Offered in 328 and 335 forms with different engines, the 3 Series is BMW's bread-and-butter model. This series has a history in the U.S. market that dates back to 1977. Available in sedan, coupe and retractable-hardtop convertible body styles, the twin-turbo 335 competes with the Infiniti G and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. A new all-wheel-drive coupe debuts this year, but otherwise changes are minimal for 2008.
Paddle shifters are available for 2008 335 models with the automatic transmission and Sport Package, and coupes with the Sport Package can now have 19-inch wheels. Compared with the fourth-generation series, which debuted for 1999, the fifth-generation 335 sedan is larger in almost every dimension. Although its body is 30 pounds lighter than before, it's been stiffened. Front-to-rear weight distribution is close to 50/50.
A number of features are borrowed from the larger 5, 6 and 7 Series in BMW's lineup. Run-flat tires are mounted on all models, and Dynamic Cruise Control can gently apply the brakes to maintain the preset speed.
The 335 features a long hood and short front overhangs. The coupe and convertible look much like the sedan, but they have sleeker styling and a different front end. Xenon high-intensity-discharge adaptive headlights are standard. Alloy wheels hold standard 17-inch tires, and a Sport Package includes 18- or new 19-inch rubber. Active Steering with Servotronic speed-sensitive assist is optional.
Sedans seat five, but there's only room for four in the coupe and convertible. The sedan's trunk volume is 12 cubic feet, and a folding rear seat is optional. The optional sport seats included with the Sport Package have power-adjustable backrest width.
A multifunction remote replaces the conventional key, and the engine fires via a start/stop button. Automatic climate control has a Heat-at-Rest feature to continue moving warm air around the cabin.
BMW's iDrive is available in the 3 Series as part of the optional navigation system. Subwoofers beneath the front seats are included, and Sirius Satellite Radio is available. A power rear sunshade option includes manual rear side sunshades.
Under the Hood
BMW's twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder develops 300 horsepower and 300 pounds-feet of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, and a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with normal, sport and manual modes is optional.
Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. In the sedan and coupe, BMW's Head Protection System uses a side curtain airbag system to protect occupants in both the front and rear seats. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are installed up front.