New Car Review

2016 BMW 3 Series: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader September 2015

There's something great about the 2016 BMW 3 Series, just as there always has been ever since the first one came out in the mid-1970s. This is the sport sedan by which all others are judged.

We're now into the sixth generation, and this model year brings a midcycle revamp with changes to the styling, chassis and engine bay. These revisions should keep the 3 Series fresh against its rivals and uppermost in the minds of anyone looking to buy a compact executive car with a sporty edge. The current version comes packed with technology, as well.

What's New for 2016?

The star of 2016 is a new model: the 340i. This supersedes the 335i with a more powerful engine, plus a standard 16-speaker audio system. From a range-wide cosmetic point of view, there's been a mild restyling around the nose and tail, while the interior has received some upgrades.

Tweaks to the chassis are claimed to improve steering and handling. What used to be the Dynamic Handling package is now the Track Handling package (for gasoline models). The Sport Line package is standard on all models, except for the entry-level 320i. An M Sport suspension is on the options list.

LED headlights are available, while the navigation can now receive automatic remote updates. BMW has discontinued the ActiveHybrid, but there will be a 330E plug-in hybrid coming in 2016.

What We Like

Powerful and fuel-efficient engines; spacious interior with top-notch materials; up-to-date technology; confident driving character; wagon variant available with 53 cu ft. of cargo space (although the sedan's trunk can still accommodate a respectable 13 cu ft.)

What We Don't

This generation tends to skew more toward comfort than previously; going for the ideal set of options gets expensive in a hurry

How Much?

$34,145-$48,795 (including $950 destination charges)

Fuel Economy

The rear-wheel-drive 320i (sedan only) is propelled by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 180 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. Paired with the 8-speed automatic transmission, this engine is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. There's also a 6-speed manual transmission that achieves 23 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive 320i xDrive returns 23 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined with its automatic transmission.

The 328i comes with either rear-wheel drive (sedan only) or all-wheel drive (sedan and Sports Wagon). Like the 320i, they feature a 2.0-liter turbo four, but this version has been cranked up to 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. Despite the extra muscle, fuel economy doesn't really suffer. The rear-wheel-drive sedan registers 23 mpg city/35 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined with the 8-speed automatic and 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined with the 6-speed manual. All-wheel-drive 328i xDrive models (including the Sports Wagon) return 22 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

The 328d starts with rear-wheel drive (sedan only) and offers all-wheel drive (sedan and Sports Wagon). Its turbodiesel 2.0-liter 4-cylinder makes a respectable 180 hp but also a glorious 280 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is the 8-speed automatic. EPA estimates are a remarkable 32 mpg city/42 mpg hwy/36 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/34 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

The 340i (sedan only) features a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder developing 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. With the 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, it runs to 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined. Adding xDrive still achieves 26 mpg combined. Opting for the manual transmission yields 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined or 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined in xDrive form.

Standard Features and Options

The base 320i comes standard with 17-inch wheels, fog lights, push-button ignition, auto stop/start (a fuel-saving feature that tends to make its presence felt but can be disabled), Driving Dynamics Control (offering three settings for throttle sensitivity and steering effort), manually adjustable front seats, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, iPod/USB connectivity and the iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in screen.

The 328i and similar 328d are generally equipped like the 320i but add a few conveniences such as an auto-dimming rearview mirror and power seats with driver memory settings. The 328i xDrive Sports Wagon and the similar 328d xDrive Sports Wagon enjoy a panoramic sunroof to go with their station-wagon body style.

The 340i is mostly about the powerful 6-cylinder engine, but it also gets feature upgrades relative to the 328i sedan, including 18-in wheels, LED headlights and a sunroof.

Most models can be customized with a choice of appearance packages that offer bespoke wheels and interior decor. The M Sport package includes exterior trim, a sport suspension, an M steering wheel, sport seats, a short-shifter kit (manual transmission only) and extensive M badging throughout.

In typical BMW fashion, the options list is extensive and expensive. The Premium package varies by model but adds power lumbar support and keyless entry/ignition with a foot-activated trunk opening and closing feature. The Cold Weather package brings a heated steering wheel, along with heated seats in the front and rear.

Stand-alone options are limited on the 320i but seemingly limitless for the rest of the range, highlighted by dynamic cruise control, a self-parking system, Harman Kardon audio, navigation and the larger 8.8-in iDrive display. All models are eligible for the BMW Apps program that brings social media via smartphone.


The 3 Series comes with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, collision mitigation and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). The optional BMW Assist telematics system adds automatic crash notification and roadside assistance; the Driver Assistance Plus package bundles front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree parking camera system, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and a front-collision warning system with low-speed automatic braking.

The current 3 Series received a perfect five stars overall in government crash testing, including four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave its top Good rating in all categories except for the new small-overlap front crash test, for which the car only received a Marginal rating.

Behind the Wheel

There's no mistaking the heritage of the 2016 BMW 3 Series when you climb into the driver's seat. Classic round gauges shine subtly with BMW's trademark red illumination, and the central control panel is canted toward the driver. There's a high-tech vibe thanks to a classy central display with graphics and responsiveness beyond reproach, and the latest iDrive controller continues to be a favorite in the infotainment category.

Anyone familiar with older 3 Series models will notice how spacious the current model feels -- big enough to question whether it's really worth stepping up to the 5 Series. Optional front sport seats add some snugness in all the right places.

As the 3 Series has matured, some trademark playfulness has been lost, but there's still an overwhelming sense of confidence and control. The smooth, quiet ride is impressive, and there's plenty of power, particularly in the downright-fast 340i. This BMW delivers a true premium driving experience.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi A4 -- The A4 is oldest in this segment but is still blessed with nimble handling and an upscale interior. A new generation is coming in 2016 as a 2017 model.

2016 Jaguar XE -- This is a brand-new model, so it's still unproven, but if other recent Jaguars are any indication, the XE will definitely be worth checking out when it goes on sale in early 2016.

2016 Lexus IS -- The IS offers bold styling, athletic handling and a much-improved interior over earlier versions.

2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class -- The C-Class features exceptionally graceful styling, a slick dashboard and 340i-rivaling performance in C400 form.

Used BMW 5 Series -- BMW's certified pre-owned program gets you into a low-mileage 5 Series for the price of a new 3 (or even less). Our preference is for the smooth and swift 535i, but you might find a suitably priced 550i sporting twin-turbo V8 power.

Autotrader's Advice

The gasoline-powered 328i has a seductive mix of acceleration (significantly quicker than both the 320i and 328d), decent fuel economy and relative affordability.

Find a BMW 3 Series for sale

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2016 BMW 3 Series: New Car Review - Autotrader