Used 2015 BMW 3 Series Review
The 2015 BMW 3 Series is a well-rounded and highly desirable entry-level luxury car. Whether you're drawn to its sporty driving character or its high-end cabin, it's one of our favorites in this class.
Ask a person to name a sport sedan and the first answer likely will be "BMW 3 Series." The 3 Series is practically synonymous with the segment itself and has long been a favorite with consumers and critics alike. Taking a look at this year's lineup, you might also think that at some point the car will become synonymous with "variety," too.
Sedan or wagon, rear- or all-wheel drive, and with gasoline, diesel, or hybrid-electric motors, the 2015 BMW 3 Series will appeal to a wide variety of car-savvy entry-level luxury shoppers. Having some of the nicest interior furnishings around and a reputation for providing sporty handling and a fun overall driving experience won't hurt either. Although the current-generation car puts more priority on ride comfort than previous versions, the 3 Series remains enjoyable whether you're seeking out roads less traveled or just driving to the office.
There are three gasoline engines offered on the 3 Series (four if you count the ActiveHybrid 3): two four-cylinders and a six-cylinder, all turbocharged. The recent addition of the 328d model and its diesel-powered four-cylinder provides an impressive 37 mpg combined EPA rating in the sedan. The diesel isn't slow, either -- we clocked the diesel wagon at just over 7 seconds from zero to 60 mph. Still, our favorite remains the 328i because of its unbeatable mix of power, fuel economy and value.
The high fuel economy numbers of the diesel make the potent but pricey ActiveHybrid 3 sedan a dubious pick. But every other 2015 BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon is worth serious consideration. Of course, there are some strong competitors in this segment. You'll want to look at the completely redesigned 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It's larger and more upscale than it was last year, but arrives without a coupe, wagon or diesel variant (yet). We're also fond of the well-rounded 2015 Audi A4 and the sharply styled 2015 Lexus IS 350.
None of these cars can quite match the BMW's combination of efficiency, fantastic road manners and outright refinement, however. With so many available combinations (11 and counting) plus comprehensive options lists, you'll likely find a 3 Series that suits your budget, personality and driving style.
trim levels & features
The 2015 BMW 3 Series is available in sedan and wagon body styles. (A hatchback model, the 3 Series Gran Turismo, is reviewed separately, as are the coupe and convertible, which are now known as the BMW 4 Series.) Sedans come in 320i, 328i, 328d, 335i and ActiveHybrid 3 trim levels. For almost all of these, BMW offers all-wheel-drive versions, which it labels "xDrive." The wagon is available only in 328i xDrive and 328d xDrive trims.
Standard features for the entry-level 320i include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, remote entry, push-button start, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way manually adjustable front seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, BMW Assist, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface, a 6.5-inch display and a premium nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 328i sedan adds a more powerful version of the 320i's engine, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, heated side mirrors, wood trim, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, driver memory functions and split-folding rear seats. The 328i and 328d wagons are equipped similarly to their sedan counterparts and also come with a panoramic sunroof.
The 335i sedan and ActiveHybrid 3 get unique powertrains, although both come equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, LED accent lights and a sunroof.
There are several bundled option packages for the 2015 3 Series. The Premium package equips the sedan or wagon with keyless ignition and entry (including foot-activated trunk or tailgate opening), four-way power lumbar for the front seats, the sunroof (if not already included) satellite radio and leather upholstery. To the 320i, it additionally adds auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, heated side mirrors and eight-way power-adjustable front seats with driver memory functions. A Cold Weather package (requires leather seats) includes a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and headlight washers.
The Technology package (not available on the 320i) adds a voice-controlled navigation system, a higher-resolution 8.8-inch display screen, a touchpad iDrive controller, a color head-up display, BMW Online with MyInfo (provides news and info to the car), BMW Apps (connectivity for select smartphone apps) and BMW Remote Services (allows select mobile devices to lock the car remotely, turn on the climate control and includes a stolen vehicle recovery service, among various other tasks).
For extra safety, the Driver Assistance package provides a rearview camera along with front and rear parking sensors. The Driver Assistance Plus package (not available on the 320i and requires either the Technology package or stand-alone navigation system) gets those items plus side- and top-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system, frontal collision warning, automatic braking for city-speed collision mitigation and a speed limit info.
Additionally, there are three optional equipment lines for all but the 320i: Luxury (requires Premium package), Sport and M Sport. Each includes different wheel designs (up to 19 inches) shod with either all-season or performance run-flat tires, various color schemes and trim and upholstery types. The Sport Line (duplicated on the 320i as the Sport package) and M Sport also include M Sport suspension tuning, summer performance tires and 10-way sport front seats, while the M Sport further adds aerodynamic exterior trim and a sport steering wheel. The Dynamic Handling package (not available on 320i) furthers the 3 Series' capabilities with an adaptive suspension and automatic variable-ratio steering.
For the 320i, other option highlights include the sunroof, eight-way power front seats with driver memory functions, heated front seats, split-fold rear seats, the navigation system with iDrive touchpad and a Lighting package with adaptive xenon headlights and LED accent lights. For the rest of the 3 Series model line you can further add upgraded M Sport brakes, an automated parallel parking system, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam control, rear window sunshades, a live-operator concierge service, a leather-trimmed dashboard and an upgraded 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
performance & mpg
2015 BMW 3 Series sedans offer a choice between rear-wheel drive and the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, while AWD is standard on 3 Series wagons. A six-speed manual is available on sedans, but the wagon comes only with an eight-speed automatic transmission (optional on the sedan). Automatic-equipped 3 Series cars with the Sport or M Sport package have a "sport" version of this transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters. Both transmissions come with an automatic stop-start function that turns off the engine when the car stops in order to save fuel.
The 320i has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Considering we recorded a decent 7.3-second 0-60-mph time at the track, the EPA fuel economy ratings are impressive at 28 mpg combined (24 city/36 highway) for a rear-drive sedan with the automatic. We duplicated the EPA's combined target on our own 120-mile mixed-driving evaluation route. The manual version and xDrive versions are nearly as good, rating 27 mpg combined.
The 328i model uses a more powerful version of the 320i's engine, rated at 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. The EPA estimates an automatic-equipped 328i will achieve 27 mpg in combined driving, while the manual version is rated at 26 mpg combined, excellent numbers for this class. With a 328i M Sport automatic posting a 5.4-second sprint to 60 mph at our track and logging a remarkable 33 mpg on our 120-mile loop, the 328i gives you the best combination of performance and efficiency within the entire 3 Series lineup.
The 328d models have a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder rated at 180 hp and a robust 280 lb-ft of torque. This engine only comes with the automatic. Rear-drive 328d sedans are rated at 37 mpg combined, while the 328d xDrive sedan and wagon are both rated at 35 mpg combined. On our 120-mile evaluation loop, we achieved an admirable 34 mpg in a 328d wagon. The diesel is also pretty quick; we recorded a 7.2-second 0-60 mph time for the wagon at our test facility.
The 335i sedan has a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine rated at 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. With the automatic, it's nearly as fuel-efficient as the 328i, boasting a 25 mpg combined EPA rating. Getting the manual gearbox drops the combined rating to 24 mpg. With AWD, you're looking at 24 combined for the automatic and 23 mpg for the manual. At the Edmunds test track, a 335i M Sport with the manual transmission sprinted to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.
Finally, there's the ActiveHybrid 3, which pairs the 335i's engine with the eight-speed automatic, a rear-drive electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. This combination provides 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. The ActiveHybrid 3 sedan is quick. At our test track, we recorded a 5.1-second sprint to 60 mph, but don't expect huge mpg numbers, as the EPA rates it at just 28 mpg combined. We essentially validated the EPA's estimate of 28 mpg combined on the Edmunds evaluation loop, where we earned a little over 29 mpg.
Every 2015 BMW 3 Series comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags.
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 gas. BMW Assist emergency communications is standard and includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle recovery and on-demand roadside assistance.
Options include parking sensors (front and rear), a rearview camera, surround- and side-view cameras, blind spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system, frontal collision warning and automatic braking for frontal collision crash mitigation (includes pedestrian detection).
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 and a 335i M Sport stopped in 112 feet -- average distances for an entry-level luxury sedan with summer tires. Book-ending this group were the 328d xDrive wagon with all-season tires at 126 feet, and the ActiveHybrid 3 at 106 feet on summer tires.
In government crash testing, the sedan received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal protection and five for total side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the sedan the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test but a second-worst "Marginal" in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. In the remaining tests, the 3 Series received a "Good" rating in the side-impact, roof-strength and seat and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.
The 2015 BMW 3 Series delivers the best all-around driving experience in the entry-level luxury sedan class. The ride is smooth and quiet, no matter which driveline, wheels and tires you choose, so the car is fantastic for road trips. Even the 328d wagon (which earned an Edmunds "A" rating) and ActiveHybrid 3 impressed us in these regards, both with seamless power, benchmark handling and exemplary composure when going around turns. What's more is that while the hybrid version may not deliver the kind of fuel savings one might expect (it's more of an added performance boost), it also doesn't display some of the liabilities of a hybrid either, like lackluster acceleration or unintuitive brake response.
As for the more common engines, the 320i is pretty punchy, but the 328i is a very desirable upgrade. We think so highly of this model in particular that it earned our "A" rating. The six-cylinder 335i might seem like overkill at this point, but its huge wallop of power and distinctive inline-6 sound still make it the best choice for those wanting the top sport sedan experience. In reality, though, there really isn't a bad apple in the bunch when it comes to driving. One annoyance can be the oftentimes gruff restart nature of the automatic engine stop-start function, though this fuel-saving feature can be disabled.
For traditional BMW driving enthusiasts, the steering will likely be the weakest link in this package. Most consumers will find it very precise, but it does lack the detailed feedback that made older BMWs feel special. Also, the dynamic steering option is often criticized for a response that is out of sync with the driver's input, making the car's responses sometimes difficult to predict.
Although the 3 Series cabin has a contemporary feel, BMW has taken pains to make sure it's still a comfortable and inviting place. The company's classic analog gauges provide a historical link with BMWs of previous decades, while the optional thematic equipment lines allow plenty of personal customization. Materials quality is exceptional throughout, and it's all put together with care.
In terms of technology, the basic 6.5-inch display screen is adequate, but you'll want to get the larger, optional screen for a true luxury electronics interface. The touchpad on top of the iDrive controller can be used to hand write inputs using your finger. Overall, iDrive is pretty easy to use, thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times. But compared to some rival systems, it typically requires a few more twirls and clicks to get what you want.
The base model manually adjusted front seats are comfortable and supportive, while those included in the Sport packages are even more so. Both offer an impressive amount of adjustment regardless of whether you get manual or power operation. If rear seat accommodations are a priority, you won't find a more spacious backseat in the entry-luxury car class. Rear legroom is particularly generous. Trunk space is above average in the sedan (13 cubic feet), while the wagon offers a maximum cargo capacity of 53 cubic feet with its seats folded. That's more than BMW's X1 and about the same as the Audi Allroad.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.