Best Family Luxury Sedans: BMW 3-Series

October 31, 2010

Any discussion of best family luxury cars has to include a BMW, doesn’t it? And in the case of luxury sedans, it definitely holds true. Continuing our week-long series on the best family luxury sedans, today we check out the BMW 3-Series.

BMW 3-Series

For years the BMW 3-Series has been the company’s top seller, and for good reason. It’s a premium luxury car that’s well-built with world-class fit and finish, plenty of power, and offers a balanced ride and handling unmatched by competitors. In fact, the BMW 3-Series has been a Car and Driver “10Best” for the last 19 consecutive years. In a review, The Car Connection gives the 2011 BMW 3-Series an overall rating of 8.3 out of 10 (with scores of 9 in styling, performance, and features). This sounds just about right for a family luxury sedan.

Note: Consumer Guide and Edmunds list the BMW 3-Series as premium and luxury compacts, respectively, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists BMW 3-Series as mid-size luxury/near luxury car.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists BMW 3-Series as compacts.

Here’s the scoop.

First of all, there’s the variety you get with the BMW 3-Series. I like to call it the BMW bandwidth. There are coupes, sedans, convertibles and wagons, rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD). In addition, there are several engine choices. What’s not to like? But since we’re concentrating on the best family luxury small sedans, we’ll focus on just that.

The BMW 3-Series comes in five sedan models: 328i and 328i xDrive sedan (with intelligent AWD), 335i and 335i xDrive sedan, and 335d (diesel-powered) sedan. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) range from $33,650 and $35,650 (328i, 328i xDrive), $41,100 and $43,100 (335i, 335i xDrive) to $44,150 for 335d sedan.

The sedan (along with the wagon) received a mild facelift (don’t you just love that word when applied to a car? Makes me think of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon’s work, but that’s getting off-point) in 2009 and is mostly unchanged for 2011 – except for an engine change. That’s not a bad thing, because even toward the end of the BMW 3-Series life-cycle, the sedan’s still a sporty driving machine.

Performance and Fuel Economy

On 328i models, power comes from a 230-horsepower 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission (six-speed automatic is optional). The engine block is composite magnesium/aluminum. Zero to 60 mph speed for the 328i is 6.3 seconds (manual) and 6.9 seconds (automatic). In 328i xDrive, the times are 6.9 seconds (manual) and 7.1 seconds (automatic). EPA-estimated fuel economy for 328i is 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway (manual), and 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway (automatic). In 328i xDrive, the numbers are 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway (manual) and 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway (automatic).

BMW 335i and 335i xDrive sedan are powered by a 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. Zero to 60 mph for 335i is 5.4 seconds (manual) and 5.6 seconds (automatic), while for 335i xDrive the numbers are 5.3 and 5.4 seconds (manual and automatic, respectively). EPA-estimated fuel economy for 335i is 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway (manual) and 17 mpg city/28 mpg highway (automatic). In 335i xDrive, the numbers are 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway (manual) and 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway (automatic).

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