May 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 27 September 2012 10:40
BMW fans understandably await the occasional redesign with some apprehension. Does any midsize sport sedan offer the same blend of crisp handling, brisk throttle response and overall refinement of the sort only German engineering can deliver? Probably not. Is it even possible to improve on this level of driving perfection?
For 2012, BMW redesigned its entry-level sport sedan, the 3 Series. (The convertible and wagon remain as they were in 2011.) We had the pleasure of driving a Melbourne Red Metallic 335i sedan, with the turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, rear-wheel drive and a long list of options. Base-priced at $42,400, our 335i’s bottom line was $55,870. The base 328i comes with a turbocharged inline Four that makes 240 horsepower; its starting price is $34,900.
The new 3 Series carries forward the familiar BMW styling cues, including the split kidney-shaped grille, with some variations. Improvements include a roomier interior, exceptional fuel economy in the 328i (36 mpg on the highway), and an auto-stop feature that further cuts gasoline consumption. This feature, once limited to gasoline-electric hybrids, is becoming increasingly common in conventionally powered vehicles.
We were unable to discern any real difference in the car’s performance, compared with earlier 3 Series models we’ve driven. (We did feel the back seat was more spacious.) But there have been some changes that aficionados might notice. The car is lighter than its predecessor — weighing nearly 300 pounds less than the discontinued 335d diesel model, which we test-drove three years ago — and has the same horsepower rating, 300, as the previous 335i. The steering is electric rather than belt-driven, further reducing weight and drag on the engine.
The 335i retains features some would call quirks, others would be inclined to compliment. One is the iDrive system, once considered controversial. By placing multiple controls in one horizontally mounted wheel, conveniently located between the front seats, BMW was able to stifle the proliferation of buttons that bedevils some high-end models — notably, the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne. We have come to appreciate iDrive, now that we’ve driven enough BMWs to understand its intricacies.
The shifter’s functions are likewise simplified, but unlike the iDrive, which is unique to BMW, the shifter is superficially conventional. As a result, drivers who sometimes drive a non-BMW can get mixed up in the transition.
Throttle and transmission response, as well as cornering, remain incomparable. At this price point, there’s nothing like the rear-drive BMW on a narrow road with a lot of sharp curves. Like its major competitors, the Audi A4, Infiniti G and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the 335i is available with all-wheel drive.
Designated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the pre-redesign 335i has had mixed results in Consumer Reports magazine owner surveys. Recurring problems with the audio and fuel systems dropped it into the worse-than-average category in some years, though it improved to average in the 2011 model year.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6, 300 horsepower, 300 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic (optional)
Weight: 3,555 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19 by 8-in. double-spoke light alloy wheels front, 19 by 8.5-in. rear
Tires: 225/40R19 front, 255/35R19 rear
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 17 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons
Fuel economy: 23 mpg city, 33 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium
|< Prev||Next >|