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#3

in Upscale Midsize Cars

MSRP: $32,750 - $46,850
Invoice: $30,130 - $43,100
MPG: 24 City / 36 Hwy
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BMW 3-Series Performance

The automotive press concurs that lively handling and powerful engine choices make the 2014 BMW 3-Series is one of the most thrilling cars to drive in its class.

  • "A major element of the 3 Series' appeal is its grin-inducing driving dynamics. We've tested the sedans and wagons on slow, fast, twisty and hilly roads and on challenging race courses, and they go, steer, corner and brake as well as, or better than, anything in their segment." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Although the latest 3 Series has lost a bit of the previous car's hard-edged athleticism, the reality is that this car still delivers the best all-around driving experience in the entry-level luxury sedan class." -- Edmunds 

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 320i sedan has a 180-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW 328i sedans have a 240-horespower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and either the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. A 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder comes with the 335i sedan, and it has the same transmission options. The BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon and the base 3-Series Gran Turismo model have a 241-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder mated to the eight-speed auto. Base 320i sedans with the automatic transmission get 24/36 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class, while the more powerful 328i sedans achieve 23/35 mpg, according to the EPA. 

A 180-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine comes with 328d sedan and 328d xDrive Sports Wagon models. Diesel sedans get 32/45 mpg city/highway, while diesel wagons get 31/43 mpg. These estimates are very good for the class.

Test drivers say that no matter which engine you choose, the 2014 BMW 3-Series delivers inspiring performance. They write that the 3-Series’ turbocharged four-cylinder engines have very little turbo lag, and that they provide ample power and good fuel economy. Critics suggest the turbocharged six-cylinder engine if you crave even more power, as they say it comes in handy when passing other cars on the highway. Some reviewers dislike the start-stop feature, which shuts the engine off when the car is stopped to conserve fuel, saying it is abrupt and jarring, though this feature can be turned off. The eight-speed automatic transmission is praised for its quick, smooth shifts.

  • "The 240-hp four-cylinder gasoline engine in the 2014 BMW 328i models is highly impressive. Acceleration is very quick (quicker than some rival six-cylinders, in fact), and we've had little difficulty duplicating the EPA fuel economy numbers in real-world driving. … The auto stop-start function can be an annoyance in heavy traffic, because the engine doesn't restart as quickly or smoothly as we'd like when transitioning between the brake pedal and the gas (fortunately, you can manually disable this feature)." -- Edmunds
  • "The delightfully torque-rich turbo-6 is good for 5.4-second 0-60 bursts, but the surprising turbo-4 is only about a half-second slower, with the down-powered 320i version turning in a time of roughly 7.1 seconds. As a bonus, the twin-scroll turbo used on both powerplants are virtually free of turbo lag." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The eight-speed slushbox will be the only choice for U.S. buyers, and it shifts smoothly and rapidly and can be manipulated through steering-wheel-mounted paddles or a console-mounted shifter that operates the correct way. In other words, pull to upshift, push to downshift." -- Car and Driver (Gran Turismo)
  • "It still sets the standard for sheer driving chops in its segment, and the new turbo four is a nice piece of work, more powerful and efficient than, if not nearly as smooth and refined as, a straight-six." -- AutoWeek (2012 sedan)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say the 2014 3-Series sedan delivers a good combination of athletic handling and a smooth ride. Some are disappointed with the amount of body roll, though, and others wish the 3-Series’ steering provided more feedback. Critics report that the larger 3-Series Gran Turismo is less nimble than the sedan, though they think it is still relatively fun to drive. Base 3-Series sedans are rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is available. BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo and Sports Wagon models come standard with all-wheel drive.

  • "Especially impressive is the balance of cornering prowess with comfortable ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The higher center of gravity, the longer wheelbase, and the extra 300 pounds (versus the sedan) rob the 3-series GT of some agility. Fitted with the rear suspension of the sport wagon, the GT becomes a more comfortable, soft vehicle. Still, it doesn't object to playing.." -- Car and Driver (Gran Turismo)
  • "The four-doors have a smoother ride, making them superior long-distance cruisers. And while the sedan and wagon still have sharp reflexes, their new steering doesn't offer quite as much feedback as what's provided by the older coupe and convertible." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "The regular suspension in the base, Modern and Luxury lines isolates road imperfections better than the previous generation did, but it also allows more body motions, including a surprising degree of body roll - something that's no longer an unavoidable tradeoff. Regardless, the car retains its legendary front/rear balance after mild understeer going into corners." -- Cars.com (2012 sedan)
Review Last Updated: 5/12/14

Next Steps: BMW 3-Series