June 10, 2010
BY IRA SIEGEL SearchChicago - Autos Correspondent
It's been a few years since BMW revamped its highly acclaimed 3 Series, yet no other machine in this segment provides nearly as much driving enjoyment. Those who choose to buy, or lease, the 3 Series know what they want - a car that is simply the most fun to drive in its class.
Others in this segment may have a bit more power, a few more standard amenities or more room for rear passengers, but none offer the unique combination of handling, agility, power and braking that the 3 Series delivers.
You really have to drive this car with a passion to realize its full potential. Yes, there are some weaknesses inside the cabin, but nothing that detracts from how wonderful the car behaves on the road.
BMW offers the 3 Series as a sedan, wagon, coupe or hardtop convertible. I recently tested two versions of the coupe.
The base coupe (328i) is powered by a strong 3.0-liter inline-six that produces 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. The 335i adds a much more powerful 3.0-liter inline-six that features twin turbochargers to produce 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque.
The 3 Series Coupe, regardless of which model you choose, comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available.
Power is transmitted to the rear wheels, or all four wheels, when selecting a model with xDrive.
My 335i Coupe tester had the optional ($1,375) automatic while my 335i xDrive Coupe tester had the manual gearbox. I did prefer the manual gearbox, which lets the driver have more control. It features a nice shift feel and likable clutch pedal with hillholding capability.
The automatic with paddle shifters is fun, too, and more likable if you frequently get stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Both test models were a blast to drive, but I liked the 335i xDrive better for its manual gearbox and all-wheel drive.
I was impressed with how smoothly and how quickly the power gets to the wheels and propels this car from a dead stop and for passing.
The 3 Series carves up twisty roads better than anything in the segment and both of my test models felt as well behaved at triple-digit speeds as most cars feel at 60 mph.
Steering is precise and the brakes are quite powerful. The 3 Series is so much fun to drive I found myself taking detours on my commutes to and from work, and I was quick to offer my driving services for any errands.
Regardless of which 3 Series you opt for, the car looks as good as it drives. The Coupe is sexy and features traditional Bimmer styling cues with a sleek, contemporary theme.
Inside, the seats are comfortable and supportive. I especially liked the highly supportive sport seats in my 335i Coupe tester, which came with the optional ($1,550) sport package, adding sport seats, 18-inch wheels and specific exterior trim.
The 3 Series Coupe is a four seater; the back seats offer little leg and head room.
BMW does make it easier for passengers to get to the rear seats by keeping the front seat belts out of the way. But this requires the addition of an automatic device that features an extendable arm to present the seat belt to the driver and front passenger.
I'm glad BMW reworked the iDrive system, which is noticeably better than in the past, but I do have a problem with the center console. First, there are no console cup holders. There are two cup holders up front, but they are small and pop out from above the glove compartment on the passenger side.
Another complaint I have is that the center consoles lid can't be closed if you want to have a cord extending out from the console-mounted power outlet. This was a problem for me when I was charging my cell phone. I had to leave my cell phone inside the console to close the lid or leave the lid open.
Taking it all into consideration, and the fact that the base audio system isn't all that great, the 3 Series is what "drivers" truly want.2010 BMW 335i xDRIVE COUPEENGINE:
300-horsepower 3.0-liter twinturbocharged I-6TRANSMISSION:
rear-wheel driveFUEL ECONOMY:
16 city/25 highwayBASE PRICE:
$49,825 (including $875 for destination)www.BMWusa.com