Test Drive: 2012 BMW 3 Series

April 02, 2012 | by —Brian Armstead, automotiverhythms.com | Pursuits

Take nearly any luxury sports sedan on the market today—any—and I would bet the farm that from concept to production, the car was benchmarked against the segment standard bearer, the BMW 3 Series. For decades, the 3 Series has ruled the roost. Yes, the Audi A4, Lexus IS, Infiniti G, Cadillac CTS, and Mercedes C-Class are superb cars, but on the road, none of them feel like a BMW.

Under-the-Hood Power & Outward Perfection

For 2012, the new 3 Series is available in three trim levels: Sport Line, Luxury Line, and Modern Line. Outside of mechanical differences depending on your engine choice, each offers subtle changes in interior and exterior appointments. I spent 95% of my “regular” 3 Series time driving the superb 335i. It’s my kind of car: powerful, well appointed, and incredibly fun to drive. Ride quality is sporty yet compliant, and the only noises you’ll hear are the sweet sounds of a BMW engine under power.

Speaking of power, motive force for the 335i comes from a legendary line of straight six engines, and this 3.0-liter unit features dual scroll turbo-charging and outputs 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 miles per hour sprints come up in a rapid 5.4 seconds. No matter your choice of gearboxes, a six-speed manual or state-of-the-art eight-speed, the gear-changing experience is crisp. 

Stylewise, the 3’s dynamic proportions are shaped by the sweeping hood, short front overhang, long wheelbase, and set-back greenhouse typical of BMW. As expected, LED Corona Rings make quite a statement day or night.

Technology & Safety at Your Service

BMW ConnectedDrive offers a combination of available driver assistance technology and mobility systems. New for 2012 is a full-color Head-Up Display, which projects key information onto the windshield so it appears directly in the driver’s field of view. Also available is Surround View with Side View and Top View, which gives a bird’s-eye perspective of the vehicle and the area around it. In addition, an available Parking Assistant system helps the driver to parallel park. Among the other assistance technology available includes an Active Blind Spot Detection System and Lane Departure Warning System with camera-based Collision Warning system; a navigation system with real-time traffic information and an innovative comfort access function allowing hands-free opening of the trunk lid.

For those permanently wired to their iPhones, BMW ConnectedDrive also offers “apps” connectivity. The BMW Connected iPhone app offers a suite of entertainment and productivity applications for your 3 Series. My favorites are Pandora Internet Radio and MOG music service, with access to millions of songs that can be controlled through your iPhone and fully controlled via the iDrive rotary controller. You can also read Tweets and get Facebook updates at any time. Thousand of additional Internet radio stations from all over the world are accessible with the flick of the iDrive rotary controller.

On the safety front, this is a BMW, so rest assured every major safety feature available is standard. BMW Connected also comes into play here should your airbags deploy in a crash, giving emergency services the severity of the crash and likely trauma levels so they can prep before they arrive. Obviously, it also tells them where you are using GPS coordinates.

Pricing for the 2012 BMW 3 Series starts at $34,900 for the 328i and $42,400 for the 335i. Expect all-wheel drive and updated M3 versions in showrooms soon. 

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