The BMW 3 Series coupe, hardtop convertible and wagon have been held over from the prior model year, but the four-doors are all-new for 2012. The 328i and 335i are slightly bigger, slightly lighter, slightly restyled and, by all accounts, worthy of their proud heritage.
Exterior restyling is limited to an extra inch or two between the wheels, adding front and rear legroom, a new taillight stack and a new façade featuring wider “split-kidney” grilles and headlights with no gap between.
The most noticeable changes are under the shell, where the 328i’s I-6 has been replaced by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
The new engine might not satisfy all the Bimmer faithful, but it does deliver 240 hp at 225 ft.-lbs. of torque. The 335i’s well-traveled, 300-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder returns for another tour. Both engines are coupled with a six-speed manual transmission or, for no additional charge, an eight-speed automatic.
The new car’s suspension has been rebuilt with more aluminum, saving weight, and retuned to compensate. The automatic transmission includes BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control, a system that offers a selection of four shift modes. Each features its own setting for shift patterns and throttle response as well as steering response, which may help experienced 3 Series drivers adjust to the new car’s all-electric steering control.
Standard equipment on the 328i includes 17-inch alloy wheels, leatherette upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlights and wipers, foglights, cruise control and automatic dual-zone climate control. Scaling up to the 335i gets you 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights with automatic brights and eight-way power front seats.
Both cars also feature an automatic start/stop system designed to save fuel by cutting the engine when the car is stopped; the system can be deactivated by the driver.
The latest version of BMW’s iDrive infotainment interface and Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are standard across the lineup, and customization options still abound: Buyers can add a myriad of features such as automatic parking or proximity alerts, keyless entry and ignition, heated front and back seats, bigger wheels, a head-up display or harman kardon surround sound, among others.
Changes aside, the 3 Series remains at or near the top of the small luxury sedan class and a dependable choice for the fleet buyer.