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 |  Jan 31 2012, 11:30 AM

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel estimates are out for BMW‘s new line of 3-Series cars and it looks like they’ve caught the competition with their pants down.

The 2012 328i scores an impressive 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, that’s a 28 percent improvement in fuel consumption over last year’s model. What’s even better is that the 328i actually gets more power than the model it replaced for a total of 240 horsepower compared to last year’s 230. The 300-horsepower 335i doesn’t get a boost in oomph but as you may expect, is less thirsty in 2012. In fact, the automatic-equipped version is downright efficient, bragging 23 mpg city and 33 highway.

Though it might seem like it, these jumps don’t happen overnight, or by some magic gasoline fairy waving a wand. BMW achieved such impressive improvements in the 328i through cleverly engineered turbocharging and by lobbing a whole liter off of last year’s engine. That’s right, there’s a 2.0-liter inline four where there used to be a 3.0-liter six cylinder.

So what of the competition? The Mercedes-Benz C 250 has 39 fewer ponies than the 328i and only gets 21 and 31 mpg in the city and highway despite having a 1.8-liter engine. Audi‘s A4 uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged powerplant and also only gets 22 mpg city and 30 on the highway when equipped with their gas-saving continuously variable transmission, not to mention falling 29 horsepower short.

The jig is up for this model year, but it should be interesting to watch Audi and Mercedes-Benz respond to their Bavarian neighbor’s conservative consumption. Perhaps this is why BMW remains the top dog in the bratwurst pile.