Dear sport sedan also-rans: You're great cars, and we love spending time with you. We'll never forget the first time we heard the rorty exhaust note of an Infiniti G37, for instance, and we're amazed every time we savor the luxurious interior of an Audi A4. Alas, we can never truly be together, because we're in a committed, long-term relationship with the BMW 3-series. How committed? In the past eighteen years, the 3-series has not once fallen from our grace, winning two Automobile of the Year awards, making twenty-one All-Star appearances (more than once, the M3 and the 3-series each won All-Star awards in the same year), and winning a Technology of the Year award for good measure. As the car enters the sixth year in its current form, it still has no equal.
"Fantastic chassis balance, beautiful steering, lovely shift action," gushes senior editor Joe Lorio. "Add in the phenomenal performance -- and surprisingly good fuel economy -- and you've got the segment's standard-bearer. Again."
The cherry on top for 2011 is the new 335is. With a twin-turbo in-line six boosted to 320 hp, a fortified suspension, and the option of either a slick-shifting six-speed manual or one of the best dual-clutch automatics on the market, this $51,025 coupe strikes us as perhaps the perfect middle ground between the 335i and the somewhat precious M3. Not that we wouldn't love to own an M3. Or a 328i. Or a diesel-fueled 335d, which rivals the acceleration of the M3 that won our Automobile of the Year award in 1995 while attaining 36 mpg on the highway.
The current 3-series is not completely immune to the effects of aging. We tire of its watered-down Chris Bangle styling, and although it is newly available with the fourth generation of iDrive for 2011, it still trails the class leaders when it comes to in-car technology. That said, our primary wish for the next-generation 3-series, coming next year, is that BMW doesn't ruin it. Somehow, we suspect it won't. See you next year.
- David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
BASE PRICE RANGE: $34,525-$69,625
ENGINES: 3.0L I-6, 230 hp, 200 lb-ft; 3.0L twin-turbo diesel I-6, 265 hp, 425 lb-ft; 3.0L turbocharged I-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft; 3.0L twin-turbo I-6, 320 hp, 332 lb-ft; 4.0L V-8, 414