Friday, July 5, 2013

BMW sedan upholds 3 Series' reputation

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – BMW’s 3 Series is repeatedly paid compliments that … well, let’s just say they don’t show up in the box score.

I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve read hundreds of auto reviews and automaker marketing materials that contain these words: “competes admirably with BMW’s 3 Series.”

That’s marketing-speak for the 3 Series is the standard everyone else is shooting for.

And it’s a spot-on assessment.

Sure, there are affordable midize niches, loaded compacts and perks-laden luxury cars, but the 3 Series is a player in a segment that bespeaks the ideal: relatively affordable, yet luxurious; performance-heavy; brilliantly engineered; safe and a just-the-right-size car.

Now in its sixth generation, the 3 Series does nothing to hurt its reputation in 2013.  If anything, it’s enhanced.

My week in a 2013 BMW 328i M Sport Line sedan was one to enjoy.

The styling on my ride looked darn near race-ready – aerodynamic, razor-sharp on the front end and a wide, firm stance.

And yet, the car drove smaller than it looked – satisfyingly agile on sharp turns, a light feel in city traffic, sporty off the line and a silky straight-line racer when asked to dish up some power.  Cruising at 70 miles per hour felt like I was dogging it.  Yep, that smooth.

The 328i engine is a 2-liter turbo 4 advertised at 240 horsepower.  From my seat in the cockpit, it felt a bit more robust than that, and yet fuel mileage was pretty fair at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

One thing that I never got used to was the engine-shutdown feature, which essentially enables to car to automatically put the brakes on the engine and lighten up the air conditioning when stopped for a length of time at a stoplight or in traffic.  The first couple times it happened, I could have sworn that I had stalled the car.

Not a good feeling for my old heart.

However, a quick glance in the dash told me that, despite the sudden silence, the car remained “READY” to spring back into action once my right foot depressed the accelerator.  And it always did.  Still, I was never comfortable with this green, fuel-saving feature.

Everything else was a blast.

My tester with a $36,850 starting price was dressed up with tons of extra goodies, pushing the bottom line to an eyebrow-raising $47,295.  But I must confess that I happily soaked up all the luxurious goodies.

Through six generations, the BMW 3 Series still looks and feels pretty good.  For all those automakers out there trying to build its equal, keep on trying.

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