Reviews

2013 BMW 3 Series Walk Around

There are differences in the body styles of the different 3 Series models, but all will be instantly recognizable as BMWs. All boast short front and rear overhangs, a similar roofline and other classic BMW styling cues, including the BMW Hofmeister kink at the base of the C-pillar.

The most noticeable styling difference between the sedans and the coupes is that the sedan headlights and grille are connected. A wide, squat interpretation of the upright, slightly forward-slanting BMW kidney grille is used. LED accent lights positioned like eyebrows above the striking twin headlights with corona rings (if xenon headlights are specified) add intensity to the classic BMW focused look.

The front of the sedan has two large air intakes are positioned underneath the headlights to the outer edges of the front fascia that add depth to the sporty styling. On the far left and right of the main ducts are small vertical intakes which help create an air curtain for improved air flow around the front wheels, enhanced aerodynamic efficiency and reduced fuel consumption at higher speeds.

The current 3 Series sedan is slightly larger than the previous model (2006-2011). Front and rear overhangs are about an inch longer, though the 3 Series still has short overhangs for the class. Overall width is about the same, measuring 71.3 inches wide, 0.2 inch narrower than before. Track (the distance between the left and right wheels) has grown to 60.3 inches front and 61.9 inches rear; a significant increase of 1.2 inches in front, 1.7 inches rear. Overall height of the 3 Series sedan is 56.3 inches, an increase of 0.4 inch. The engine is set back behind front axle to improve weight distribution and handling. The 3 Series sedans are aerodynamically slippery, with a 0.29 Cd for 328i, 0.30 for 335i.

Sedans are available in Sport, Luxury, Modern, and M Sport trims. Each have a unique grille and subtle exterior trim differences.

Interior

The different trim levels available for the BMW 3 Series sedans have unique features inside. A choice of leatherettes (vinyl) and leathers is available for the different trim levels. All the seats we tried, base, Sport, Luxury, Modern, were comfortable and held us in place. We hardly took note of them, a good sign. And getting in and out of these cars was easy.

The standard interior looks like traditional BMW with matt-satin silver-colored trim. The base seats are nice. The standard leatherette looks and feels like leather. It's functional but boring. If you're spending this much on a car you deserve to be rewarded with one of the upgrade interiors.

The Modern interior is distinctive with its textured trim, interesting and fresh. We checked out one in the oyster-colored leather and liked it. If you enjoy design and want something different you may love it. We're not sure how it will hold its charm over the long term, though it may make for a collector car someday.

The Luxury interior is traditional and attractive, and is our choice for commuting, business or road trips. Warmest and prettiest is a Luxury with tan leather and burr walnut wood.

The Sport line is all about the business of driving, featuring black seats with high bolsters and black and red interior trim, our choice for serious driving or a day at the circuit or just looking manly.

Regardless of trim, the 3 Series sedan's cockpit is oriented around driving, the dash angled slightly toward the driver bringing all controls within easy reach. Four circular dials (fuel gauge, speedometer, tachometer and oil temperature gauge) come with a black panel display. Climate controls are traditional BMW, intuitive and easy to operate. Overall, the trim is nice. Soft-touch plastic inside the interior door handles feels upscale. One gripe was the plastic glovebox latch, which looked and felt cheap.

The iDrive monitor sticks up above the dash, reminding us of a flat-screen television that pops out of a piece of furniture when switched on. Except this little flat-screen is always there: It does not retract into the dash, and it is not beautiful to behold, though it is easy to see and it does work well. The high-resolution display is wide, allowing a view of more real estate and more roads to the sides, useful when navigating. Real-time traffic information is provided, handy in metro areas that support it. Shift into Reverse and the rearview camera automatically displays what's behind the car, valuable for helping the driver spot a low post or a small child. In addition, Surround View with Side View and Top View offer a bird's-eye perspective of the vehicle and the area around it, very helpful in tight confines. Parking Assistant helps the driver parallel park by finding a space, turning the steering wheel, practically parking the car itself.

The BMW Connected app allows users to access their music library, email, text messages and more by tethering their iPhones with the built-in cable or optional dock. BMW Apps also offers access to Pandora, subscription-based music service MOG and more.

Rear-seat roominess was increased for the 2012 BMW 3 Series sedan, providing slightly more legroom and headroom. A pair of us sat in the back seats and found them roomy with good headroom. We think the 3 Series sedan would be a fine choice for transporting four adults out to dinner. Getting in and out of the back seats is easy. When we swung our feet out, our toes didn't hit the B-pillar.

Getting into the trunk is easy. Kick your foot under the rear bumper and the system will sense your remote control and pop the trunk lid for you, handy when walking up to the car with two armloads of groceries. The trunk is about average for the class at 13 cubic feet.

Cargo space on coupes measures 11 cubic feet, while the convertible is relegated to a measly 9 cubic feet.

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