need it the most (260 lb-ft @ 1250 – 4800 rpm).
When paired with a quick shifting 8-speed automatic (a 6-speed manual is also available), the result is an astounding amount of performance for such a small engine. A zero to 60 sprint takes less than 6 seconds, which is suitably quick, but more impressive is the effortless passing power all that torque gives you.
Efficiency also gets a significant boost. The EPA gives the 328i a 23/33 (city/hwy) mpg rating, but 35 mpg should be easily attainable when just cruising on the freeway in top gear. Our test car averaged over 26 mpg after several hundred miles of vigorous testing, which is far better than most other comparable sports sedans.
Handling is something the 3 Series has always excelled at, and the new 328i definitely continues this trend, although in a more mature manner. The suspension is more forgiving and the steering more relaxed, which is actually an asset when commuting or just driving casually, but it does make for slightly less than razor sharp reflexes.
Luckily, putting the car in Sport mode tightens the steering up quite a bit and quickens the throttle response, turning the 328i into more of the corner carving, back roads devouring sports sedan we expect it to be. Order the Sport Line package and you get an adaptive sport suspension and paddle shifters, which should spice things up even more.
As good as the 3 Series is out on the road, BMW has undoubtedly lost some customers in the past due to a more functional, subdued interior. The company seems to have taken notice, as it now offers Modern Line and Luxury Line packages. With different interior finishes and exterior styling accents, these packages should make the 3 Series more attractive to folks who aren’t looking to lap the local race course.
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