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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
3-series still is the best driving car in the class
Smooth, sufficient power for around-town driving and highway passing
Sublime 3.0L inline-six
One stint behind the wheel of the 2010 BMW 3-Series is enough to realize that BMW hasn't lost touch with its long-standing reputation for making cars for those who enjoy driving. The base and optional gasoline engines in the 2010 BMW 3-Series line are both 3.0-liter inline-sixes, following BMW's legendary history of smooth inline-sixes.
Motor Trend reviewers note that "the automaker's sublime 3.0L inline-six, available in naturally aspirated and twin-turbo forms, remains the same." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are unanimously impressed with both variants of the engine, which can be distinguished by their 328 (naturally aspirated) and 335 (twin-turbo) numerical designations. The base engine, according to Cars.com, is the naturally aspirated 328, which produces "230 horsepower [and] 300 pounds-feet of torque." Moving up a notch in power, Edmunds states that the "335i and 335i xDrive get a different 3.0-liter inline-6, this one twin-turbocharged to produce 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque." ConsumerGuide, meanwhile, reports that the 2010 BMW 3-Series in 328i form "has smooth, sufficient power for around-town driving and highway passing," while the "335i has abundant power at any speed with no noticeable turbo lag." Car and Driver agrees that either combination is "exceedingly capable, with instant power on tap up to its 155-mph cutoff." The hot rod of the group, a 335i coupe, "did 4.7 seconds 0-60 mph," according to ConsumerGuide tests.
The 2010 lineup of BMW 3-Series models offers consumers a couple of transmission choices and includes both rear- and all-wheel-drive models, as well as the traditional manual and automatic transmission offerings. Edmunds reports that all BMW 3-Series "models come standard with a six-speed manual shifter, while a six-speed automatic is optional." Edmunds also points out that "paddle shifters can be added to the auto" on the 2010 BMW 3-Series. According to Car and Driver reviewers, all versions come with a base rear-wheel-drive transmission, while the 328i offers "an available xDrive all-wheel-drive system." On automatic-transmission versions of the BMW 2010 3-Series, ConsumerGuide finds that "the 6-speed automatic changes gears smoothly, but downshifts can lag behind throttle inputs."
Despite the fun that can be had behind the wheel of a BMW 3-Series, Edmunds is pleased to report that the vehicles remain "relatively fuel-efficient." For the wagon models, the EPA estimates that rear-wheel-drive versions with the manual will get 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, while the automatic returns 18/27 mpg and the xDrive variant gets 17/25 mpg. For the sedan and coupe models, the 328i gets an impressive 18 mpg city and 28 mpg on the highway. Moving up to the higher-output 335i models, the EPA estimates that rear-drive sedans and coupes will get 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, while manual-transmission xDrive versions should hit 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. For 335i xDrive models with the automatic transmission, city economy jumps up 1 mpg to 17 mpg, while the highway rating is unchanged at 25 mpg.
Last year BMW launched its first-ever clean diesels for the U.S. market, one of them the 335d. The diesel model is available only as a four-door sedan with a limited range of options, but it maintains the BMW spirit in a very fuel-efficient package. The 265-horsepower twin-turbo diesel generates a locomotive-like 425 lb-ft of torque, thrusting it from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, while the EPA rates it at 23 mpg city, 36 mpg highway. Spectators and even some drivers may never realize it's a diesel until it's time to fill up.
Everything you've heard about the phenomenal driving dynamics of the 2010 BMW 3-Series is true, according to TheCarConnection.com's research. Automobile Magazine simply declares the BMW 3-Series "the best driving car in the class," thanks to its "communicative steering and wonderful chassis balance," while Motor Trend marvels at how the BMW 3-Series is "equally at home canyon-carving at triple-digit speeds as it is taking the kids to school." ConsumerGuide raves that BMW's 2010 lineup of 3-Series models "is the class benchmark for overall control and steering feel," and "even with the base suspension, all models display excellent balance, sharp moves, and little body lean in turns." Edmunds predicts that the "steering and brakes will provide hours of entertainment on twisty two-lane byways," and ConsumerGuide agrees that "braking is powerful and stable." Some models offer a pricey active-steering option, which has been criticized by some for an artificial feel. Why tamper with perfection?
There is simply no doubt that the 2010 BMW 3-Series remains the "Ultimate Driving Machine" among small sedans for its performance and handling.