The 3-Series comes in several different body styles. With coupe, convertible, sedan and wagon variants--including diesel and high-performance M3 variants in some styles--the 3-Series includes a full range of possibilities.
Each of the body styles is offered in 328i and 335i variants, with the 328i including a 240-horsepower, 2.0L in-line 4-cylinder engine and the 335i getting a 300-hp, 3.0L turbocharged six. Both of these engines are smooth and free-revving, and they work well either with the standard 6-speed manual transmission or the available 8-speed automatic. Coupes and sedans are offered with either rear-wheel drive (328i and 335i) or all-wheel drive (328ix and 335ix). In the 335is coupe, the turbo engine makes 320 hp.
A 3-Series clean-diesel engine is only available in sedan form. The 335d sedan includes a 265-horsepower, 3.0L twin-turbo in-line 6-cylinder diesel that burns cleanly enough to be sold in all 50 states and produces an incredible 425 lb-ft of torque--bringing the performance of a V8. The 335d is only paired with a 6-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, and returns a very impressive 23 mpg city, 36 highway.
The M3 comes with a 4.0L V8 engine capable of producing 414 horsepower and 295 lb-feet of torque. Two transmissions are available on the M3: a conventional 6-speed manual and a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual model.
Across the lineup, 3-Series models have a similar front-end appearance but are quite different in layout. Xenon adaptive headlamps are standard on 3-Series coupe models, and the coupes and convertibles get a unique taillight design with L-shaped lamps and LED illumination. Coupes and convertibles follow a 4-person layout, while sedans and wagons have a 3-person back seat. In place of the center position in coupe and convertible models, there's a larger center console along with storage bins, air vents and footwell lights.
Steering and handling remain 3-Series strengths. All the models in the lineup have near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and the suspension--with a double-pivot/strut setup in front and multi-link arrangement in back--is made mostly of aluminum and tuned for a firm but absorbent ride. Servotronic power steering gives a good feel of the road, but the available Active Steering is a step up, automatically adjusting the ratio and assistance level to make the car easier to handle in parking lots as well as on the highway. The Dynamic Stability Control system helps maintain control either near the limits on sharp corners or on slippery surfaces, and it's tuned to allow a little more slip--and driving enjoyment--than most systems. The stability control system will even function like a rear differential and help channel power to the wheels with the most traction, for improved handling. Brake Standby and Brake Drying help maintain top braking performance in the wet, and a Start-off Assistant helps smooth starts on a steep incline. In addition to a full roster of airbags, the 3-Series comes with standard front active head restraints, to help prevent whiplash injuries.
The 2012 3-Series convertible maintains its folding-hardtop arrangement, which compromises trunk space slightly but provides a weather-tight seal from the outside for year-round motoring. An Automatic Air Recirculation helps improve airflow at lower speeds, while the automatic climate control system includes three different modes, including a 'Convertible' mode designed for when the roof is open. For those planning to travel frequently at highway speeds with the top down, there's an available wind deflector, and the available leather in the convertible includes sun-reflective treatment across all surfaces and can reduce interior temperatures by up to 36 degrees.
Wagon models offer an entirely different package aimed at maximizing cargo space and versatility. Wagons are now only offered in 328i and 328ix models.
The M3 is available in coupe, sedan and convertible forms. Long lauded as one of the best performance cars available, it continues this tradition for 2012 as well. Mountains of power, precise handling and clever electronics mean anyone can drive this inexpensive supercar well. A Competition Package includes upgraded 19" wheels, lowered ride height and tuned electronic dampers and stability control to subtly improve what is already one of the best driver's cars out there.
As in the past, the iDrive controller can be pressed, twisted, or tilted to make menu selections, and it's now flanked by buttons that access common functions such as telephone or navigation quickly. Programmable memory keys will automatically bring up frequently used functions to access easily. Menu structures in the new iDrive system are new, with a better visual stacking of the menu structure on screen and symbols. Voice Command allows voice input.
Within each variation of body style, engine, and drive system, the 3-Series models come in a single trim, with a pretty lengthy list of standard features. Rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors and washer jets, keyless entry, an onboard computer, dynamic cruise control, automatic climate control, and a sound system with HD radio are included as standard. Available as part of a Cold Weather Package is a heated steering wheel and a number of other options and packages bring items like upgraded Dakota leather upholstery, a moonroof, a navigation system, a rear sunshade, smartphone integration, or an iPod adapter, as well as Harman Kardon surround sound.
An M Sport Package is also offered on the 3-Series, bringing some of the appearance cues of the high-performance M3 to the 328i or 335i. It includes performance tires on 18-inch wheels, plus sport seats, aerodynamic extras, upgraded trim, and a higher top speed.
On the M3, a Premium Package includes power-folding mirrors, BMW Assist and Bluetooth, while a Technology package includes keyless entry, a navigation system with voice command and electronic damping control.