The packaging of the 2015 BMW 3-Series never fails to remind you that it's first and foremost a sport sedan. Although thanks to the addition of both Sports Wagon and Gran Turismo (GT) models the past couple of years, there are plenty of ways that active families can find the best of both worlds -- and fit some practicality and comfort in with driving enthusiasm.
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.
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.
Trunk space in sedans is impressive, too, 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 reality check comes in sizing up the exterior. 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. In its last redesign, the 3-Series got a couple of extra inches of length and wheelbase, although that didn't punt it anywhere close to midsize.
What is closer to mid-size, on the inside, is the BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo (GT). From the outside it might look from some angles like just a hatchback version of the sedan, but it's definitely 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.
In all versions and body styles of the 3-Series, 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. What we do like very much, however, is the capacitive touch pad atop the controller—a cool feature that allows you to trace out letters, for destination entry, for example.
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 Q50 or Lexus IS 350.