BMW 3-Series: Still the King

By Joshua Levinstone

Ok, yes.  I love BMWs and everything in this article is biased.  But there’s a reason for that love. The 3-Series in my eyes has always been the coolest car on the market.  Heck, BMWs are just cool. When Andy Warhol paints one of your products, both it and you are cool. Period.

An Icon

While the 3-Series has evolved greatly over the past 40-odd years, it’s kept everything which made it great.  Its performance has always been on par with the best sports cars on the market. But because the car looks grown up, it doesn’t shout to the world, “I like to talk about cars at dinner.”  It’s just a nice and mature car that moonlights as a tire-shredding, corner-hugging adrenaline junky. And the iconic double headlights and black kidney grilles make it instantly recognizable.

Trend Setter

BMW has been the standard bearer for subtle performance for decades.  And while the competition has become increasingly more aggressive, BMW has managed to keep the 3-Series leading the pack.  It’s been on Car and Driver’s Ten Best list longer than any other production vehicle. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Downsides?

Sure, I won’t pretend that BMW didn’t go through a rough patch in the mid-2000’s, but so did every manufacturer.  It was a time of experimentation and new technologies. Everyone was trying to cram as many gadgets in their vehicles that, yes, quality went down.  The all-wheel drive variant during this time suffered from an expensive and inescapable repair bill when the oil pan seal began to leak. Not because it was an overly priced part, but because the it was a time-consuming job to replace it.  It wasn’t that it was a bad design, it was that BMW refused to compromise performance and the design layout meant that when that seal wore out, the repair was costly.

The Return to Greatness

The sixth generation, which came out in 2013, brought both a renewed build quality and a huge leap in performance.  The all-wheel drive 328i xDrive is my personal favorite model and the best bang for the buck in my opinion. While 240 horsepower may not sound impressive in an era of 500+ hp options, the 328 feels fast, and that’s what really counts, right?  It’s further complimented by an amazing 8-speed automatic transmission by ZF, allowing it to fly seamlessly through each gear.

Don’t get me wrong, the 335i is a noticeable jump in power and torque, and if you are looking for that extra oomf, it has it.  But I am more than happy with the balance and power of the 328i.  It is easily the car I drive most often.  Equipped with the Sport Package and paddle shifters, the car is just a blast.

Whether you like the performance of  the 328i or 335i, they both have an amazing trick up their sleeves.  BMWs Efficient Dynamics allows them to transform instantly between corner thrashing racers into docile and extremely eco-friendly daily drivers.  In Eco Pro mode, the steering wheels becomes lighter, the throttle response smoother, and the car uses regenerative braking like you would find in a hybrid, meaning the car slows down by charging the battery, saving you fuel and brake pads–something great if you’re coming back down I70.  And while it may not seem like a big deal, you’d be surprised at how much wear that drive has on your pads–and that is a big money saver.

Sure, while organ-squishing power is fun in a straight line, if you’ve ever driven a Corvette Z06 or V8 Jaguar F-Type on a windy road, the first thing you realize is that it’s more… scary than fun.  And while knowing that at any moment your car could go flying off the road does get the adrenaline surging, I like feeling in control. I like being able to take a car to the redline through more than just first gear without breaking 17 traffic laws.  And it’s that line, that ability to take a car ‘to the edge’ is when driving is most fun. And for those of us who aren’t professional racing drivers, trying to take a modern high horsepower sports car to its limit is, well… risky.  Its nice driving something that can take you there and still get you back home in one piece.

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