The BMW 3 Series is the prototypical sports sedan, featuring a sporty rear-wheel-drive setup, engaging handling, and a high-tech interior. Not only does it set the benchmark for other sport sedans, but it’s been a favorite among driving enthusiasts for decades. The BMW 3 Series is the brand’s entry-level sedan but is inspired by the other vehicles in the lineup, including the 5 and 7 Series. It’s offered in rear or all-wheel drive and can be had with a turbocharged four or turbocharged six-cylinder engine. The 3 Series first debuted in 1975 as a coupe, and then the sports sedan came in the ‘80s. The original model was dubbed the E30 and it remains a favorite in enthusiast circles. Over the years, the 3 Series has become larger, more luxurious, and higher end, with lots of technology that’s sure to make an impression.
The 3 Series is built in Germany at BMW’s Munich Plant, while Chinese market vehicles are built in Tiexi plant in Shenyang. Following the completion of the San Luis Potosi plant in Mexico, the new BMW 3 Series will also be built there.
Pros/ Engaging, Fun to drive, Well designed interior, High tech features
Cons/ Not exactly pretty, More “sedan” than “sport”, Some features are a bit gimmicky, can get expensive
Bottom Line/ The BMW 3 Series is among the best in its class, with fun to drive dynamics thats among the top contenders in the segment. The design is a bit conservative, but a fully loaded 3 Series is an impressive vehicle.
Table of contents
BMW 3 Series Specs
BMW 330i Specs
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder
Horsepower: 255 hp
Torque: 295 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, optional xDrive all-wheel-drive
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Acceleration (0-60 mph): 5.6 seconds / 5.3 seconds with AWD
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Capacity: 17.0 cubic feet
BMW M340i Specs
Engine: 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder
Horsepower: 382 hp
Torque: 369 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, optional xDrive all-wheel-drive
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Acceleration (0-60 mph): 4.4 seconds, 4.2 seconds with AWD
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Capacity: 17.0 cubic feet
BMW 3 Series Fuel Economy
The EPA has only evaluated one model of the 3 Series so far, the rear-wheel-drive 330i, which earns 26 MPG in the city, 36 MPG on the highway and 30 MPG combined. Of course, you can expect higher fuel consumption with the all-wheel-drive models and the higher-performance six-cylinder models.
BMW 3 Series Safety Rating
The BMW 3 Series has been tested by the IIHS and was given a Top Safety Pick + rating, which is the highest score a vehicle and earn. It earns top marks across the board, including crashworthiness in the driver and passenger side overlap tests, moderate overlap test, side crash test and roof crash test. It also scored perfectly in regards to its headlights and head restraints and earned a Superior Mark for its crash prevention systems. Finally, the IIHS dubs the LATCH Anchors to be easy to use, making the 3 Series a good choice for parents.
BMW 3 Series Features
The 3 Series comes with a lot of standard equipment, like a moonroof even on the base 330i model. You get a push button ignition and keyless entry fob. There is also automatic engine start-stop to save fuel, and several drive modes to suit your preference. The 3 Series comes standard with power folding and heated side view mirrors, and also comes with LED headlights.
Inside, you’ll find 14-way power adjustable seats with memory but the vehicle is upholstered in a faux leather that BMW calls SensaTec. Speaking of seats, the rear seats can fold with a 40/20/40 split.
The 3 Series comes with 205-watt, 10-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a rear-view camera. You also get a three-zone automatic climate control system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a universal garage door opener. Finally, the vehicle comes standard with frontal collision warning, automatic city collision mitigation, and lane departure warning.
BMW 3 Series Pricing
The rear-wheel-drive 330i starts at $40,250, while the all-wheel-drive version will cost $42,250. Six-cylinder models, the M340i, will start at $54,000 and the all-wheel-drive versions start at $56,000.
The four-cylinder models are available in three “lines” which impact the interior and exterior accents and features. The Sport line is the basic model, while the Luxury line starts at $42,200 and the M Sport Line goes up to $45,250. The all-wheel-drive versions of the car add an extra $2,000. Six-cylinder models do not come in these “lines.”
There are a number of packages and features available for the 330i, like the $2150 Convenience Package, which adds support for locking and unlocking the car via smartphone, active driving assistant (which is BMW’s suite of driver assistance technology) and lumbar support for the front seats. You can add the Active Driving Assistant Pro to this package for an extra cost. Another package for customers is the $900 Parking Assistance Package that adds a hands-free automatic parallel parking, as well as additional parking cameras and sensors. Buyers can also get the $2,800 Premium Package which adds a head-up display, navigation, teleservices, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The $2,100 Executive Package combines the parking assistance package with the gesture controls systems as well as automatic high beams and laser lighting technology which provides the maximum level of light output. Finally, 330i buyers can add the $2,450 Track Handling package which delivers the best performance thanks to upgraded tires, brakes and suspension. There are several stand-alone options as well, like a power tailgate, or harmon/kardon surround sound system.
The M340i models are offered with the $500 driving assistance package, $1,700 driving assistance professional package, $900 parking assistance package, $1,400 premium package, $2,100 executive package, and the $1,500 cooling and high-performance tire package
BMW 3 Series Competitors
Future BMW 3 Series Plans
The new BMW 3 Series just landed for the 2020 model year, so it’s not clear what’s to come for the 3 Series, but you can expect a new 4 Series to come soon, since it’s based on the 3.
Additionally, BMW will likely bring some more powertrains to the lineup, like hybrid or plug-in hybrid models since the automaker has a strong history of electrification. Furthermore, BMW is sure to add a performance-oriented M3 based on this generation of 3 Series.
2020 BMW 3 Series Review
By Sami Haj-Assaad
Everyone seems to have a story or memory about the BMW 3 Series. DTM racer Timo Glock shared with us that he recently purchased a 1988 3 Series, a special edition model, because it reminded him of his father’s Alpina White E30, a car that he remembers growing up in.
Some memories are less positive, as the last generation 2011-2018 models left an impression that had us pondering if BMW still deserved the slogan the Ultimate Driving Machine. See, BMW spoiled drivers for so many years with vehicles that drive so well, offered luxurious interiors and lots of technology. But the competition had caught up, with fantastic offerings from Mercedes, Audi, and even Genesis leaving the BMW model feeling less impressive.
Until now, that is. Can we definitively say that the 3 Series is back? Well, they’ve come back closer to what we’ve expected from BMW — the vehicle is fun to drive, well equipped and features impressive technology.
It falls short in just a few hardly deal-breaking ways, most notably with the exterior design, which can be seen as a bit anonymous, especially when you view the car from the rear or the sides. The front is distinct, as any vehicle with the kidney grille will be. With the notches by the headlights, there’s an interesting call back to the popular E46 generation model of 3 Series. Around back, you see some non-descript L shaped taillights, and if it wasn’t for the roundel badge, you wouldn’t know whether you’re looking at a Genesis, Lexus, Audi or BMW. Time will tell whether this design ages as the other 3 Series cars have, but right now, it’s not the highlight of the new generation.
On the other hand, the interior is much-improved thanks to a smart design that’s modern looking without being over-the-top or unergonomic. While the switchgear by the gear stick doesn’t feel particularly special, the rest of the cabin is nicely sorted, taking the high-tech motif from its big siblings like the 5 and 7 Series. There is a nice assortment of materials that match the sleek styling.
One major addition to the BMW’s cabin is a personal assistant that takes brings MBUX “Hey Mercedes” concept to BMWs. Simply put, it’s like a smart home assistant, like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana or Apple Siri, meaning you can just say “Hey BMW” to issue infotainment commands as well as control other settings in the car like the HVAC. The BMW interpretation of the technology allows you to rename the activation command. While we named our car “Charlie,” others were able to rename their cars anything just short of vulgar. The system also has a few responses to things like “I’m tired” where the car will pulsate the air conditioning, and play some upbeat music to get you back into the mood. Similarly saying “I’m bored” will lead the car to ask if you’d like to switch into the Sport mode. The future promises are a bit out there, as BMW says that next year the car will be able to chit-chat with you, I guess for those lonely road trips
The system is good, although more work needs to be done to make it more natural like the Mercedes implementation. Some commands weren’t understood, things like “I’m cold” should trigger the heated seats or up the cabin temperature. On the other hand, one bonus is that the system can tell from which passenger the voice command is coming from, so if you ask the car to change the temperature, the dual-zone climate control will change either the driver’s side or passenger side settings depending on who issued the command.
That’s the highlight of the tech-filled cabin, but not the only thing to bring up. The infotainment screen is not only easy to use but features a gorgeously crafted screen that curves into the digital gauge cluster. One superb aspect worth bringing up is the digital cluster is perfectly placed so that the steering wheel doesn’t block the main information display. Our testers also featured BMW’s new HUD, which features handy information like upcoming speed limits and navigation instructions.
And although we spent most of our time on the roads of Algarve, Portugal, behind the wheel of the four-cylinder 3 Series, that speed limit information was a huge help. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine features 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, and is easily the benchmark of the segment, with a smoother and refined experience than the Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, and Genesis G70. The feeling of putting your foot down is superb, leaving my driving partner and myself in awe that this car is being powered by “just” a four-cylinder. The motor is paired with a new eight-speed automatic, which worked without issue on the road. It features shorter gearing for the lower ratios, as well as better low-rpm cruising with no grumbling or lugging feel. Gear changes were slick and smooth, and when the car was in the Sports modes, it downshifted proactively and hung onto gears all the way to the top end of the tach.
The four-cylinder testers that were driven on the road were rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive, six-cylinder models were tested on the track. The straight six features an incredible 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It too featured an eight-speed automatic, a powertrain combination that had us seeing nearly 230 km/h on the front straight of the Algarve Autodromo in Portimao. The track features a ton of elevation changes, with uphill segments that have you staring into the blue sky and downhill segments that connect sharp and sweeping turns. While xDrive with its rear-wheel drive bias is a known commodity, it is a perfect match on the track, instilling confidence in challenging situations.
Granted, the models we drove on the track featured M-Sport suspension used on M Sport line vehicles, that provided a great sense of how much more dialed in the chassis of the 3 Series is. The chassis apparently dropped 55 kg, even though the front and rear tracks, and wheelbase have grown. There’s a lower center of gravity, which is always a good thing. Stiff and communicative, even the base Sport line models feature surprisingly good suspension. BMW has incorporated a new suspension system with smart hydraulic stop dampers: at the front of the vehicle, the shocks limit upward tilt, so when you accelerate you won’t be staring at the sky. Conversely, on the rear shocks, the car limits vertical movement. It’s not only sporty but refined.
On the road, you’ll notice how much quieter the new vehicle is. The engine note sounds great from outside the vehicle, but you can’t hear much of it within the cabin. However, when you put the car in the sports setting, the engine note is amplified through the speakers. Some enthusiasts hate this, while others don’t seem to mind.
The last generation 3 Series was criticized for losing many of the elements that made the nameplate such a success. They weren’t fun, luxurious or innovative, but these issues have addressed in spectacular fashion. But what about the steering? Always a hard thing to judge when it comes to cars being billed as the “Ultimate Driving Machine” this BMW has perfectly enjoyable steering, a half step below the benchmark set by the 2 Series coupe from the brand.
There are so many ways the car can wow you now, even if it isn’t the exterior design. There’s a number of features like hands-free cruise control up to 60 km/h, an “eyes on the road” reminder, and even a reversing assistant that can retrace your last 50 meters, just in case you get stuck in a narrow dead end where you can’t pull off a three-point turn. Even your favorite gimmick, the gesture controls get updates too, which a pair of new gestures like a thumbs up, but to the left or right, so you can track up or down on the media system.
Even price-wise the new 330i seems to hit the spot. Buyers will appreciate the $41,245 price tag for a base, rear-wheel drive model ($49,000 in Canada, which comes standard with xDrive AWD), and there are some great features being included that used to be optional. You can expect items like adaptive cruise control with automatic brakes, an acoustic windshield, rain sensing wipers, LED headlights and allow wheels as standard equipment. The M340i will be more pricey at $54,995 and $56,995 for AWD models ($59,150 for RWD and $61,850 for AWD in Canada), but following up on the M240 and M550, it feels like a vehicle worthy of that extra M-badge, inspired by the big-name M vehicles like the M2, M2, M3, M4, and M5.
The Verdict: 2020 BMW 3 Series Review
Following the last generation 3 Series, many thought that BMW lost its mojo and was no longer the benchmark for sports sedans and driving dynamics. This new model shows that BMW got the message, and has refocused and prioritized those elements for its entry-level sedan. While the exterior design may not grab your attention, the driving dynamics of this vehicle have been beefed up so much. It’s an addicting experience, giving the sports sedan new life as a truly enjoyable car that will excel in so many situations.
|Engine /||2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder (base)|
|Torque /||295 lb-ft|
|Drivetrain /||Rear-wheel drive, optional xDrive all-wheel-drive|
|Transmission /||Eight-speed automatic|
|Acceleration (0-60 mph) /||5.6 seconds, 5.3 seconds with AWD|
|Seating Capacity /||5|
|Cargo Capacity /||17.0 cubic feet|
Our Final Verdict
The previous BMW 3 Series had lost its way as a sport sedan, but the new-generation model has refocused on what’s important for this segment: Excellent driving dynamics and a high-tech yet luxurious interior. BMW is facing some stiff competition in this segment but still manages to be at or near the top of the heap with its impressive 3 Series.4.5