Base Price: $42,800
As Equipped: $53,645
Fuel Economy: 23-city/33-highway/28-combined
Atlanta traffic is some of the worst in the country, and by mid week, we felt like our 300-horsepower BMW 335i was going sorely under-utilized. So, "Who can spend some time with this one," was the question asked at our editorial meeting. I won the bid.
Now, let's see where we're at with the 3 Series: for 2012, BMW overhauled the 3 Series sedan, but left the coupe unchanged. That said, the 328i, 335i and 335is coupe and convertible models are more or less the same car from 2011. The sedan, however, has a brand-new turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the 328i, and that glorious turbo-six continues to power the 335i. To my delight, our car was the faster model.
Also new for this year's sedan is the way the car's trims are structured. Rather than simply buying a stripped 3 Series and bolting on options a la carte, there are now four distinctive versions of the vehicle, each with its own special flavor: Sport, Modern, Luxury and M Sport. Ours was the "Luxury Line," which included 18" wheels, an exclusive brown "Saddle" leather interior and lots of chrome both inside and out. This particular 335i also had the cold weather, premium audio and technology packages, which included heated seats, the Harmon-Kardon sound system and navigation with Head-Up display.
The new 3 Series is beautiful, and the patrons of our local gas station thought so, too. From the updated headlights to the taillights that nearly match the 5 Series, the new design was a clear winner. The real story was with the interior, though, where one man told us that the 2012 model made his 2010 3 Series feel like a "Tonka Truck" inside.
On the highway, the 3 Series is expectedly graceful, with plenty of power and the nimble handling and steering that have made BMW famous. In Comfort Mode, the car is pleasant, and in Sport Mode, the throttle is remapped to push the car closer to the red line between shifts. New to the 2012 model year is the car's Eco Pro mode, which negatively reduces the car's power and uses regenerative braking to get the best fuel economy possible. The new 3 Series also comes standard with the "Auto Start/Stop" feature, which stalled on us twice. At red lights, the car kills the engine to conserve fuel, but our car had issues coming back to life. At least two times we were left with error messages and requests to manually re-crank the car to start it.
On the whole, we really enjoyed the new 335i sedan, but our biggest gripe here was with the price. At nearly $54,000, our car was significantly more expensive than some of its better-equipped competitors. For example, the 2012 Infiniti G37 is totally loaded for $8,000 less, and it has all of the BMW's features PLUS a back-up camera, which our 3 Series felt incomplete without. Even a well-appointed Audi A6 can be had for under $55,000. There's no question that this premium sport sedan will sell well, but its increasing price may leave shoppers considering a few other options along the way.