The BMW 3-Series luxury sport sedan has long been held up as the “industry standard” in its segment and for 2012 the Bavarian automaker gives us the sixth-generation of this modern icon.
Globally, however, the 5-Series sedans sell better and here in the states sales have fallen off a bit for the champ. The reason? The field has become so crowded consumers are spreading their investments across three theaters of production now, those being traditional Europe, Japan, and now newcomer Detroit and the likes of the Cadillac ATS.
There is not much I can say here that Bimmer enthusiasts don’t already know, but our recent time in the 2012 BMW 335i Luxury Line provided a very good insight into what makes for a very good sport sedan.
Let us begin with the powerplant. BMW uses the N55 straight six in the 335 and slaps on a twin-scroll turbocharger to deliver a very healthy and smooth 300hp and 300 lb. ft. of torque via 3.0-liters of displacement. (Lots of “3s” in this Bimmer, huh?)
Backing the engine is one of the best six-speed manual gearboxes on the market but for the new car BMW offers a new 8-speed automatic that boasts extremely fast shifts and reaction times while delivering excellent fuel economy thanks to a wider range of gear ratios. And BMW offers a sport version of this new tranny when consumers check the Sport or M Sport boxes on their order form.
Our test model arrived with the manual gearbox that, for so many enthusiasts, is “the only way to go.” While I don’t particularly agree with that given the advancements made with automatics these days I will allow real “drivers” their due when it comes to configuring the vehicle they are paying for.
While the enhancements to styling keep the slightly larger sixth-gen car very appealing to the eye, driving the 3-Series is what BMW ownership is all about. It really, really does not matter how good your set of wheels looks sitting static in the driveway because at some point comes “put up or shut up” time and the Bimmer can still bring it.
Granted the slightly longer body was designed to appeal mostly to rear seat occupants but the driver can still enjoy their time behind the wheel and despite BMW opting for a new electric power steering assist system the new 3 provides ample feedback. Purists may scoff at this and the addition of new start-stop technologies but the most modern 3-Series is still worthy of praise and purchase.
Speaking of purchase, our 2012 335i tester arrived with a base MSRP of $42,400, which is not bad considering the segment and the competition. That said, BMW added on so many “goodies” to this vehicle it quickly outpriced all the others, arriving in our driveway at nearly 55 grand. I think all-wheel drive and the automatic gearbox were about the only things not found on our test model – I think I did even see the kitchen sink somewhere.
Fuel economy rolls to an acceptable 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway and new technology even includes an “ECO PRO” driving mode for those most concerned with reigning in fuel consumption and lessening carbon footprint, although those of you kept up at night by environmental issues will most likely opt for the ActiveHybrid 3 instead of one of these purely petrol monsters.
Inside the new 3 is a sporty yet comfortable driver-oriented cockpit that offers more space for passengers and cargo than the outgoing model while also being the most technologically advanced including head-up display, iDrive, Active Blind Sport Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Collision Warning, BMW Assist with Automatic Collision Notification, High-Beam Assistant, cornering light function, Parking Assistant, rear view camera, and park distance control.
The Luxury Line package adds a sport leather steering wheel, 18-inch light alloy multi-spoke wheels, and burled walnut and pearl trim.
The new 3-Series from BMW is a tight, well-equipped package that despite growing a bit in each direction still offers one of the best on-road experiences anywhere and will continue to be mold from which others are cast for quite some time.