2014 BMW 3-Series Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 7, 2014

The 2014 BMW 3-Series retains its sporting heritage, but has grown to become a high-tech, spacious, comfortable, and safe range of vehicles.

Back in 2012, the BMW 3-Series lineup was reinvented, at least in sedan form. The two-door coupes and convertibles were carried over, then later split off into the new 4-Series model range. Meanwhile, the 3-Series added new wagon and Gran Turismo models--which is where it stands for the 2014 model year.

From the front, the new 3-Series looks a lot like the old one--aggressive headlights, a modern take on the kidney grille, flared air intakes--but move around the side, and the new profile takes shape. The hood is lower at the nose, but rises higher than the previous model thanks to pedestrian safety regulations; the cabin is larger and longer. The overall effect is an update to a familiar silhouette that still communicates the 3-Series' balance of luxury, performance, and function.

Inside, the 2014 BMW 3-Series' cabin is spacious, with another two inches of wheelbase contributing an inch of extra legroom compared to pre-2013 models. Well-contoured seats now comfortably seat adults in the second row, while front-seat passengers have ample space in every dimension. The front seats are also highly adjustable, and available sport seats extend thigh and side support for more aggressive driving.

Review continues below

The upgrades that came with the new 3-Series last year continue for 2014 unchanged. A range of of turbocharged four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines plus a four-cylinder turbodiesel engine are available. A range of trim lines provides for customization of design and equipment.

A new model has joined the sedan range at the entry-level price point: the 320i. With the same basic 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine as found in the 328i, but de-tuned to 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, the 320i is BMW's answer to the Mercedes-Benz CLA Class and Audi A3 sedan. The next step up the ladder is the 328i, rated at 240 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. The top-tier standard model is the 335i, with a 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. For those seeking better fuel economy, the 328d is the answer, with 181 horsepower from a turbodiesel four-cylinder engine.  Rear-wheel drive is standard on all sedan models, with available all-wheel drive. A six-speed manual transmission is also standard, with an available eight-speed automatic transmission as an upgrade.

A 2014 3-Series wagon is also available. All wagons come with standard all-wheel drive, and with one of two engines: the same 240-horsepower unit found in the 328i sedan, or the 181-horsepower four-cylinder diesel for 328d xDrive Sports Wagon models. All 3-Series Gran Turismo models also come with standard all-wheel drive. Engines for the Gran Turismo range mirror those found in the 328i and 335i sedans.

Additionally, the 2014 BMW M3 sedan, like the M4 coupe, is completely new this year, and will arrive later in the model year. It's lighter overall, yet more powerful than its predecessors, with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six making 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. A special M-DCT dual-clutch gearbox does the shifting, and it can get to 60 mph in an official 3.9 seconds. A manual will also be offered, and an Active M Differential will help handling and stability. We'll update this review with more as soon as we've driven the new M3. 

Whichever body style you choose, the 3-Series range delivers balanced, well-crafted handling and dynamics, though most notably so in rear-wheel-drive sedan form. Some of the edge of previous 3-Series is gone, replaced instead with a softer, more comfortable feel, but the 3-Series is still a capable back-road hustler. The 335i models are the most potent, but the four-cylinder turbo in the 328i offers nearly as much speed and arguably more fun as you work to keep it at full boil--with better gas mileage.

The new 3-Series Gran Turismo versions don't look all that different in some respects, but they drive quite differently, with a little more weight and a softer suspension calibration and a tune that simply doesn't feel as sporty. That said, they're quite enjoyable to drive.

Part of the credit for the 3-Series balanced behavior goes to the Driving Dynamics Control fitted to all 3-Series models. Located by the driver's knee, a toggle switch lets you choose between Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ modes. In Comfort, the default setting, you get ride quality and a fair amount of pep from the powertrain. Sport and Sport+ modes sharpen the steering and shift response, with Sport+ mode also loosening the digital traction and yaw control nannies while adding electronic limited-slip differential emulation. The optional M Sport package further improves handling, lowering the suspension slightly and fitting firmer springs and dampers, along with larger M-specific 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels and unique appearance elements. An Adaptive M Sport suspension package adds electronically controlled damping.

Features and equipment are good even in base models, though the new 320i does strip out much of the standard infotainment and technology. From the 328i and up, however, the standard iDrive system ties its multi-function controller into the center stack display for entertainment, navigation, audio, and other functions. Often maligned in years past, iDrive has matured into a more usable, if still complex, system. The BMW Apps system (optional) enables smartphone integration for music streaming and more, but it doesn't support the Android platform yet.

Among the many luxury and technology options are: a head-up display (HUD), which is especially well-placed and useful here; a Cold Weather Package with heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and retractable headlight washers; a Driver Assistance Package with Lane Departure Warning and Active Blind Spot Detection; and a Park Distance Control system (part of the Parking Package), which includes a rearview camera and the Side and Top View camera system. The available navigation system includes excellent 3D maps.

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2014 BMW 3-Series

Styling

The BMW 3-Series sedan and wagon have a trim, athletic look, while the all-new Gran Turismo is a new creation with essentially the same building blocks.

Design for the 3-Series has evolved steadily, albeit gradually, as you look at its profile and up-close design details over time. And while it's already been two years since the current F30 versions of the 3-Series sedan replaced the former E90 sedans, 2014 marks a turning point for the 3-Series for two reasons: the breakaway of Coupe and Convertibles into the new 4-Series designation, and the introduction of an all-new 3-Series Gran Turismo hatchback.

In the current 3-Series sedans, the roofline looks longer, lower, and a little swoopier without looking impractical. The look is definitely more dynamic than that of its predecessor, with a rising beltline that cuts through the sheetmetal alongside the doors and helps visually lower the hoodline. Relatively level doors, lower doorlines, and a little more window space altogether help push the 'weight' of the car visually downward (and arguably make it look a bit wider). Compared to the high-beltline sport-sedan designs of the past decade, it's a refreshing direction.

Up close, the 3-Series wears the current BMW-family front end better than of the other current sedans in the lineup; headlights curve around the corners of the wide kidney grille, also contributing to the wider and more aggressive appearance. In back the 3-Series sedan is traditional and conservative, but very handsome.

Two other body styles round out the current 2014 3-Series lineup. The BMW 328i Sports Wagon offers a traditional wagon variant, looking essentially the same as the sedan from the front doors ahead, but in back extending the roofline and tapering the sides only slightly, to maximize cargo convenience and versatility.

Also new this year is the 3-Series Gran Turismo, a five-door hatchback that's nearly eight inches longer, as well as about four inches longer in wheelbase and about three inches taller--amounting to a shape that has completely different sheetmetal, but one that stands as recognizably part of the 3-Series lineup. Frameless windows, a large hatchback, and a rear spoiler, along with the coupe-like profile, altogether push this model in a new direction that appears as one third fastback, one third wagon, and one third crossover.

There's really nothing retro or nostalgic about the current 3-Series models, and we appreciate that; the horizontally oriented instrument panel helps maximize space, and overall the interior layout provides a coherence missing from the last-generation 3-Series. A slim, tablet-like optional widescreen display on the dash stands alone but fits right in, while understated but high-tech-looking appliqués on the face of the dashboard, done in brushed aluminum or wood, make your statement of luxury, whatever that might be.

The 3-Series sedans are being offered in three different trim lines—Luxury, Modern, and Sport—and each of them cover the details with different materials and finishes. For instance, Sport cars have blacked-out detailing and red accents; Luxury-line cars come with chromed grille slats and more chrome on the outside, and glossy wood trim on the inside; Modern-line cars include satin-aluminum for the grille and brightwork, with dark oyster or black leather inside, combined with pearl trim and wood inlays.

Taking a look back at the interior of the 3-Series Coupe and Convertible models, we can't help but think that the newer Sedans are a little busy in some of their interior variations, and all of their clever cut lines and transitioning surfaces.

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2014 BMW 3-Series

Performance

No matter which model of the 3-Series you go with, confident handling and dynamic excellent are a given.

The BMW 3-Series has topped driving enthusiasts' wish lists for decades, and a performance bench mark among sport sedans. For decades, the BMW 3-Series has pretty much been the performance benchmark for sport sedans.

With the current-generation (F30) 3-Series, BMW mads some major technology and engineering advances that boosted safety and fuel-efficiency, all without muddling the sharp behind-the-wheel character of this model. The Sports Wagon model fully lives up to those long-held standards for handling and dynamics, although the new Gran Turismo is still confident and responsive, albeit a little softer and more comfort-oriented.

The 2014 BMW 3-Series an all-turbocharged lineup (and it gets confusing as the model numbers no longer correspond to engine size). BMW 320i and 328i both come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while the 335i gets the latest N55 version of BMW’s 3.0-liter in-line six. In the 320i, the four makes 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, while in the 328i it makes 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Step up to the turbo six in the 335i and you get 300 hp and 300 lb-ft.

Laggy turbocharged engines are a thing of the past. In all cases, these turbocharged engines have boost that comes on so quickly that you probably won’t guess that they’re turbos; if it weren't for the sound, the 328i's four, especially, feels like a larger-displacement six most of the time (peak torque happens at just 1,250 rpm).

In manual-transmission form, the 328i sedan can get to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds with the manual transmission—only 0.3 faster than the 335i—and it churns out the torque in the low-to-mid rev range, where it matters to feel perky with an automatic transmission. Ante up to the 335i models and you get performance that just a few years ago would have been the exclusive domain of the top-performance M3.

The 2014 BMW M3 sedan, like the M4 coupe, is completely new this year, and will arrive later in the model year. It's lighter overall, yet more powerful than its predecessors, with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged six making 425 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. A special M-DCT dual-clutch gearbox does the shifting, and it can get to 60 mph in an official 3.9 seconds. A manual will also be offered, and an Active M Differential will help handling and stability. We'll update this section as soon as we've driven the new M3. 

In the meantime, an available M Sport package drops ride height for sedans by 0.4 inches, firms up springs and dampers, and includes larger anti-roll bars along with larger 18- or 19-inch M alloy wheels. Other performance options include the Adaptive M Sport suspension package, with electronically controlled damping. While both of these options do provide improvements you can feel, the base car’s setup is still a hoot, with good ride quality combined with satisfying, crisp control for all but serious track use.

In any of the 328i or 335i sedan models, you can opt for either a six-speed manual gearbox or eight-speed automatic transmission. The only exception to that is 328i xDrive models, which are automatic-only. Sport-model automatics come with special programming for faster shifts, and in sedans with the eight-speed it’s so good out on the racetrack that we might actually choose the automatic over the manual. Otherwise, we’d have to go for the precise-feeling six-speed manual for the inspiration it brings daily driving.

Driving Dynamics Control is included for the entire 3-Series lineup. With a rocker switch that’s right beside the driver’s knee, you can toggle between Eco Pro, Comfort (default), Sport, and Sport+ modes. With Sport, you get sharpened steering response, delayed shift points, and such, while Sport+ allows more slip from the stability control and permits an electronic limited-slip diff mode to give the rear wheels more traction.

All the 3-Series sedans now get an electric power steering system that loads and unloads nicely, and gives you—when you finally reach the 3’s impressive limits of grip—a little feedback from the road. We'd only wish for a little more sense of the roadway surface before you approach those limits, which is what the hydraulic steering in the former F90 (and the current Coupes) provided. A premium Variable Sports steering option permits easier parking along with sharper handling, by altering the ratio mechanically (avoiding the digital transitions that sometimes make electric power steering systems frustrating.

The new 3-Series Gran Turismo versions don't look all that different in some respects, but they drive quite differently, with a little more weight and a softer suspension calibration and a tune that simply doesn't feel as sporty. That said, they're quite enjoyable to drive.
8

2014 BMW 3-Series

Comfort & Quality

The 2014 BMW 3-Series sedan is refined and comfortable, while the wagon and Gran Turismo are active-family material.

The 2014 BMW 3-Series remains a sport sedan first and foremost. But with the addition of Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo (GT) models, the lineup now has some great options for active families.

At about 183 inches long—a few inches longer than the previous version—the 3-Series sedan is still very much compact by U.S. standards. With last year's redesign, the 3-Series got a couple of extra inches of length and wheelbase, with most of that About two inches of that going to extra legroom in back.

The 3-Series redeems itself in front, where there's enough space for those of nearly any size or body type to get comfortable, thanks to a very wide range of adjustability, whether you get the base seats or the Sport model’s upgraded seats with extending thigh bolsters plus stronger side bolstering.

It's now possible to fit adults in back in the sedan, although taller occupants will still be splaying their knees and you won't want to subject adults to vast distances in the back seat. It's no executive limo, but it'll fit kids or a quick lunch with co-workers just fine.

Trunk space in sedans is impressive, even though the trunk opening can be a bit small for fitting larger or longer items. As with some other premium models, you can move your foot under the rear bumper to pop the trunk when your hands are full, if you have the keyfob.

The new 2014 BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo (GT) might look from some angles like just a hatchback version of the sedan. But it's more than that; with a completely different roofline, a higher hoodline, and a completely repositioned seating arrangement, the GT offers a somewhat different, higher, driving position, plus many inches more space to back-seat passengers--although headroom feels a bit tight in the back positions. Cargo-wise, the GT has some of the versatility offered by the Sports Wagon, although the shallow, sloping hatch can be a limiting factor.

Ride quality is superb in virtually all models in the lineup. While the base 328i setup is definitely the most isolated, thanks mainly to its slightly higher-profile tires, you don’t sacrifice all that much in going with one of the sportier tire and wheel combinations. That can't be said of most of this model's rivals, which can get pretty harsh with their top-performing (or showiest) setups.

Likewise, you’ll find a bit of road noise in the 3-Series on some of the coarser surfaces, but it’s nothing compared to some other models in this class like the Infiniti G37 or Lexus IS 350. Even four-cylinder models are geared tall for highway cruising.

Across the lineup, you get the latest version of iDrive, which requires you to use a multi-way controller down on the center console to navigate menus for non-essential functions. It's much easier to intuit than earlier versions of the system, and we don't seeing it as a deal-breaker, yet you'll want to spend some time getting a tutorial at the dealership. We do, however, like how the latest models with navigation also add a capacitive touch pad on top of the controller--a very useful feature.

8

2014 BMW 3-Series

Safety

The 3-Series models come equipped with some useful active-safety features; and crash-test ratings are decent.

Across the entire 2014 BMW 3-Series lineup you get some innovative occupant protection and useful active-safety features. And based on the information available at this point, Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo models should be just as safe of a bet as sedans.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the 2014 BMW 3-Series earns top 'good results in all subcategories except small overlap frontal impact--where it performed only to 'marginal' standards. In federal testing, the 3-Series earns five stars overall, including four stars for frontal impact and five stars for side impact.

It's worth noting that the federal government has extended those results for the sedan to both the wagon and GT, while the IIHS hasn't yet done so.

All 3-Series sedans include front and front side airbags, plus side head airbags covering both rows. Several other optional tech features might enhance safety. Active Blind Spot Detection and the Lane Departure Warning System include a camera-based Collision Warning system and are for the first time offered in the 3-Series. It's offered as part of an enhanced Park Distance Control is a new rearview camera system with side view and top view modes to give a bird’s-eye view in close spaces and to monitor cross traffic when pulling out of concealed exits (like alleys).

The 3-Series also includes an Automatic Collision Notification system that relays to emergency responders detailed information on the type of accident and likely level of trauma.

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2014 BMW 3-Series

Features

Prices can hit breathtaking levels--even without some key features--but the positive is that you can build the car you want.

For decades the 3-Series has been many different things to a wide range of people who do all have one thing in common—they enjoy to drive.

That much hasn't changed. Across sedan, wagon, and Gran Turismo hatchback forms, the 2014 BMW 3-Series lineup is offered in a wide range of models and powertrains, varying from very economical to performance-oriented. And with a long list of options and trims on offer, there are plenty of chances to add equipment and pizazz.

At the base level, there's an impressive list of features, including a moonroof, automatic climate control, dynamic cruise control, ambient lighting, and fog lamps, as well satellite radio compatibility and HD Radio. Step up to any of the 335i models and you get a few more features, including larger 18-inch alloys, power front seats, and xenon headlamps with adaptive light control. All models include Bluetooth hands-free and USB audio capabilities.

Again, the 2014 BMW 3-Series models can be dressed up in Luxury Line, Modern Line, and Sport Line guise. Each version adds $1,400, up to several thousand, to the sticker price, but in return you get some distinct trim—some of which feels like it could be from a much more expensive vehicle. An M Sport line adds special 18-inch BMW M wheels, a sport suspension, an M steering wheel, and an aerodynamic package, plus Aluminum Hexagon interior trim and an anthracite headliner. There’s also a long list of a la carte items that includes performance items like the variable sport steering and Adaptive M suspension, plus items such as rear sunshades and upgraded wheels and trim.

Dip into the options list for the 3-Series and you can raise the sticker price, easily, by thousands. Yet you'll gain items that either add luxury ambiance, performance improvements, or advanced-tech appeal. For instance, the head-up display (HUD) is especially well-placed and useful here, while heated front and rear seats, as well as a heated steering wheel and retractable headlight washers, are all part of the Cold Weather Package. A Driver Assistance Package brings Lane Departure Warning and Active Blind Spot Detection. The Park Distance Control system is part of a Parking Package, which also includes a rear-view camera and the Side and Top View camera system.

For 2014, BMW has added a new iDrive rotary controller, containing an integral touch pad, to models with navigation. The navigation system also includes real-time traffic information and 3D topographical views--a feature that can help when you're road-tripping through mountains.

Separately, there's still BMW Apps integration—enabling music streaming from Pandora and MOG, using your smartphone’s data stream—requires a $250 smartphone holder, and it’s only compatible with versions of the iPhone.

Equipment for the 3-Series Gran Turismo and the ActiveHybrid 3 is essentially the same as with the other 3-Series models. Hybrid models include as much as 335i sedans, only with a hybrid-specific display, special 18-inch Streamline alloy wheels, and there's no Sport, M Sport, or Active Cruise Control.

7

2014 BMW 3-Series

Fuel Economy

The 3-Series is an unheralded green option for sport-sedan buyers--and it even includes a hybrid model now.

The entire 2014 BMW 3-Series lineup manages some impressive fuel economy numbers--thanks to an efficient lineup of turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines as well as smart eight-speed automatic transmissions, and even an AcriveHybrid3 model that brings a more electrified powertrain.

The entire 3-Series lineup, whether you go for the Gran Turismo or the base 320i sedan, gets Auto Start-Stop, which shuts off the engine at stoplights, as long as automatic versions are in Drive or manual versions are in a gear (with the clutch and brake depressed). Brake Energy Regeneration system is also included in some of the model line; it saves the most aggressive operation of the alternator for when you brake, which pays off with better fuel efficiency the rest of the time. Separately, the air conditioning compressor is now 'smart' and the coolant pump only runs 'on demand.' And if you select the so-called ECO PRO mode, you get a softer throttle, earlier shifting, and leaner accessory operation, all aimed at maximizing mileage.

What does it all bring? From our experience, real-world mileage is very impressive in the 3-Series, and you'll likely manage to meet the EPA ratings with a rather light right foot. The Auto Start-Stop system can be pretty rough with the six-cylinder—delivering more of a shudder/kick than we’ve felt from other systems—but it’s smoother with the four.

Going turbocharged has a very positive effect on fuel economy. BMW 328i models with the automatic earn 34 mpg on the highway, which is on par with some four-cylinder mid-size sedans that aren't nearly as exciting to drive.

Unfortunately, with a turbo six instead of a four-cylinder engine under the hood, the ActiveHybrid3 likely won't much more fuel-efficient than the 328i and 335i models--both earning up to 23 mpg city and 33 or 34 mpg highway. But with a supplemental electric-motor system and 675Wh of lithium-ion cells in the trunk, it has an all-electric range of 2.5 miles--which could significantly boost real-world mileage in stop-and-go driving. One thing that's quite noteworthy about the system is that it can shut off the gasoline engine at up to 100 mph, when coasting.

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March 30, 2016
For 2014 BMW 3-Series

i love my first BMW

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i love my first BMW and compare with my last car KIA OPTIMA
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December 28, 2015
2014 BMW 3-Series 4-Door Sedan 328d xDrive AWD

Great mileage but rough ride

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My car is a 328d, AWD - many worthwhile options and gets great mileage - my one complaint is that the low profile run flat tires give a rough ride and the wheels are wider than the tires so it is very easy to... + More »
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December 25, 2015
2014 BMW 3-Series 4-Door Sedan 320i RWD

Good performance and handles very well with no storage and useless convoluted, overpriced technology

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Car handles well, but the interior is overly simplistic and has basically no storage. My vehicle has a navigation system which is almost useless and as are the voice commands. Stereo also leaves much to be... + More »
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November 10, 2015
2014 BMW 3-Series 4-Door Sedan 328d RWD

BMW 328d has exceptional fuel mileage.

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The only con to owning the car is the wind noise at the doors and how the rear view mirrors fill up with water when washing and dumping all that water on your dry car while driving.
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July 26, 2015
2014 BMW 3-Series 4-Door Sedan 328i RWD

2014 BMW 328i Jet Black

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I love my 2014 328i. One complaint: the quality of the black lacquer interior pieces needs to be made with a more scratch resistant finish. Aside from that... I love it.
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July 3, 2015
2014 BMW 3-Series 4-Door Sedan 328d RWD

The best sedan you can have.

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It's been almost a year since I bought this car and I pretty much love everything about it. Being a Diesel car, it really impresses me the way it runs, you can barely tell the difference between this and the... + More »
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