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The BMW 3-Series cars have grown as complex as the hardware wrapped in their sheetmetal bodies. BMW juggles a coupe, a convertible, and a sedan under the nameplate—though the sedan this year is a new model, while the two-doors ride under a last-generation architecture. There's some resolution next year when the 3-Series entails only sedans, wagons, and hatchbacks—and the new BMW 4-Series reigns over coupes and convertibles.
But today, the 2013 BMW 3-Series soldiers on as a paragon of the mid-size luxury class, a leader in handling and prestige, and a follower in infotainment. The four-doors continue to be a benchmark for performance across the board, though Cadillac's new ATS has intruded on that territory in a huge, deep way. The coupes and convertibles? They're still more status symbols than anything. As such, we'll focus here on the new sedan.
Overall, the roofline looks longer, lower, and a little swoopier without looking impractical. A more dynamic, rising beltline also cuts through the sheetmetal alongside the doors and helps visually lower the hoodline. At the same time, the doors are relatively level, and there's more glass space and lower doorlines than you might expect. It's an evolution, yet one that goes in a refreshing direction when you hold it up to all the high-beltline sport-sedan designs of the past decade.
Looking at details, we think the new 3-Series wears the current BMW-family front end better than any of the other models in the lineup; the familiar kidney grille is wide here, and headlights curve around the corners, altogether giving it a wider, more aggressive look. In back, the 3-Series is at its most traditional and conservative.
The sedans have adopted an all-turbocharged lineup. Unlike past years, BMW no longer uses the final two numbers in the model to denote engine size. The 328i is fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, while the 335i uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 makes 300 hp and 300 lb-ft. Both engines use a twin-scrolling turbocharger that delivers power quickly, and at low enough rpm, that the engines never feel lagged or stretched for power.
BMW has added a Driving Dynamic Control rocker switch to all 3-Series models that can adjust throttle tip-in, transmission shifts, and steering heft depending on the mode selected. Comfort is the default mode, but the system can also switch into Eco Pro, Sport, and Sport+ modes, with the last stop adding more slip allowed by the stability control and engaging an electronic limited-slip differential to give rear wheels more traction.
With last year's redesign, the 3-Series got a couple of extra inches of length and wheelbase, with most of that About two inches of that going to extra legroom in back. But it's worth remembering that the 3-Series is first and foremost a sport sedan, and packaging can take second stage to proportions and weight distribution. With better seat contouring and that added inch or two, it's now possible to fit adults in back, although taller occupants will still be splaying their knees and you won't want to subject adults to vast distances in the back seat. It's no executive limo, but it'll fit kids or a quick lunch with co-workers just fine.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.