The BMW 3 Series has grown and softened in recent years, but all the cars in the series have dynamics expected from a BMW. The rear-wheel-drive versions are the best. They also get excellent fuel mileage.
There are a lot of 3 Series variants, with different powertrains and body styles, including wagon, sedan and hatchback Gran Turismo. There is also a coupe and a convertible, but they are labeled 4 Series.
The 2016 BMW 3 Series gets some updates. The taillights and headlights have been given distinctive light signatures, air intakes are wider, and fascias and bumpers at both ends have been slightly reshaped, while the nose has been raised a bit to meet safety standards for pedestrians. It’s a bit more aggressive looking.
The BMW 320i sedan competes with the Mercedes-Benz CLA and the Audi A3 sedan.
The BMW 320i uses a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine that’s tuned to make 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. That same engine powers the BMW 328i, but it’s tuned to make a spirited 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque in that car. If it’s high mileage you want, the BMW 328d brings it, with a four-cylinder turbodiesel that makes 180 horsepower but more significantly a beefy 280 pound-feet of torque. At the top of the power heap there’s the BMW 340i, using a new 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder making 320 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.
The all-wheel-drive BMW 328i xDrive Sports Wagon uses the 240-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter, while the 328d xDrive Sports Wagon uses the turbodiesel.
The 3 Series Gran Turismo is a five-door hatchback that’s about eight inches longer and three inches taller, on a wheelbase that’s four inches longer. All Gran Turismo models come with all-wheel drive. The BMW 328i Gran Turismo uses the 240-hp 2.0-liter, while the BMW 335i Gran Turismo uses the 3.0-liter inline-6 making 300 horsepower. The Gran Turismo is a relatively new invention, a BMW that’s heavier and softer, and feels it. It trades away traditional BMW response for family values.
Rear-wheel drive comes standard on all sedans, with xDrive all-wheel drive available. The standard transmission is an 8-speed automatic, but a 6-speed manual, just for fun, is available at the same price for the 320i, 328i, 340i, and 340i xDrive.
The BMW 3 Series runs the gamut from 320i sedan ($33,150) to 340i xDrive sedan ($47,800).
Standard equipment is sparse on the 320i. But option packages are abundant.
The styling of the 3 Series is classic and sporty, never flashy. The sedan is long and sleek looking, with a rising tail that doesn’t pinch the greenhouse. The beltline does not climb toward a wedge.
The big hatchback Gran Turismo is part fastback, part wagon and part crossover, with an open greenhouse and rear spoiler.
There’s good room for front occupants and cargo, but it’s a little tight for adults in the rear. The dashboard is horizontal and clean, featuring a free-standing display monitor. The trim can be understated aluminum or elegant wood, but be careful, unlike the exterior, the cabin can get flashy, or at least fussy, with certain trim combinations.
BMW’s iDrive control system remains complex, although it is more usable than before. The 3D maps with the available navigation are excellent.
The sedan and wagon handle like a BMW should. The Gran Turismo is about comfort, while being more sure-footed than a tall crossover.
The 328i with its 2.0-liter turbo is our favorite; with the precise-shifting manual transmission it will reach 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Its peak torque comes at a low 1250 rpm, and that sure gets you started fast. It is hard to tell it’s a turbo because there’s no lag.
The 328i works well with the standard 8-speed automatic with a Sport mode that quickens the shifts. We got track time in a BMW 328i, and might actually prefer the automatic on the track. The M-DCT dual-clutch gearbox and Active M Differential make a difference on the track.
The 340i is more potent, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
The electric power steering in every 3 Series car steers and countersteers with the right amount of feedback. Available sport steering sharpens the handling by mechanically changing the steering ratio, skipping the electronics that can make electric power steering difficult.
Driving Dynamics Control is standard, allowing the driver to choose a system: Eco Pro, Comfort (default), Sport, and Sport+ modes. Sport provides quicker steering and shifts, while Sport+ gives more traction and allows more slip from the stability control. It lets you get the tail out a bit.
And if you really want to get the tail out, there’s the M Sport package that lowers the sedan by nearly half an inch, stiffens the springs and dampers, and adds big anti-roll bars with 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels. Still beyond that, there’s a new Track Handling package with the Adaptive M Sport suspension, variable sport steering and brakes with blue calipers.
We like the 328i best, for its power, mileage, and price. But we also like the 340i for its sweet and powerful classic inline-6 engine, the 328d for its hyper mileage, the wagon for its stylish functionality, and the Gran Turismo for its crossover alternative. Our favorite might be the 328i xDrive Sports Wagon.