2013 BMW 3 Series Sedan - FROM $36,500
Regardless of body style, the 2013 BMW 3 Series is an impressively well-rounded and highly desirable entry-level luxury car.
What's New for 2013
The 2013 BMW 3 Series wagon is fully redesigned, aligning it with the next-generation sedan that debuted last year. Both benefit from now-standard power front seats and a new M Sport equipment line, while "xDrive" all-wheel drive makes its return to the sedan lineup. Meanwhile, the ActiveHybrid3 makes its debut for 2013, offering 28 mpg combined and an eye-popping price.
Last year's introduction of the new BMW 3 Series was a very big deal. In Germany, we imagine parades being held in its honor with blue-and-white checkered flags flapping from windows as men in lederhosen clang steins of Franziskaner together in a foamy exclamation of celebratory revelry. In America, the new 3 Series represents the reinvention of not only the best-selling luxury car in this country but also the most heralded sport sedan of all time. No Bavarian parade, perhaps, but still very much noteworthy.
However, last year's redesign only applied to the 328i and 335i sedan. For the 2013 BMW 3 Series, the wagon model gets the same changes as its conventionally trunked sibling; the coupe and convertible are still unchanged. The new-generation sedan and wagon are larger, but weigh less. The steering is now electrically assisted in an effort to improve fuel efficiency, and unfortunately it's lost a bit of that trademark BMW steering feel in the process. Like all recently introduced BMW models, the 3 Series sedan and wagon get Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the driver to select among four modes that alter throttle response, steering effort and shift patterns of the automatic transmission.
The most noteworthy difference between the newer four-door body styles and the carryover two-doors is under the hood of the 328i. Whereas the coupe and convertible maintain the traditional, naturally aspirated inline-6 engine, the sedan and wagon get a turbocharged four-cylinder that produces more horsepower and achieves 5 mpg more on the EPA combined driving cycle. That's what you call a win-win. Meanwhile, the 335i's turbocharged inline-6 is the same regardless of body style or generation, and it's one of the most invigorating engines in the luxury segment even while nearly matching the four-cylinder's fuel economy.
Unique changes for the 2013 BMW 3 Series Wagon are restricted to the cargo area. The split two-piece liftgate continues, only now the top piece is power-operated. Plus an optional feature allows you to open it simply by swiping a foot under the bumper, which is handy when your hands are full with luggage, groceries, or children.
Less impressive is the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid3 sedan that also debuts for 2013. As the name suggests, it features a gasoline-electric powertrain to improve both fuel economy and performance. However, based on current fuel costs, it would take about 62 years to pay back the ActiveHybrid's price premium over a similarly equipped 328i. Plus, the hybrid is only a half-second quicker from zero to 60 mph than its turbo-4 sibling, which is hardly what we'd call bang for your buck.
Yet even if the ActiveHybrid3 represents a questionable purchase, every other 2013 BMW 3 Series is worth serious consideration. Strong competitors like the Audi A4 and A5, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti G and Mercedes-Benz C-Class should make your decision much harder. None, however, has the overwhelming variety of the BMW 3 Series.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 BMW 3 Series is available in sedan, coupe, hardtop convertible and wagon body styles. The coupe and convertible belong to the previous-generation body style, whereas the sedan and wagon are on an all-new platform introduced last year.
Every body style starts off as the 328i. The sedan comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, driver memory functions, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface and a premium sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. The wagon, which is only offered as the 328i, differs only in that it adds a power liftgate that allows you to open it simply by swiping your foot under the bumper (keyless entry/ignition is required).
The coupe differs with a sport-tuned suspension and manually adjustable front seats (power-adjustable is an option), while the convertible gets a power-retractable hardtop and 10-way power front seats with memory functions. Both two-door body styles add adaptive xenon headlights and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat.
The 335i sedan and ActiveHybrid3 get unique powertrains, although both come equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive and auto-leveling xenon headlights, automatic high beams and a sunroof. The coupe and convertible are similarly equipped, but feature 17-inch wheels instead and lack standard iDrive, the LED running lights and automatic high beams. The convertible adds heat-reflective leather upholstery.
The 335is coupe and convertible get an upgraded engine, sport exhaust, a sportier suspension calibration, 18-inch wheels, unique styling elements, sport seats and a sport steering wheel.
Most of the extra items on certain body styles and trims are available as options on the others. There are many other options available as well, most of which are available both within packages and as stand-alone options. These include larger wheels, an automatic parking system (sedan and wagon only), headlight washers, parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, an active steering system, heated front seats, heated rear seats (sedan and wagon only), a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade (coupe only), the BMW Assist emergency communications system, a navigation system (adds iDrive on coupe and convertible), a head-up display (sedan and wagon only), satellite radio and a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.
Finally, the sedan and wagon can be equipped with four optional equipment lines -- Luxury, Modern, Sport and M Sport -- that include different wheel designs, color schemes, trim types, seats, steering wheels and even suspension tuning.
Powertrains and Performance
The 328i sedan and wagon are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while xDrive all-wheel drive is optional. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; an eight-speed automatic is optional on the sedan and standard on the wagon. Both transmissions come with an auto stop-start function that turns off the engine when the car stops in order to save fuel. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped 328i sedan went from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds -- quicker than all its four-cylinder competitors. EPA-estimated fuel economy with the automatic is 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined, while the manual is similar at 22/34/26 mpg. Both are exceptional for the class.
The 328i coupe and convertible get a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 230 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual are standard; a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are optional. BMW estimates a manual-equipped coupe will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds -- other body style and drivetrain combinations will take a second longer than that. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18/28/22 mpg for the rear-drive coupe regardless of transmission. The convertible and/or all-wheel drive achieves 1 or 2 mpg less in each EPA driving cycle.
All 335i models regardless of body style get a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Each body style gets the same transmission and drivetrain choices as their respective 328i versions. BMW estimates a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds for the sedan, and in Edmunds performance testing the coupe was a little quicker than that. Fuel economy estimates for the 335i sedan are outstanding at 23/33/26 mpg with the automatic and 20/30/23 mpg with the manual. The coupe gets a still solid 19/28/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive and the manual. The automatic and all-wheel drive drop those estimates by 1 or 2 mpg depending on body style.
The 335is has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder good for 320 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. There is also a temporary overboost function that bumps max torque up to 370 lb-ft. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual known as DCT is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped 335is coupe went from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds. Fuel economy with the manual is 18/26/21 mpg and 17/24/19 mpg with DCT.
And finally, there's the ActiveHybrid3. It pairs the 335i's engine to the eight-speed automatic, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. All together, it produces 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Despite this, BMW says it will hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds -- barely quicker than its cheaper, less powerful sedan siblings. Fuel economy is disappointing, too, returning 25/33/28 mpg. Better than the others, but not by much.
Every 2013 BMW 3 Series comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The sedan and wagon get front knee airbags. The convertible lacks the side curtain airbags, but the regular front-seat side airbags extend up to head level and there are also pop-up rollover hoops.
The stability control system integrates several features designed to improve braking performance, such as periodically wiping the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are in use and automatically snugging the pads to the rotors when the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. BMW Assist emergency communications is optional and includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 328i sedan with 18-inch summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 115 feet, an average distance for this type of car with summer tires.
In government crash testing, the sedan received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, plus four stars for frontal protection and five for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the sedan the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests. It received the second-worst rating of "Marginal" in the Institute's new small overlap front crash test, but few cars have been subjected to this test, and a majority received a similar rating or worse.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cabins of the redesigned 3 Series sedan and wagon get a more contemporary update compared to the two-door body styles, especially around the dash, doors and center console. The newer four-door models come with four choices of equipment lines -- Luxury, Modern, Sport and M Sport. Among other things, these choices change the color scheme and trim type in the cabin. It's a nice touch that allows a greater amount of customization.
BMW's iDrive remains a somewhat complicated electronics interface (it's standard on every four-door and included on two-doors with navigation). At times it can take too many clicks, twists and turns of the control knob to perform certain tasks, but it does provide a wide range of vehicle customization that'll reward an owner willing to park for a bit and learn the ropes.
The base-model seats are comfortable and supportive, while the purpose-built seats of the sport packages are even more so. Materials and build quality within the cabin are exceptional; even the standard leatherette (vinyl) upholstery looks and feels better than one would expect. The convertible's available heat-reflective leather does a wonderful job of keeping posteriors cool.
The backseat of the 3 Series is one of the more spacious in the entry-level luxury segment regardless of body style, and the added overall length of the new four-door models adds even a little more legroom front and rear. Trunk space is average in the coupe, while the wagon offers a maximum cargo capacity of 53 cubic feet -- more than BMW's X1 and basically equal to the Audi Allroad. The convertible offers a reasonable cargo hold when the hardtop is up, but predictably shrinks considerably when the top is lowered. Still, it's possible to store a standard roller suitcase back there or two smaller bags.
With its new turbocharged four-cylinder engine, electrically driven steering, multiple drive settings and all-new chassis, the 2013 BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon provide a slightly different driving experience than that of the carryover two-door cars. The four-doors have a smoother ride, making them superior long-distance cruisers. And while the sedan and wagon still have sharp reflexes, their new steering doesn't offer quite as much feedback as what's provided by the older coupe and convertible. In terms of being exceptionally fun to drive, the BMW 3 Series is no longer a runaway leader for the sport sedan class.
Still, we have no complaints about the 328i sedan's new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It provides quick acceleration and a healthy boost to fuel economy. Most shoppers will be pretty happy with this engine. But should you want the traditional inline-6 experience, the 335i adds a huge wallop of turbo torque that's always on tap, while the 335is goes a bit further and sounds especially delectable to boot.