Full 2013 BMW 3 Series Review
What's New for 2013
After a full redesign last year, the 2013 BMW 3 Series gains standard power front seats and a new M Sport equipment line, while the xDrive all-wheel-drive system makes its return. A less expensive 320i trim level is also new for the sedan body style only. Meanwhile, the ActiveHybrid3 sedan debuts for 2013, offering 28 mpg combined and an eye-popping price.
Last year's introduction of the new BMW 3 Series was a very big deal. In Germany, we imagine parades being held in its honor with blue-and-white checkered flags flapping from windows as men in lederhosen clang steins of Franziskaner together in a foamy exclamation of celebratory revelry. In America, the new 3 Series represents the reinvention of not only the best-selling luxury car in this country but also the most heralded sport sedan of all time. No Bavarian parade, perhaps, but still very much noteworthy.
However, last year's redesign only applied to the 328i and 335i sedan. For the 2013 BMW 3 Series, the coupe and convertible are still unchanged, while the wagon is on hiatus. The biggest change on the new-generation sedan was the arrival of a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces more horsepower and achieves 5 mpg more on the EPA combined driving cycle than the traditional, naturally aspirated inline-6 engine in the coupe and convertible. That's what you call a win-win. This year, BMW has redoubled its efforts to get the base price down on the 3 Series: The automaker has introduced an entry-level 320i sedan with a 180-horsepower version of the turbo four-cylinder. It isn't any more fuel-efficient than the 328i sedan, but it costs four grand less.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 335i's model turbocharged inline-6 is the same regardless of body style or generation, and it's one of the most powerful and invigorating engines in the luxury segment, yet it doesn't consume that much more fuel than the four-cylinder.
Less impressive is the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid3 sedan that also debuts for 2013. As the name suggests, it features a gasoline-electric powertrain to improve both fuel economy and performance. However, based on current fuel costs, it would take about 62 years to pay back the ActiveHybrid's price premium over a similarly equipped 328i. Plus, the hybrid is only a half-second quicker from zero to 60 mph than its turbo-4 sibling, which is hardly what we'd call bang for your buck.
Although the ActiveHybrid3 represents a questionable purchase, every other 2013 BMW 3 Series is worth serious consideration. Strong competitors like the Audi A4 and A5, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti G and Mercedes-Benz C-Class should make your decision much harder. None, however, has the overwhelming variety of the BMW 3 Series.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 BMW 3 Series is available as a sedan, coupe or hardtop convertible. The coupe and convertible belong to the previous-generation body style, whereas the sedan is on an all-new platform introduced last year.
For the sedan only, BMW starts things off with the 320i. It comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way manually adjustable front seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth, the iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch display, and a premium sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 328i sedan adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, driver memory functions and a rearview camera.
The 328i coupe differs with a sport-tuned suspension and manually adjustable front seats (power-adjustable is an option), while the convertible gets a power-retractable hardtop and 10-way power front seats with memory functions. Both two-door body styles add adaptive xenon headlights and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat.
The 335i sedan and ActiveHybrid3 get unique powertrains, although both come equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive and auto-leveling xenon headlights, automatic high beams and a sunroof. The coupe and convertible are similarly equipped, but feature 17-inch wheels instead and lack standard iDrive, the LED running lights and automatic high beams. The convertible adds heat-reflective leather upholstery.
The 335is coupe and convertible get an upgraded engine, sport exhaust, a sportier suspension calibration, 18-inch wheels, unique styling elements, sport seats and a sport steering wheel.
Most of the extra items on certain body styles and trims are available as options on the others. There are many other options available as well, most of which are available both within packages and as stand-alone options. These include larger wheels, an automatic parking system (sedan only), headlight washers, parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, an active steering system, heated front seats, heated rear seats (sedan only), a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade (coupe only), the BMW Assist emergency communications system, a navigation system (adds iDrive on coupe and convertible), a head-up display (sedan only), satellite radio and a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.
Finally, the sedan can be equipped with four optional equipment lines -- Luxury, Modern, Sport and M Sport -- that include different wheel designs, color schemes, trim types, seats, steering wheels and even suspension tuning.
Powertrains and Performance
The 320i sedan is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission come standard, while all-wheel drive (BMW's xDrive) and an eight-speed automatic transmission are optional.
The 328i sedan uses a more powerful version of the same engine, which makes 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. Both the six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions are available, and the latter can be upgraded to a "sport" version with steering wheel paddle shifters. Both transmissions come with an auto stop-start function that turns off the engine when the car stops in order to save fuel. All-wheel drive is optional.
The EPA estimates the 320i with the manual will return 23 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, while the rear-drive automatic model achieves 24/36 mpg (23/35 with AWD). EPA estimates for the 328i with the automatic are 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined, while the manual is similar at 22/34/26 mpg. Both are exceptional for the class. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped 328i sedan covered zero to 60 in 5.9 seconds, while an automatic 328i M Sport did it in 5.4 seconds -- in both cases, quicker than any of the car's four-cylinder competition.
The 328i coupe and convertible get a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 230 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual are standard; a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are optional. BMW estimates a manual-equipped coupe will go from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds -- other body style and drivetrain combinations will take a second longer than that. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18/28/22 mpg for the rear-drive coupe regardless of transmission. The convertible and/or all-wheel drive achieves 1 or 2 mpg less in each EPA driving cycle.
All 335i models regardless of body style get a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Each body style gets the same transmission and drivetrain choices as their respective 328i versions. BMW estimates a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds for the sedan, and in Edmunds performance testing the coupe was a little quicker than that. Fuel economy estimates for the 335i sedan are outstanding at 23/33/26 mpg with the automatic and 20/30/23 mpg with the manual. The coupe gets a still solid 19/28/22 mpg with rear-wheel drive and the manual. The automatic and all-wheel drive drop those estimates by 1 or 2 mpg depending on body style.
The 335is has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder good for 320 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. There is also a temporary overboost function that bumps max torque up to 370 lb-ft. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual known as DCT is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped 335is coupe went from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds. Fuel economy with the manual is 18/26/21 mpg and 17/24/19 mpg with DCT.
Finally, there's the ActiveHybrid3. It pairs the 335i's engine to the eight-speed automatic, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. All together, it produces 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Despite this, BMW says it will hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds -- barely quicker than its cheaper, less powerful sedan siblings. Fuel economy is disappointing, too, returning 25/33/28 mpg, which is no better than the 320i.
Every 2013 BMW 3 Series comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The sedan gets front knee airbags. The convertible lacks the side curtain airbags, but the regular front-seat side airbags extend up to head level and there are also pop-up rollover hoops.
The stability control system integrates several features designed to improve braking performance, such as periodically wiping the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are in use and automatically snugging the pads to the rotors when the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. BMW Assist emergency communications is optional and includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 328i sedan with 18-inch summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 115 feet, while the 328i M Sport stopped in 109 feet. These are average distances for an entry-level luxury sedan with summer tires.
In government crash testing, the sedan received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, plus four stars for frontal protection and five for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the sedan the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests. It received the second-worst rating of "Marginal" in the Institute's new small overlap front crash test, but few cars have been subjected to this test, and a majority received a similar rating or worse.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 3 Series sedan has a more contemporary feel inside compared to the two-door body styles, especially around the dash, doors and center console. The newer four-door models come with four choices of equipment lines -- Luxury, Modern, Sport and M Sport. Among other things, these choices change the color scheme and trim type in the cabin. It's a nice touch that allows a greater amount of customization.
BMW's iDrive remains a somewhat complicated electronics interface (it's standard on every four-door and included on two-doors with navigation). At times it can take too many clicks, twists and turns of the control knob to perform certain tasks, but it does provide a wide range of vehicle customization that'll reward an owner willing to park for a bit and learn the ropes.
The base-model seats are comfortable and supportive, while the purpose-built seats of the sport packages are even more so. Materials and build quality within the cabin are exceptional; even the standard leatherette (vinyl) upholstery looks and feels better than one would expect. The convertible's available heat-reflective leather does a wonderful job of keeping posteriors cool.
The backseat of the 3 Series is one of the more spacious in the entry-level luxury segment regardless of body style, and the sedan's added overall length adds even a little more legroom front and rear. Trunk space is above average in the sedan (13 cubic feet) and average in the coupe (11 cubic feet). The convertible offers a reasonable cargo hold when the hardtop is up, but predictably shrinks considerably when the top is lowered. Still, it's possible to store a standard roller suitcase back there or two smaller bags.
With its new turbocharged four-cylinder engine, new, electrically driven steering system, multiple drive settings and all-new chassis, the 2013 BMW 3 Series sedan provides a slightly different driving experience than that of the carryover two-door cars. It has a smoother ride, making it a superior long-distance cruiser. We aren't as impressed by the new steering in the 3 Series, though, as it doesn't feel as sporty or engaging as the steering in the older coupe and convertible. Make no mistake, the latest 3 Series sedan is still an entertaining car and you'll enjoy exploring back roads in it, but it's no longer a runaway leader for the sport sedan class. If steering and handling precision are top priority for you, we'd recommend the coupe over the sedan.
Still, we have no complaints about the 2013 BMW 328i sedan's new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It provides quick acceleration and a healthy boost to fuel economy. Most shoppers will be pretty happy with this engine. But should you want the traditional inline-6 experience, the 335i adds a huge wallop of turbo torque that's always on tap, while the 335is goes a bit further and sounds especially delectable to boot.