- Drivetrain and body style variety
- Wide price range and option list
- More power
- No longer the class leader
- Questionable interior fit and finish
- Can get quite pricey
BMW 3-Series Expert Review
New for 2017
BMW has again revised its 3 Series nomenclature. Last year the 340i replaced the 335i and this year the 330i replaces the 328i. Other changes include revised exterior trim, revised interior color options, and the Sport and Luxury lines restructured into packages. The optional navigation system is updated to iDrive 5.0, while wireless charging and a Wi-Fi Hotspot are now available. Although the M Sport Package is now standard on the 340i, the Sport Package and Luxury Package are available at no extra charge.
While the BMW 3 Series sedan is the automaker's bread-and-butter model, the premium compact is also available in Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo body styles. The 3 Series is offered with four conventional gas engines, including the high-performance twin-turbo inline-six of the M3, as well as diesel and hybrid variants. All models are offered with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while some versions are also offered with a six-speed manual. The 3 Series slots above the 2 Series coupe and below the 5 and 7 Series sedans.
While the BMW 3 Series has historically set the standard in the compact premium sport sedan class, it is facing new and improved competition from German, Japanese, and even American automakers. To keep it competitive, the 3 Series is available in several flavors.
The base engine in the 2017 BMW 320i is a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 making 180 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. Depending on transmission and drive type, the 320i is EPA-rated 23/34-35 mpg city/highway. The mid-range turbocharged 2.0-liter in the 330i makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft and is EPA-rated 21-23/32/34 mpg depending on configuration. Power for the BMW 340i comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 making 320 hp and 330 lb-ft. EPA fuel economy for the rear-drive 2017 BMW 340i with the eight-speed automatic is 21/32 mpg. EPA numbers aren't yet available for all 2017 340i models, but the manual-equipped 2016 340i was rated 20/30 mpg in rear-drive trim and 20/29 mpg with all-wheel drive. An all-wheel-drive 2016 340i equipped with the automatic achieves 22/33 mpg, according to EPA's estimates.
The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid sedan combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine, making 180 hp and 215 lb-ft, with an 87-hp electric motor and eight-speed automatic. Total system output is rated 248 hp and 310 lb-ft. The 2016 BMW 330e is EPA-rated 72 mpge with its 14 miles of pure electric range and 31/31 mpg in hybrid form. A BMW 328d powered by a turbodiesel engine is also available.
At the top of the 3 Series lineup is the high-performance BMW M3 sedan powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 making 425 hp and 406 lb-ft. The engine is backed by either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. Along with a slew of suspension and drivetrain upgrades, an available Competition Package boosts engine output to 444 hp. The M3 is EPA-rated 17/24-26 mpg.
The 2017 BMW 3 Series sedan, Sports Wagon, and Gran Turismo models have a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA (out of a possible five stars). Although the 2017 model hasn't been tested by the IIHS, the 2016 BMW 3 Series earned a Good rating in the moderate overlap front, side, and roof strength tests and a Good rating for its head restraints and seats. A Marginal rating in the small overlap front test prevented it from earning a Top Safety Pick award. The BMW 3 Series earned an Advanced rating for its optional Collision Warning with City Braking function. The system reduced vehicle speed by 7 mph in the low-speed 12-mph autobrake test and by 6 mph in the high-speed 25-mph autobrake test.
What We Think
During our 2016 Car of the Year testing, we found the new BMW 340i sedan to be slower to 60 mph than the less powerful 335i it replaced. BMW did make the interior quieter, and we noted that the revised "suspension tuning in our M Sport package 340i buttons down the car's previously heaving rear end." However, "the car still felt numb and disconnected," we said.
The 2015 BMW M3 finished last in a three-way comparison against the Cadillac ATS-V (second) and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (first). We said, "It's cliché to say, but this is the best third-place finisher in Motor Trend history. C'est la vie."
Despite having extra hybrid powertrain components that add weight, the BMW 330e iPerformance drives similarly to a standard, gas only 3 Series, as we noted in a 2016 First Test. The car offers plenty of power and strong acceleration thanks to the electric motor. The car's driving dynamics remain intact, providing good handling and a comfortable ride. As for EV mode range, the 330e iPerformance can only travel up to an EPA-rated 14 miles, which is shorter than some less powerful mainstream plug-in hybrids.
In a 2017 First Test, we said that the new 248-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four paired to the eight-speed automatic offers smooth power delivery and strong acceleration for the class. However, despite the car having good handling, it's not as lively as previous 3 Series have been. In a 2017 premium compact sedan comparison test, the car was criticized for lacking personality and for its aging interior filled with average material quality.
The high-performance M3 placed second in a four-car performance sedan comparison test behind the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio but ahead of the Cadillac ATS-V and Mercedes-AMG C63 S. With the available Competition package, the M3 suffered from overly heavy steering, a clunky dual-clutch transmission, and less engaging handling compared to the Alfa and the Cadillac ATS-V. Additionally, its interior lags behind in quality to the Mercedes-AMG C63 S. With the available Competition package, however, the M3 now features better handling thanks to its more aggressive suspension setup compared to the standard car, and pairs well with its powerful engine.
Sports Seats now come standard in the 330i and 340i.