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#5

in 2011 Upscale Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $20,934 - $35,042
Original MSRP: $34,600 - $59,650
MPG: 18 City / 28 Hwy
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2011 BMW 3-Series Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Buyers who gravitate toward BMWs instead of Acuras or Lexuses are usually interested in performance. Today's rear-wheel-drive 3-Series won't let them down. It offers three powerful engines, and a suspension tuned for aggressive handling. While some rivals have caught up to the 3-Series in terms of driving excitement, they haven’t surpassed it. But, performance comes with a price. BMW has done a good job building a car that's comfortable for a sport sedan, but this is still a sporty sedan, which is livelier than sedate cruisers from Lexus and Acura in this price segment.

  • "Quite simply, no other entry-level luxury model can match the Bimmer's exquisite combination of athletic handling and premium ride comfort." -- Edmunds
  • "Introduced just over three years ago, the prodigious and velvety N54 still ranks among the engines we'd deem least in need of improvement. But with an eye on rising emissions and fuel-economy mandates around the world, BMW designed the new N55"-- Car and Driver
  • "We have just had a handful of laps on a damp racetrack in the new BMW 335is, but it only takes one trip around the Estoril circuit in Portugal to recognize that this car is no poseur in the shadow of the grandstands" -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

The 3-Series is available with three engines, and each is exceptional in its own way.  BMW avoids the V6 engines that so many manufacturers depend on, instead using a 3.0-liter inline-6-cylinder engine on 328 models. That engine produces 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, and depending on which other performance options are selected, earns an EPA rating of 18/28 mpg with RWD and 17/26 with AWD. 335 models get the same engine with a turbocharger added, which boosts both horsepower and torque ratings to 300. That engine is surprisingly rated at 19/28, which is better than the less-powerful version. A twin-turbo diesel option may be the most impressive of the bunch. It makes a jaw dropping 425 lb-ft of torque, while carrying an EPA rating of 23/36 mpg. The standard 3-Series has a six-speed manual transmission, but an automatic, with or without paddle shifters, is available for any trim.

  • "The 328i's naturally aspirated inline-6 is otherworldly in its smoothness from idle to redline, and it has enough power to suit most tastes. Those in search of something more will be well served by the 335i, which maintains the 328i's refinement while adding a huge wallop of turbo torque that's always on tap." -- Edmunds
  • "Those keeping score will note that the new engine's power numbers haven't changed at all from the outgoing mill. What has changed is how it achieves those numbers, with the new engine reducing complexity by using a single twin-scroll turbocharger instead of the old engine's twin turbos." -- Motor Trend
  • "The 335 has abundant power at any speed with no noticeable turbo lag; a test coupe with automatic transmission did 4.7 seconds 0-60 mph. The 6-speed automatic changes gears smoothly, but downshifts can lag behind throttle inputs." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The diesel engine "performed extremely well, pulling strongly enough -- even above 130 mph -- to make sports-car drivers weep." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

BMWs have always earned their reputation in hard cornering. The current 3-Series is a worthy torch-bearer, holding a tight line through high speed corners like nothing else in its class. Its braking performance is also excellent and even includes a system that wipes the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are activated to improve wet-road stopping power.

  • "The 3-Series is the class benchmark for overall control and steering feel. Even with the base suspension, all models display excellent balance, sharp moves, and little body lean in turns; they're even sharper with the sport suspension." -- Consumer Guide
  • “We like what we see so far. The 3 Series has always had exemplary balance, and the 335is is no exception, only now it has significantly more power to lunge from the apexes." -- Autoblog
  • "Quite simply, no other entry-level luxury model can match the Bimmer's exquisite combination of athletic handling” -- Edmunds

Next Steps: 2011 BMW 3-Series

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