2016 BMW 3 Series

Starting MSRP: $33,150 - $47,800

Estimated MPG: 24 city / 36 hwy

2016 BMW 3 Series Review

Forty years ago the BMW 3 Series redefined what was expected of a practical sports car, creating the benchmark for a whole new segment. It’s a prestigious role that many feel the 3 Series continues to fill. Boasting powerful and efficient engines, agile handling and striking good looks, the 2016 3 Series faithfully represents the manufacturer’s “ultimate driving machine” motto.

By Chris Brewer
Last Updated 05/03/2016

The 2016 BMW 3 Series is an entry-level luxury sedan or wagon (Sports Wagon) that seats five passengers. It’s powered by a turbocharged four- or six-cylinder gasoline engine, or an available turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. All are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. An optional six-speed manual is available on certain trim levels at no additional charge. The 3 Series is offered in 320i, 328i, 328d and 340i trims. BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is optional on most models and standard on the 3 Series Sports Wagon.

Exterior

Exterior
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The BMW 3 Series proves that a manufacturer can evolve the design of a vehicle over the years in a way that it is immediately recognizable, but not stereotypically retro. Where other manufacturers have wandered from the original formula only to come to their senses and return, BMW has slowly adapted the 3 Series with each new generation. The long hood and set-back cabin are complemented by short front and rear overhangs, emphasizing the relatively long wheelbase and the 3 Series’ inherent balance. Modern front and rear lighting lend to the athletic nature of the sports sedan or hatchback. Prominent badging reminds us that the 3 Series is indeed a BMW, in case the well-known design wasn’t enough of a hint.

My 340i test vehicle included the M Sport Package’s 19-inch alloy wheels, an aerodynamic exterior styling kit, an exterior trim kit, a moonroof and more.

Interior

Interior
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The 2016 BMW 3 Series comfortably seats four adults or two adults and three children. BMW strives to offer the most driver-oriented cockpits in the industry and the 3 Series does not disappoint. The standard six-way manually adjustable leatherette front seats provide a near perfect balance of comfort and support. My test 340i included 10-way power front seats with four-way lumbar support. Finding a comfortable driving position is easy, thanks to the almost infinitely configurable design, and the driver’s seat memory function saves your settings indefinitely.

Similar to the BMW 3 Series’ immediately recognizable exterior, the cabin is a near-perfect evolution of the original’s design. The fit and finish is excellent and the attention to detail is immediately apparent. Finding fault in the design is more of a matter of taste than a true criticism. While the rear seats will be tight for three adults, I found the legroom quite adequate and getting in and out of the rear doors an easy task.

The 3 Series sedan’s 13 cubic feet of cargo space is competitive in the entry-level luxury segment. Families that need added utility will want to purchase the Sports Wagon and take advantage of the generous 53 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded (17.5 cubic feet when all seats are occupied).

Performance

Performance
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The 2016 BMW 320i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. It’s coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual that is available as a no-charge option.

The 328i is available with the same transmission choices, but uses a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

The 328d has a turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that supplies 180 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque over a wide power band. It’s offered exclusively with the eight-speed automatic.

My 340i test vehicle was powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, which was mated to the optional six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is standard). The 340i’s engine is new for 2016, producing 320 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The engine and transmission are enough to propel the rear-wheel drive variant from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.8 seconds. Add in the xDrive all-wheel drive system and that time falls to 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy for the 340i is impressive, considering the power and fun factor, at 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Over its 40-year run, the BMW 3 Series has earned the reputation of being one of the best handling vehicles on the road. While some have criticized the latest 3 Series for losing some of the edge found in earlier models, the 2016 3 Series continues to offer a high level of driving precision. Braking and steering inspire confidence while the suspension easily handles the roadways. If you add options like the M Sport package or the adaptive M suspension, the 3 Series becomes a viable track-ready vehicle that makes city and highway driving a joy.

Technology

Technology
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The base 3 Series includes a high level of standard technology. Automatic dual-zone climate control and ambient lighting are included on all trim levels, as well as keyless entry and start.

The BMW 320i includes a nine-speaker audio system and my 340i arrived with a standard Harman Kardon surround sound system. USB and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity allow easy smartphone integration.

BMW’s sophisticated, but user-friendly, iDrive system is standard on all 3 Series models. The 6.5-inch center screen is easy to read and the controller (located on the center console) works well and involves a slight, but easily overcome, learning curve.

BMW is a luxury brand and the 3 Series can be configured to include high-end technology options including a comprehensive navigation package, a head-up display and numerous active driver assistance systems.

Safety

Safety
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the 2016 BMW 3 Series the top overall safety rating of five out of five stars. A complete battery of air bags and passive restraints is complemented by the 3 Series’ robust high-strength steel construction. The 3 Series is designed to redirect the impact of a collision away from passengers, a fact reflected in the high crash test ratings.

The BMW 3 Series also includes a BMW Assist eCall emergency request button (labeled “SOS”) and enhanced automatic collision notification. It can be optioned to include a high level of active safety features, including adaptive cruise control, an active parking assistant, side- and top-view cameras, active blind-spot detection, speed limit information, a rearview camera and more.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The nicely equipped BMW 320i starts at $33,150, which represents strong value considering the pedigree and premium nature of this luxury sedan. Of course the 3 Series faces tough competition from rivals including the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS, but in many ways the 3 Series holds its own or simply beats the best that every other luxury brand puts together, making it an intelligent buy.

My 2016 BMW 340i sedan started at a relatively affordable $45,800. It was heavily optioned and included the performance-oriented M Sport and Track and Handling packages, as well as the Driver Assistance and Driver Assistance Plus packages. Lighting, Technology and Cold Weather packages were also included. The grand total amounts to a very significant $61,370, including a $995 destination charge. While I still see the value in the loaded 340i, I would probably opt for the performance stalwart BMW M3 in its place.

Overall

Overall
9

After spending a fun-filled week with the family-friendly 2016 BMW 340i, I totally understand why BMW has been able to hang onto its “ultimate driving machine” motto for so long. The 3 Series is an absolute joy to drive and offers excellent fuel economy and surprisingly good utility, especially if you’re considering a Sports Wagon model. Frankly, with a vehicle as well-rounded as the all-wheel drive 328i xDrive Sports Wagon, it is hard to know what else someone would need. With amazing road manners, incredible acceleration and plenty of cargo space, I’d have no problem labeling it the “Swiss army knife of transportation.”

Opt for the 320-horsepower 340i xDrive and you’ll wind up with a sports car that satisfies the kid in all of us without being accused of having a midlife crisis; a label so often levied at new vehicle buyers who purchase with their heart.