Also much improved is the interior technology. The latest version of the iDrive system, with a 6.5-inch high-res flat-screen display, is actually not a chore to use, especially since the controller is ergonomically well placed, where your right hand naturally wants to rest. The optional Harmon Kardon premium surround sound system is also commendable, punching out clean sound even at high volume levels.
At this point you might be thinking that the new 3 Series is really quite flawless, but unfortunately there are a few missteps. For one, BMW added a start-stop feature that just isn’t executed very well. Pull up to a red light and the engine will turn off to save gas, which sounds nice, but when you lift your foot off the brake the whole car shudders as the engine restarts with an almost shockingly harsh jolt.
The new exterior design is also sure to generate some detractors. The pinched headlights and extra creases on the hood give the front of the car a more aggressive, almost angry look, but the sides and rear look like they were lifted straight from a 5 Series.
There is also a nagging question of value. The new 3 Series costs a bundle for what is essentially a smallish luxury sedan. When you include all the optional features that most people want, a new 328i sedan will set you back close to $50k. That’s mid-sized luxury sedan territory, and we’re not even talking about the more powerful and expensive 335i.
Still, this is one compelling car, especially if you can restrain yourself when it comes to the options list. A friend recently asked, “What is the best sedan for under $40k?” After giving it some thought, I realized that BMW has done it again, as there is honestly nothing that comes close.
2012 BMW 328i Sedan, a set on Flickr.
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