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2013 BMW 3 Series Overview
Bigger but lighter? Those sound like dimensions we can get behind. Now that the rest of the lineup has caught up with the redesigned sedan, BMW's 2013 3 Series can truly be called “new.”
As Porsche can attest, it’s not easy carrying the mantle of a legend decades in the running. The 3 Series has stood at the forefront of what a sports sedan should be since its debut more than 3 decades ago. Making changes to such a perfect recipe while still maintaining the flavor that made it perfect is a challenge. Wavering here and there along the way, BMW has managed just that and heads into a new generation with every indication the march will continue. But subtle changes can mean big differences.
The sedan got the treatment first, with additional aluminium suspension components that allowed for a stretch along the wheelbase while still not adding any additional weight. And if you’ve seen any tracking the roads out there, you’ll notice a bold-for-BMW approach of slightly changing the front end. The headlights and the iconic double-kidney BMW grille now touch, and that’s a change worthy of headlines. There’s a new bifurcated lower intake as well, and the whole design has been touted as reminiscent of the Z4, with some even going so far as to call it “wedge-shaped.”
Revolutionary as these changes sound, it’s still recognizable as the 3 Series you’ve come to love, even if it’s drifted more toward 5 Series status at this point. Overall the car grows in every dimension except weight, with the lion’s share going toward a stretched wheelbase: 108.7 inches for the 2-door coupe and 110.6 for the 4-door sedan. But the 3 Series lost something besides weight with the most recent redesign, and sadly it’s some cylinders.
On paper, there’s nothing to lament. The new turbo 4-cylinder is an improvement over the old inline 6 in every objective category, with direct injection, faster Valvetronic timing and lift, and forced induction. It all adds up to more power and less weight than the old motor with 10 more horses and 60 more lb-ft of torque that show up 1,500 rpm earlier. And even with the added weight of the twin-scroll turbocharger, the 4 is a skinnier mill, contributing to a now-perfect 50/50 weight distribution in the 328i. With a combined efficiency rating in excess of 30 mpg, it’ll be hard to stay salty at the pump as well.
But if you’re still not ready to let go of 6 cylinders, the 335i still offers the turbocharged version of that engine. Everyone gets automatic start/stop too, but not everyone is happy about it. Some say it’s still too rough and feels too close to a stall when engaging and disengaging. Give people time to get used to it, or for the system to go haywire and be abandoned.
The fight for efficiency didn’t end there, as the resculpted body of the 3 Series is more aerodynamic as well—down to 0.26Cd from 0.29, and new variable-output coolant and oil pumps further increase efficiency mechanically. Unfortunately electric steering is another of those efforts, and the system is not on par with the legendary feel of the old hydro setup. There’s nothing but disappointment to be had here, with a side-helping of hope that they’ll soon get it right.
Inside things are less dire with the introduction of four new “flavors” with which to augment your 3. Luxury, Modern, Sport and M-Sport are dolled-up individually, with Sport getting you additional black exterior trim, leather or leatherette with red piping and stitching, a black headliner with red interior accent trim and a suspension lowered by 10mm. Luxury goes for inlaid wood and chrome with a unique seam pattern and contrast stitching for the leather upholstery. Modern adds to Luxury with matte chrome exterior trim and your choice of aluminum, pearl metallic or textured wood for the interior, while the dashboard and steering wheel have also been finished in “dark oyster.”
There’s more space inside, and features aren’t in short supply either, with dual-zone automatic climate controls, heated power mirrors and hi-def radio with Bluetooth and USB all standard.
All improvements, but not all an improvement. The 3 Series has always been the industry icon with regard to steering feel and agility, and despite the 3 Series’ 4-cylinder beginnings, it’s the naturally aspirated inline 6 that has been the fan favorite. The new 3 Series has none of these things, and because of that it’s wandered a bit too far from the formula. That 1 Series is looking better and better.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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BMW 3 Series Questions
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