- Excellent handling and poise
- Strong, efficient powertrains
- Elegant cabin ambiance
- Electric power steering, done well
- Unique 3GT hatchback
- Uninspiring sound of 328i (and 320i)
- For BMW Apps, you'd better like the iPhone
- Interior trims can look busy
The 2015 BMW 3-Series lineup is a sport sedan at heart, but with Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo (hatchback) models, it's a lot more than that.
BMW definitely hasn't forgotten that the 3-Series is first and foremost a sport sedan. But for 2015, the 3-series loses its coupes and convertibles (they're now called the 4-Series), making the lineup look quite different than it did just a couple of years ago. Yet the 2015 BMW 3-Series catalogue is by no means simplified, as it adds Gran Turismo (3GT) hatchback models to the lineup, as well as a Sports Wagon—plus many under-hood choices.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a model in the lineup that isn't rewarding to drive on a curvy mountain road; yet nearly every model in the lineup today will return more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway if you keep it smooth and responsible.
It's out in the open about that intent, with classic sport-sedan proportions on the outside. With aggressive headlights, a modern take on the kidney grille, and flared air intakes, all the right details are here to enhance the profile. 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; and we especially like how the greenhouse doesn't get pinched by a rising beltline near the back. Inside, the BMW 3-Series' cabin is spacious for those in front, and roomy for cargo, although back-seat space is still a bit limited. The modern interior design makes good use of the space, though; just beware that some of the many trim combinations can get a little too 'splashy,' visually.
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 way to go, 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.
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. A 3-Series Sports 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.
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, but adds up to a very agreeable family vehicle.
Pricing for the 2015 BMW 3-Series can be daunting, but the flip side is that loads of a la carte options let you essentially build the car you want. 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.
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, and the available navigation system includes excellent 3D maps.
For 2015, the 3-Series lineup gets a number of minor trim and feature changes. Wood, leather, and other trim materials have changed in some cases; and functionality-wise, Bluetooth audio streaming is now included in all models.