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2008 BMW 3-Series Interior

This interior review was written when the 2008 BMW 3-Series was new.

Most agree with Automobile Magazine's assessment that the interior is comprised of "high-quality materials and a very modern design," but that the cockpit of the 3-Series is filled with quirky, and sometimes frustrating, technologies.

"3 Series interiors provide a restrained show of luxury," says Edmunds. "Materials are high in quality and build quality is exceptional." However, says Cars.com, "the 3 Series offers a few answers to questions nobody asked. Some of these 'improvements' are harmless, others are a hindrance and all are unnecessary." While BMW claims that the vehicle can seat five, many find the rear seat too small to comfortably seat more than two adults.

Seating

The 3-Series' front seats are regarded as comfortable and supportive. "Front-seat comfort is first-rate," says CNET. Edmunds notes that "our 6-foot-2-inch tester had no trouble settling in behind the wheel, which tilts and telescopes like the one in the 3 Series sedan. More seat travel than he needs is available, and headliner and hairdo stay a respectful distance apart." Two women reviewers from the Detroit News, however, found that "we're about the same size and we both agreed that it needs adjustable pedals" to fit well. 335i and 335xi models receive standard eight-way power seats.

The rear seats are not a favorite of many reviewers. Reviewing the sedan, CNET says that "rear-seat space is marginally increased and good for the size of the car, but it is still a relatively small vehicle."

Interior Features

The 2008 BMW 3-Series comes very well equipped with its standard suite of features. Car and Driver comments that "BMWs typically have long options lists…with the many standard features, we didn't feel gypped."

Those standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, real walnut wood trim (though aluminum and poplar trim are no-cost options) and standard leatherette upholstery that "looks and feels better than one would expect," according to Edmunds. While not listed as standard features, more than half of all the 3-Series BMW builds will include the Premium package, adding leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-way power seats with two-driver memory settings and a subscription to BMW Assist.

Stereo and Entertainment

The base sound system is very well-liked. "In general we've been very pleased with BMW's Harman Kardon sound system. The bass is deep, the highs are clear and the system sounds good no matter what type of music you're listening to. It's a premium audio system in a premium car and you get what you expect," says Edmunds. The system can be upgraded to add satellite or HD radio functions – but the 10-speaker, MP3-equipped base stereo impresses most reviewers without any expensive additions.

Additional Features

Prospective buyers should familiarize themselves with BMW's iDrive driver interface system before attempting to make a purchase decision. BMW has made iDrive optional on 3-Series cars, but it is included with the optional Navigation System.

iDrive is singled out by nearly every reviewer of the 3-Series. The system, "designed by a psychiatrist trying to drum up more business by driving motorists mad," according to the Chicago Tribune, uses a single knob that can rotate on multiple axes, combined with menus on the navigation screen, to control the navigation system, climate control, stereo and other user-adjustable features.

Because BMW is offering iDrive on its entire 2008 model lineup, it must believe that some buyers will like the system. Unfortunately, almost no reviewer does. "In many ways I'm BMW's dream buyer: a young gearhead/chip-head with 10 years' intensive computer and web interface experience. Even I say iDrive is an abomination," notes Cars.com. "Much has been said about how hard it is to figure out. That's not the problem. I'm geeky enough that I figured it out without training or a manual. The problem is that even when you do know how to use it, it's a colossal drag to do so -- every single time."

If BMW's iDrive is not a hurdle you care to cross, you don't have to short yourself on convenience -- there are numerous GPS devices with similar features that are easy to use. Garmin models are especially appreciated for their easy operation. Check out our GPS reviews for more information on the top Garmin GPS and more.

Cargo

BMW has expanded the 3-Series trunk by removing the spare tire and giving all the cars run-flat tires as standard equipment. The space once used to house the spare tire is now a separate, secured storage compartment. Even with that innovation, trunk space remains "average in sedans and coupes," says Edmunds.

U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman was one of several to complain about the cupholders, remarking that "BMW's cupholders always seem to be part practical joke."

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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