2012 BMW 335
Starting MSRP $42,400–$60,800
Maybe you moved out of the big city to raise your family and then you bought a minivan. Maybe you eat more macaroni and cheese than you'd like and listen to more kid-inspired music than you once did. Maybe you feel like you've sold out, just a little bit.
There's still hope for you; the 2012 BMW 3 Series is the car to help you break out of the vehicular lifestyle that's been compromised by a growing family.
For 2012, the 335i sedan has been redesigned and it's hard to find fault with it. It looks modern and athletic, and it drives the same way. I was so pleased to have an available six-speed manual transmission in my test car that I couldn't have smiled any more during my test drive. The five-seater demands some sacrifices in the comfort department, though.
This car will make you feel like a speed demon with its turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine. What's really cool is my test car came with Efficient Dynamics, which means the engine shuts off at lights when the system is engaged. This saves gas and helps with emissions. But don't confuse Efficient Dynamics with the Driving Dynamics system, wherein I could change the 335i's driving characteristics. I could change from Eco Pro to Comfort to Sport to Sport+, which really means I could start off soft(ish) and move to more aggressive gearing and suspension settings.
The 2012 335i sedan has a starting price of $43,295, including an $895 destination charge. My test car cost $54,070.
The 2012 BMW 335i is sporty and clearly designed for someone who likes to drive and maybe show off a bit, but it doesn't look too hoity-toity. Frankly, I felt like a bad-ass; how often does that happen unless I'm taking a kick-boxing class or giving the bully kid down the street a talking-to?
The sedan's exterior looks sleek and slippery. The headlights are menacing with the LEDs glaring at fellow motorists. The rear end is refined and sinewy as well, with tapered taillights. The dual exhaust looks tough, and the chrome adds a bit of shine to the athletic look. Again, the 335i is not frou-frou, but lean and mean.
Visibility out the rear window when the center head restraint is in place is hampered. To help with visibility issues, my test car came with a backup camera and side- and top-view cameras, which give a bird's-eye view of the car and its surroundings. It's cool, but they're part of a $1,550 Parking Package.
My kids, ages 10 and 8, got in and out of the car easily, but small ones will want some help closing the doors. The trunk can hold a week's worth of groceries or a compact stroller, but it'll probably be taxed by a trip to a warehouse store.
The 300-horsepower, turbo 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder means that you go quickly whenever you choose. When paired with the standard eight-speed automatic transmission, the 335i sedan gets and EPA-estimated 23/33 mpg city/highway. With the available six-speed manual, it gets 20/30 mpg. This is a BMW, so it should come as no surprise that the 3 Series uses premium gas.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
The 2012 335i sedan shouldn't be confused with a luxury car. It's luxurious in a pared-down sort of way, but it's not cushy, chrome-y and wood accent-y. It follows the exterior's theme in that it's athletic and lean. Don't expect a power lipstick applier, automatic dog groomer or any other over-the-top comfort-oriented gadgets, OK? This car is serious.
It's so serious that it has a cupholder cover that looks like a shallow tray for a gadget. If you want to use the cupholder, you have to pry off (not very easily, I might add) the shelf to access it. When you do get the cover off, the cupholder is located precariously between the gearshift and the center stack — my least favorite locale. Fortunately, the front doors have bottleholders and all passenger doors have storage bins. Other storage is tough to come by, again refocusing you on driving the car and not much else.
The iDrive multimedia system, which is standard on the sedan, is relatively easy to use. It has updated graphics and shortcut keys. Another fun feature is the head-up display that shows the car's speed in a ghostlike readout on the windshield. Just when I think the car is a throwback to pure driving it gives me some futuristic features that I actually use. Well done, BMW.
In a car that mostly screams "sporty," I loved the saddle brown, aka Venetian Beige, leather seats; the color added a bit of sophistication to the 335i's athletic feel. Combined with the black dash and black carpet, it looked inviting. The eight-way power adjustable front seats are comfortable, though stiff and sporty. There was great legroom for all passengers, but it should be noted that only one of my kids still uses a booster seat now.
There are cupholders in the backseat that pop out of the top of the fold-down armrest. They reminded my family of a pop-up book. The rear passengers have netting on the front row's seatbacks to stash some items, and there is also a pass-through to the trunk that my kids found entertaining. The rear seats split 40/20/40, too.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
The 2012 BMW 3 Series sedan has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety nod, a car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. The 3 Series sedan also earned top safety marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received an overall safety score of five stars of five. It earned five stars in side and rollover crash tests and four stars in frontal crash tests.
Because the 335i is driver-oriented, I figured its two sets of lower Latch anchors would be buried deep in the vehicle's nether regions. But there they were in the outboard seats, so easy to access that it made my heart sing. However, those rear-facing child-safety seats will push front passenger space to its limits.
The 335i sedan has standard rear-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints, auto-leveling and adaptive bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and side curtains for both rows.
Optional features include all-wheel drive, lane departure and blind spot warning systems, surround-view cameras, a backup camera, front and rear parking assist and Dynamic Cruise Control.
Get more safety information about the BMW 335i here.
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