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BMW 3 Series 2012 review: road test

The 3 Series has a near-perfect 50/50 balance make it a standout in the driver department.

The car that already accounts for a third of all BMW sales seems certain to build on its success, with the latest 3 Series growing in stature, power and efficiency. 

The range, launched last week in Victoria's hilly Healesville, comprises five models, all of them turbocharged and all fitted with eight-speed transmissions, engine stop-start technology and a long list of standard features. 

Two are diesels, three on petrol diets and there's a cracker of a new four-cylinder engine that replaces the much-loved straight-six in two of the variants. BMW says advance orders for the new 3s are the strongest yet. 

THE RANGE

The diesels are the 318d and 320d, then there's the 320i, 328i and the ferocious 335i. 

Its 225kW and 400Nm engine carries-over from last year, but fuel economy has been improved, emissions are down and acceleration has been cut to a blistering 5.5seconds to 100km/h. It's also about $10,000 cheaper than the earlier model. 

DESIGN 

Sleeker than ever, the 3 Series now has a drag factor of just 0.26 thanks to its sporty aesthetic. 

The car has a 50mm longer wheelbase, is 93mm longer overall and front and rear tracks have been pushed out by 37 and 47mm respectively. 

A thin lower air intake sits below the grille and helps to create an aero-improving'air curtain.' Inside, back seat passengers get more leg and headroom and the backrest has a 20/40/20 split to extend cargo space. 

The cockpit has a new free-standing colour monitor for the comprehensive iDrive functions and some models get a heads-up display on the windscreen.

TECHNOLOGY

The engines in all models have twin-scroll turbos. The 318d has a 2.0litre 105kW/320Nm diesel and an official fuel figure of 4.5litres/100km. The 320d, also a 2.0litre, puts out 135kW/380Nm and the same economy and the 320i petrol version has the all-new 2.0litre four that develops 135kW and 270Nm, with a combined cycle of 6.0litres/100km. 

The 328i has a highly tuned version of the same motor: 180kW and 350Nm and the 335i has a 3.0 six with 225kW and 400Nm. The smooth, fast-shifting ZF eight-speed auto is a first for BMW in the mid-size segment.

It's a great unit linked to the new Driving Experience Control (DEC) rocker switch that not only offers Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus options, but also Eco Pro mode, which gives all the models the potential to improve the economy figures.

DRIVING

It's what you make of it. Take your pick of the DEC quartet and you can go like the clappers, cruise in luxury or do the eco thing. The undercarriage has been beefed up and rewards drivers with better dynamics and ride comfort. The 3 Series has a near-perfect 50/50 balance  it's also 30kg lighter and its quick steering, huge torque, tremendous brakes and tenacious grip make it a standout in the driver department. 

VALUE

Start at $56,400 for the 318d. The 320d is $60,900, the 320i $57,600, the 328i $66,900 and the flagship
335i $91,900. There are also Modern, Sport and Luxury Line trim and equipment options and a vast selection of extras that can easily take even the mid-spec models well into six figures. 

The 335i, 328i and 320d are on sale now, with 320i and 318d stocks arriving in the March production. We enjoyed almost every aspect of the new 3 Series. An exception would be the optional `driftwood' interior trim; truly awful.

Pricing guides

$23,400
Based on 111 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,999
Highest Price
$29,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
320d 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $17,400 – 24,200 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 320d Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $19,600 – 27,280 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs
330d 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $21,400 – 29,040 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 330d Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $34,700 – 44,880 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$14,999

Lowest price, based on 90 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.