Premium compact car; Built in
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door hatchback
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $18,300 – $39,200*


2015 BMW 3-Series


2015 BMW 3-Series


2015 BMW 3-Series

Pros:
  • Build quality
  • Refinement
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Price
  • Rear-seat room

BMW 3-Series Sedan:

Overview

A favorite among the automotive press and shoppers alike, BMW’s premium-compact car is also the brand’s best seller. The sedan was redesigned for 2012. It didn’t look a whole lot different than its predecessor, but there was plenty going on under the hood and inside the cabin to talk about. The wagon carried over for 2012, then took 2013 off and returned with a new design for 2014. The 3-Series coupe and convertible carried over into 2013 with only minor changes. For 2014, the redesigned coupe and convertible returned labeled 4-Series. (See separate report)

The 3-Series sedan was no longer exclusively a 6-cylinder or V8-powered car. BMW brought its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to the lineup. Interiors were also revamped for 2012 with new connectivity features.

BMW 3-Series Sedan:

BMW did a gradual rollout of new 3-Series sedans. Model names were the same as 2011 and included base 328i and uplevel 335i. Rear-wheel-drive versions came first. Gas/electric “ActiveHybrid”, xDrive all-wheel drive, and performance-themed M Sport variants arrived later in the year.

We normally report here about what comes standard, including features that might be unusual. What’s bizarre about the 3-Series, though, was that many things you might have expected to be standard were, well…not. Wanted leather upholstery, heated front seats, a USB port, and a Bluetooth wireless cell phone link? Had pay extra for those. Even satellite radio and split-folding rear seat backs required additional cash.

The car did offer some cool high-tech features, which naturally cost extra. Those included a head-up instrument display, hands-free parallel parking, and a surround-view camera that projected a birds-eye view around the vehicle when the transmission was in reverse.

Three packages, dubbed Luxury Line, Modern Line, and Sport Line offered unique exterior and interior trim. The latter also included an increased top-speed limiter and a sport suspension. Opting for the Sport Line Package granted access to an extra-cost adaptive suspension.

Standard on the 328i was BMW’s new 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The 335i’s 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder motor carried over. Both engines came standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. One option BMW didn’t charge you for was an 8-speed automatic transmission, which replaced the previous 6-speed automatic.

All 3-Series sedan models are rear-wheel drive, at least to start. The company’s xDrive AWD is slated to arrive in the fall of 2012.

The BMW 3-Series Sedan included a standard complement of expected and federally mandated safety features. Blind-spot alert, front- and rear-obstacle detection, and lane-departure warning were optional.

BMW 3-Series Wagon:

The 3-Series wagon came in a single 328i trim level. Power front seats and a wireless cell-phone link were other extra-cost features you’d think would be standard. Options included front- and rear-obstacle detection, a navigation system with BMW’s iDrive control interface, heated steering wheel, premium harman/kardon audio system, adaptive cruise control, and side sunshades.

One of the more unusual option groups is the M Sport Package, which included an increased top-speed limiter (on rear-drive models), sport seats, a sport steering wheel (that couldn’t be heated), unique trim and body cladding, a sport suspension, and performance tires.

The 3-Series Wagon came with rear-wheel drive or BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive. The sole engine was a 230-horsepower 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. A 6-speed manual transmission was standard while a 6-speed automatic was offered at no extra charge.

The 2012 BMW 3-Series Wagon included a standard complement of expected and federally mandated safety features. Front- and rear-obstacle detection and adaptive cruise control were optional.

Note that no BMW 3-Series Wagon models were made available for Consumer Guide evaluation.

BMW 3-Series Coupe and Convertible:

The coupe has a fixed roof (naturally) while the convertible used a power-retractable hardtop. We think the Audi A5, Infiniti G37 Coupe, Infiniti G37 Convertible, Porsche Boxster, and Porsche Cayman are likely rivals.

While the 3-Series Sedan got a redesign, the coupe and convertible carried on with the same basic design as the 2011 model with only minor tweaks until 2014. Then the redesigned coupe and convertible returned as the 4-Series. (See separate report)

The coupes and convertibles were available in base 328i, uplevel 335i, sporty 335is, and high-performance M3 variants. All came in coupe or convertible form.

A sport suspension was standard on the 335is while M3s got a firmer performance suspension. The M Sport Package for the 328i and 335i included an increased top-speed limiter, sport seats, a sport steering wheel, unique trim, and uprated tires. The M3 was available with BMW’s Dynamic Damper Control, which automatically adjusted suspension firmness.

Leather upholstery was optional on all coupes and the 328i convertible and standard on all other convertibles. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel were optional across the board. The latter feature is not included if you order the M Sport Package.

A navigation system was optional and included BMW’s iDrive control interface. Adaptive cruise control and front- and rear-obstacle detection were optional on the 328i and 335i. All models could be ordered with special wood or aluminum interior trim. M3s offered extra-cost carbon carbon fiber accents that weren’t available on other versions.

All body styles and models were rear-wheel drive. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive was available on the 328i and 335i. All but the M3 had a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine under the hood. The 328i is naturally aspirated and had 230 horsepower. The 335i and 335is had respectively. M3 versions employed a 414-horsepower 4.0-liter V8.

A 6-speed manual transmission was standard across the board. A 6-speed automatic was a no-cost option on the 328i and 335i. What cost extra on the 335is and M3 was a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual that behaved like an automatic. Steering-wheel paddle shifters were included with the automated manual transmission and cost extra on cars equipped with the 6-speed automatic.

The 2012 BMW 3-Series Coupe and Convertible had a standard complement of expected and federally mandated safety features. Rear-obstacle detection was optional on the M3 while the 328i and 335i were available with front- and rear-detection systems.

Yearly Updates

2012 3-Series
The 3-Series sedan bowed for the 2012 model year in rear-wheel-drive form only. 2013 saw the return of the all-wheel drive (dubbed xDrive) 3-Series sedan, along with a new gas/electric version called the ActiveHybrid 3. Joining the lineup in early-calendar 2013 was a new entry-level model called the 320i. Coupes and convertibles were unchanged awaiting their reappearance under the new 4-Series label in 2014. There were no 2013 3-Series wagons.
2013 3-Series
The 3-Series sedan gained 328d model powered by a turbodiesel 2.0-liter 180 horsepower engine that was available in both rear and all-wheel drive. Also joining the 3-Series lineup was a new Gran Turismo model. The Gran Turismo was a hatchback sedan on a wheelbase 4.3-inchs longer than the sedan. Returning to the line was the 3-Series wagon based on the redesigned sedan that bowed in 2012.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive

The BMW 3-Series had numerous engines. Sedan engine engines started with a turbocharged 2-liter four cylinder that was rated at 180 horsepower in the 320i and 240 in the 328i. The 335i had a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six cylinder with 300 horsepower. A hybrid model was added in 2013 powered by 335-horsepower gas/electric engine. For 2014, a turbodiesel 2.0-liter four cylinder with 180 horsepower was added to the sedan’s engine choices.

Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 180
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 200
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
8-speed automatic
22/34
23/33
Turbodiesel dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 180
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 280
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

32/45

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 200
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic
19/28
18/28
Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 255
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
8-speed automatic
22/34
23/33
Turbocharged dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 300
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 300
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
8-speed automatic
20/30
23/33
Turbocharged dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 320
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 332
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
7-speed automatic
18/26
17/24

Road Test

BMW 3-Series Sedan:

The 4-cylinder 328i is quite powerful, though acceleration is not as linear as that of BMW’s excellent turbocharged 6-cylinder. The 335i is very strong. It’s been reported that BMW underrates the 6-cylinder’s horsepower. We can believe it because it’s so fast. The manual transmission shifts smoothly, but the clutch pedal’s travel is a bit on the long side. We would probably go with the manual in any case because we’re not as impressed with the 8-speed automatic. It seems to hold back both engines from delivering on their maximum potential.

All models include an engine idle stop/start function that shuts off the engine at a stop and instantly restarts it when the driver releases their foot from the brake pedal. All 3-Series cars we’ve tested with this system suffered from delayed and very clunky restarts. You can disable this feature via a button on the dashboard. By default, the system will re-engage after the car is shut off. A dealer-provided software update allows it to remain disabled when the car is restarted, provided the driver activates the switch before the car is shut off.

No 320i, xDrive, or ActiveHybrid 3 models have been made available for testing.

In Consumer Guide testing, rear-drive automatic-transmission 328i averaged an excellent 29.5 mpg. A rear-drive 335i with the automatic returned 26.9 mpg, another great result. All 3-Series Sedans require premium-grade gas.

Taut, composed, and very Germanic. The standard setup is quite compliant. The Sport Line’s sport suspension, even with the optional 19-inch wheels, is not as punishing as you might think. The sport suspension is adjustable among Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. Comfort is fine for everyday driving. Sport and Sport+ are noticeably more brittle, but they’re not overly punishing.

The 3-Series remains the class benchmark for overall control and steering feel. All models display excellent balance, sharp moves, and little body lean in turns. Steering feel is wonderfully precise and direct. Braking is powerful and stable.

The 328i’s 4-cylinder sounds a bit rough at idle and from a cold start, but it smooths out with a bit of time. The 335i’s motor has an especially rich, sporty growl. Wind rush is evident at highway speeds. Tire noise is subdued with the base suspension, and a bit more noticeable with the sport suspension. The available 19-inch tires aren’t much louder than the standard treads.

The standard iDrive controls are reasonably intuitive once you’ve acclimated to them. “BMW Apps” smartphone integration system allows certain Apple iPhone programs to be accessed through the vehicle’s iDrive system. Ordering this feature includes an iPhone dock mounted in the center console, but it’s impossible to use if your phone has any kind of case on it.

Most cabin materials have a sturdy, soft-touch feel with an appropriately upscale vibe. A variety of cabin trim options allows for personalization. Several testers disliked the Modern Line model’s wood trim. Although the material is genuine, its veneer and graining made it look fake. We much prefer the Sport Line’s aluminum panels. We even dig the available the red leather upholstery.

Front headroom and legroom are fine on the 328i if you don’t order the optional sunroof. Unfortunately, this feature is standard on the 335i, and its housing steals head space. The standard front seats offer a great blend of everyday comfort and support. The Sport Line’s bucket seats have pronounced side bolsters that some drivers may find uncomfortable.

Rear headroom, legroom, and foot space are all cramped. Even a modestly sized adult will have little room behind a like-sized front occupant. Entry and exit are compact-car typical.

Trunks have a low liftover, and the aperture is large enough to fit good-sized boxes or suitcases. Sickle-type trunklid hinges intrude into the trunk area a bit, but are covered so they don’t crush cargo. Note that the split-folding rear seat back is an extra-cost option; we recommend it. Interior small-items storage is fairly poor, especially on cars equipped with the optional smartphone integration. The included iPhone dock on models so equipped takes up nearly all the space inside the center console bin. Models with the Premium Package include a hands-free trunk opener. With the keyfob in your pocket or purse, you can kick under the bumper to pop open the trunk. It’s a pretty handy feature, though the kick only opens the lid. You have to close it manually, which probably isn’t a big deal since your hands would most likely be empty anyway.

BMW 3-Series Wagon:

No BMW 3-Series Wagon models have been made available for Consumer Guide evaluation.

BMW 3-Series Coupe and Convertible:

With the manual transmission, the rear-drive 328i has smooth power for around-town driving and highway passing. The 335i has abundant power at any speed with minimal turbo lag; a test rear-drive coupe with the automatic transmission did 4.7 seconds 0-60 mph. All-wheel-drive versions feel little slower than their rear-drive counterparts. While the horsepower difference between the 335i and 335is seems minimal, the latter feels appreciably stronger. With any engine, the manual transmission feels fairly notchy and mechanical, which can make smooth driving tricky at times. The available 6-speed automatic changes gears smoothly, but downshifts can lag behind throttle inputs. The M3 is a rocket that gives up only a bit of mid-range torque to other V8-powered sports cars. Its available 7-speed automated-manual transmission shifts more smoothly when gears are selected manually with the steering-wheel paddles or floor shifter.

In Consumer Guide testing, a 328i convertible with the manual transmission averaged 24.1 mpg with slightly more highway driving than city use. A rear-drive 335i coupe with manual transmission averaged 22.0 mpg in mostly highway driving. AWD 335i coupes with the manual averaged 19.3-20.9 mpg in city/highway use. A manual-transmission 335is coupe averaged 19.4 mpg. Test M3 models averaged 19.0-19.8 mpg, which isn’t bad given the power on tap. All models require premium-grade gas.

Suspensions favor taut composure over cushioned isolation. Base suspension is compliant, though sharp bumps can pound through. The standard sport suspension and low-profile tires can trigger abrupt vertical and side-to-side motions on uneven pavement. Top up or down, the convertible has an impressively rigid body structure with virtually no cowl shake. The performance suspension included in the M3’s Competition Package has surprisingly little impact on the car’s ride.

The 3-Series is the class benchmark for overall control and steering feel. All models display excellent balance, sharp moves, and little body lean in turns. The 335is and M3 take this a step further, making them the equal of the best street cars available. On all, steering feel is precise and direct. The optional Active Steering aids low-speed maneuverability, but some testers feel its activation point is inconsistent. Braking is powerful and stable.

Engines sing under acceleration and cruise quietly. Wind rush is evident at highway speeds. Tire noise noticeable, though it’s not overly intrusive. Top up, the convertible offers near-coupe-like isolation. Top down, wind buffeting is minor; normal conversation is possible even at highway speeds. The M3’s V8 is almost always audible, however it has a great baritone rumble that rices to a race-car fury during full-throttle acceleration.

The standard controls are compromised by their low mounting position, cryptic markings, and a display that is nearly illegible when viewed through polarized sunglasses. The audio deck in particular takes more study than should be required for a car not equipped with a navigation system. BMW’s latest iDrive system is far easier to negotiate than in previous 3-Series models. Some testers say it’s simpler to use than the standard non-iDrive interface, particularly when controlling an external digital-music player. Some functions still require a long look away from the road, however. BMW’s odd turn-signal actuation draws some complaints, and in some cases, the steering wheel cuts off the driver’s view of the turn-signal indicator lamps. The rain-sensing windshield wipers are occasionally erratic.

Most cabin materials have a sturdy, soft-touch feel. The standard vinyl trim is attractive, but the fact that it is vinyl seems like a cheapskate move at this car’s price level. The available leather trim is notably richer. The decor in the 335is and M3 seems a bit bland for their high-performance pretensions. In particular, the M3’s fabric seats seem unbecoming of a car that can cost new more than $70,000. Bodies exhibit ingot-solid construction, even the convertible. Its top powers up or down in about 23 seconds.

Front headroom and legroom are good for those up to about 6 feet tall. Folks much taller than that will want for more head clearance, particularly with the sunroof. The seats have excellent bolstering to secure occupants through turns, but the bolsters may make the seats feel too narrow for those of generous girth. Rear visibility is decent, even in the convertible.

Rear headroom, legroom, and foot space are all cramped. The front seats slide fore and aft, but entry and exit require the typical 2-door stoop and twist.

Trunks have a low liftover, and the non-intrusive lid hinges help make good use of the available volume. The convertible’s meager top-up trunk space shrinks to minuscule with the top down. There’s just enough room for a single small suitcase with the top retracted, though a standard split-folding rear seat back is helpful. The coupe’s small aperture won’t swallow large packages, but its standard split folding rear seat backs expand space. Interior bins and pockets are too few and too small to be really useful.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2013 328i Modern Line w/navigation, automatic

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 8
80%
Fuel Economy - 8
80%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 9
90%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 8
80%

Total: 66

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.7 180.6 70.2 54.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.0 16.1 4.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.0 36.5 41.8 31.9
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.7 180.3 70.2 54.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.1 15.9 4.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.1 36.1 41.8 33.7
4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
115.0 190 72.0 59.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
57.0 15.8 5.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
41.3 38.3 42.0 39.2
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
110.6 182.5 71.3 56.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.0 15.8 5.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.3 37.7 42.0 35.1
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.7 178.2 71.5 55.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
60.9 15.9 5.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.3 36.9 41.5 34.6
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
110.6 182 71.3 56.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
53.0 15.8 5.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.4 38.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2012 BMW 328 sedan 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 5
100%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Engine misfire
Description: Faulty engine-position management may cause engine to go to reduced power mode. (2012-14)
Transmission leak
Description: Transmission fluid leaks near cooling line connection. (2012-13)
Electrical problem
Description: Rearview camera may not turn on when Reverse is selected. (2013)

Recall History

2012 3-Series
Description: Head restraint may move down slightly during a crash.
2012-14 3-Series
Description: Front side marker lights may not light in conjunction with parking lights or headlights.
2012-14 3-Series
Description: Brake power assist may fail.
2014 3-Series
Description: Fuel pump may fail resulting in a stalled engine.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.