New For 2014
The 3 Series adds the Gran Turismo body style and a new four-cylinder diesel to the burgeoning lineup. The Gran Turismo is a sloped-roof four-door hatchback in the vein of the 5 Series Gran Turismo. It comes only as a 328i or a 335i, both with standard xDrive. The new diesel, in the 328d, is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit rated at 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. It is paired only with the eight-speed automatic transmission. The 328d can be had as a rear-wheel-drive sedan, an all-wheel-drive sedan, or an all-wheel-drive wagon. Fuel economy is spectacular: the rear-wheel-drive sedan gets 32 mpg city and 45 mpg highway; all-wheel drive subtracts 1 mpg city and 2 highway mpg from those figures.
The 3 Series is the heart and soul of BMW. It also has been the benchmark car in its category ever since it was first introduced in 1975. Until this year, the 3-series family included sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon versions. A big change for 2014 is that BMW has split off the two-door coupe, giving it the new 4 Series label. (The convertible will be introduced soon as a 4 Series as well.) The 3 Series remains available as a four-door sedan, a wagon, and a new four-door hatchback (Gran Turismo). Currently absent from the lineup is the enthusiasts’ favorite, the M3, but it should return sometime during 2014.
The BMW 3 Series has long been the most sporting entry-luxury sedan, but the latest version has been diluted somewhat by an attempt to broaden its base. The suspension is softer and the steering is lighter. However, keen drivers can fix both issues, and still get the 3 Series of their dreams. Switching BMW’s driving dynamics control mode from comfort to sport helps, although you must select it again each time you start the car. Better to opt for the M sport suspension (part of the sport package), or the dynamic handling package, which includes the adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering.
The harder decision is which powertrain to choose. Those stretching their budget to get into a 3 Series will be drawn to the new entry-level model, the 320i, which costs more than $4000 less than a 328i. The downside is that the 320i’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes only 180 hp — down from 240 hp in the 328i. Just like the 328i and the 328d, the 320i allows buyers to swap in a six-speed manual transmission in place of the standard eight-speed automatic as a no-cost option. It also can be had with xDrive all-wheel drive (but only with an automatic transmission).
The 328i’s gutsy turbo four manages decent gas mileage with a combined city/highway EPA rating of 27 mpg — too bad it sounds like a diesel at idle. BMW now offers an actual four-cylinder diesel, the 328d, which is equipped similarly to the 328i but costs $1500 more. You should recoup that premium pretty quickly, however, as the 328d gets spectacular mileage. The 328i and the 328d are available as a sedan (with rear-wheel drive or xDrive) or as an all-wheel-drive sport wagon.
The classic BMW in-line six-cylinder engine, turbocharged to deliver 300 hp, powers the 335i, either as a sedan or the Gran Turismo. This is the most potent 3 Series variant, at least until the M3 returns to the lineup in mid 2014. The 335i is also the only 3 Series sedan where one can combine xDrive and a manual transmission.
- Excellent chassis (with the right equipment)
- Huge variety of models
- Eye-popping diesel MPG
You won’t like:
- Gran Turismo’s awkward proportions
- Annoying auto stop/start system
- Luxury version not quite up to snuff
- Audi A4
- Infiniti Q50
- Lexus IS
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class