Reviews

2017 BMW 3 Series Driving Impressions


Bravo to BMW for hanging onto the six-speed gearbox, remaining true to its drivers. The 320i, 330i, and 340i models all have one, especially with rear-wheel drive. However the eight-speed automatic is way good; it shifts quick, precise, right on time, and never is at a loss for gears. We like its logic, because it’s smart enough to agree with ours. Sport programs can make it nearly as much fun as a manual.

Speaking generically, every model of 3 Series handles sharply and stays flat. The steering is weighted nicely, pushing back when the car begins to lose grip.

The biggest new thing for 2017 is the increase in horsepower for the BMW 330i: from 240 to 248 hp. 0-60 in 5.5 seconds, says BMW. And it sounds better than before.

The 340i with its 3.0-liter turbo six is super quick and very talented. The massive torque is right there for you. Cool that it’s still the classic inline six, not a V6.

Mercedes has been making a traditional diesel for many years, but to find one nowadays is fairly rare. The 328d makes 180 horsepower and a ton of smooth torque, with the standard eight-speed automatic. It might be most popular as a wagon. The brown one is classic. There won’t be a lot of them, so hurry.

The base 320i is a four-cylinder turbo making 180 horsepower. It accelerates from zero to sixty in 7.1 seconds. It feels relatively weak.

The 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid makes 248 combined horsepower from a 7.6-kwh hour lithium-ion battery and turbo four engine.

The ride in any 3 Series is smooth. The suspensions have been softened to compensate for hard run-flat tires, which edge up fuel mileage as well. It harshness still sometimes comes through the ride, blame the tires.

The electric power steering lacks the feedback through the steering wheel hydraulic power steering used to provide.

The optional variable sport steering system mechanically alter the steering ratio depending on the immediate task, making parking easier and high-speed cornering tighter.

Driving Dynamics Control, using a switch on the console, has Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus modes. Sport mode sharpens the steering and transmission, while Sport Plus loosens up the stability control.

If you really want to go down the handling trail, the M Sport package lowers the chassis by 0.4 inches, stiffens the springs and shocks, fattens the anti-roll bars, and bolts on 18- or 19-inch alloys with fat tires. The new Track Handling package adds the variable sport steering, adaptive suspension, and bigger brakes with blue calipers.

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