2016 BMW 3 Series Review
Pros & Cons
- Balances sharp handling with a ride quality that won't beat you up
- engine choices that offer power, smoothness and fuel efficiency
- upscale, spacious interior with logical and easy-to-use controls.
- Automatic stop-start system is intrusive
- limited feature availability on base 320i.
Edmunds' Expert Review
If you're in the market for a compact luxury sport sedan, the 2016 BMW 3 Series should be near the top of your list. Whether you're enjoying its blend of features and refinement or putting its smooth optional engine to the test, you'll probably come away with a positive impression. Let's find out more about all this well-rounded car has to offer.
It's shaping up to be another banner year for the 2016 BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon. One could argue that BMW has lost its traditional sporting edge in some respects, but when it comes to the compact luxury sport segment, the 3 Series continues to stand apart. Facing fierce competition from fresh-faced rivals, BMW has responded with a number of changes for 2016 that help keep the 3 Series current. Even without them, though, this would still be the segment front runner, both for avowed driving enthusiasts and for shoppers who just prefer a pleasing luxury car experience.
Don't blink. You might miss the 2016 3 Series' refreshed front-end styling, which can be accented with new LED headlights.
Headlining this year's updates is a brand-new engine for the six-cylinder 3 Series sedan, which gets a new 340i name to mark the occasion. Though it retains its predecessor's turbocharged 3.0-liter specification, the 340i makes 20 more horsepower and 30 additional pound-feet of torque. It's a timely improvement, as our performance testing showed that the 335i was barely quicker than the fuel-sipping four-cylinder 328i, making the six-cylinder's price premium hard to rationalize. Notably, the 340i is offered with a six-speed manual transmission in both rear- and all-wheel-drive layouts, something few luxury automakers bother with these days. The performance-minded ActiveHybrid 3 has been discontinued and replaced by the 330e plug-in hybrid. It isn't as fleet-footed as its predecessor, but it is more fuel-efficient and you can stretch your mileage further by charging up.
The other changes for 2016 are relatively minor. BMW has tweaked the styling front and rear, but you've got to be a hard-core fan to notice the difference. Similarly, there are a few new interior touches -- a gloss-black center console, for example, with a handy lid for the cupholders -- but we'd hardly call them game-changing. The available LED headlights (standard on 340i) are an increasingly common feature that BMW did well to add. Fundamentally, though, this is the same 3 Series we've known and loved since 2012, and the competition is still scrambling to keep up.
The most direct threat to the 3 Series' throne comes in the form of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which entices with its baby-S-Class styling, appealing feature set and strong performance. The 2016 Audi A4 (or the related Allroad wagon) is getting up there in years, but it's a satisfying choice nonetheless with its nimble handling and understated elegance. There's also the bold, well-equipped 2016 Lexus IS 350 (as well as the new turbocharged IS 250) and the sharp-handling 2016 Cadillac ATS. But if you want the best of everything in one place, the 2016 BMW 3 Series keeps on leading the way.
2016 BMW 3 Series models
The 2016 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 collectively known as the BMW 4 Series.) Sedans come in 320i, 328i, 328d, 330e and 340i trim levels. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but all (except the 330e, which is rear-drive only) are offered with all-wheel drive, which BMW calls 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 with run-flat tires, automatic headlights, foglights, remote keyless 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 emergency telematics, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface, a 6.5-inch display and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
The 328i sedan adds a more powerful version of the 320i's engine, LED foglights, the Sport Line trim package (gloss-black exterior accents, anthracite headliner, sport instrumentation and 10-way power-adjustable sport front seats), power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors with heating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wood trim, driver memory functions and split-folding rear seatbacks. The 328d and 330e sedans are comparably equipped but are powered by a diesel engine and hybrid powertrain, respectively. The 328i and 328d wagons, too, are comparably equipped and also come with a panoramic sunroof.
The 340i sedan adds the six-cylinder engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, matte chrome exterior trim, keyless ignition and entry (including a power trunk lid with a foot sensor), a sunroof and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system (optional on most other models).
There are several bundled option packages for the 2016 3 Series. The 320i alone is eligible for a Sport package that adds 18-inch wheels, the anthracite headliner, manually adjustable sport seats and an M steering wheel. The 320i's Premium package adds a few of the higher trims' standard items, including auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition and the sunroof, and it also adds power front seats (of the non-sport variety) with four-way power lumbar and satellite radio. The 328's Premium package is pared down to keyless entry and ignition, the sunroof, satellite radio and power lumbar, though it also adds leather upholstery.
The Cold Weather package (requires optional leather upholstery) includes a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and headlight washers. The Lighting package consists of LED headlights and foglights on the 320i, while the 328 trims get an enhanced version with adaptive LED headlights and automatic high beams that are separately optional on the 340i. The Track Handling package includes variable-ratio steering, M sport brakes, lightweight 18-inch wheels and adaptive suspension dampers.
The M Sport package adds 18-inch wheels, an aero body kit, unique trim elements, an M steering wheel and a sport-tuned suspension. The Luxury package unlocks a variety of upholstery and trim pieces that allow further personalization. Neither is offered on the 320i.
Going with the Technology package (also not available on the 320i) gets you a voice-controlled navigation system, a higher-resolution 8.8-inch display screen, a touchpad iDrive controller, a color head-up display, an upgraded instrument cluster, 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, turns on the climate control and includes a stolen vehicle recovery service, among other things).
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) gets those items plus side- and top-view cameras, blind-spot monitoring, a lane departure warning system, frontal collision warning/mitigation with automatic braking and speed-limit info.
Stand-alone options, depending on trim, include some of the above features plus rear side window sunshades, an automated parking system and adaptive cruise control.
Performance & mpg
2016 BMW 3 Series sedans offer a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (xDrive). All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard on 3 Series wagons. A six-speed manual is a no-cost option on RWD gas-powered sedans and the 340i AWD, but the wagon comes only with the eight-speed automatic transmission. Certain automatic-equipped 3 Series cars have a "sport" version of this transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters. Both the manual and the automatic 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 hp and 200 lb-ft 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 also rates 28 mpg combined (23/36), and the xDrive version is nearly as good at 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 combined, while the manual and all-wheel-drive versions (wagon included) are rated at 26 mpg combined, excellent numbers for this class. A 328i M Sport automatic posted a swift 5.4-second sprint to 60 mph at our track and logged a remarkable 33 mpg on our 120-mile loop.
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 36 mpg combined, while the 328d xDrive sedan and wagon are both rated at 34 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 340i sedan has a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine rated at 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. With the automatic, it's EPA-rated at 26 mpg combined (22/33) with RWD and an identical 26 mpg combined with AWD. The manual 340i drops to 24 mpg combined (20/30) with RWD and 23 mpg combined (20/29) with AWD. An all-wheel-drive 340i we tested accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a remarkable 4.4 seconds.
Finally, there's the 330e hybrid, which utilizes a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, an electric motor and rear-wheel drive. Total combined output for the engine and motor is 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The 330e's battery can be charged from a 240-volt outlet in 2.2 hours. According to the EPA, the 330e achieves 72MPGe (mpg equivalent) with a 14-mile EV range factored in and 31 mpg combined in regular gas-electric mode. At the Edmunds test track, a 330e sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds.
Every 2016 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 frontal collision mitigation with automatic braking (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 a 328i M Sport stopped in 109 feet — a bit below average and average, respectively, for this segment with summer tires. The 328d xDrive wagon failed to impress, however, requiring a long 126 feet.
In government crash testing, the current-generation 3 Series 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 2016 BMW 3 Series delivers the best all-around driving experience of any compact luxury sport sedan. The ride is smooth and quiet no matter which driveline, wheels and tires you choose, making the 3 Series a fantastic choice for road trips and local jaunts alike. Power delivery is strong, complemented by benchmark handling and exemplary composure when going around turns. Having said that, the 328i is a desirable upgrade over the 320i for its exemplary combination of performance and fuel efficiency. The plug-in 330e and diesel 328d are excellent choices if maximizing your fuel economy potential is a priority, while the six-cylinder 340i promises improved performance relative to the discontinued 335i that more easily justifies its higher price.
The 2016 3 Series' subtly dynamic styling hints at the performance potential within.
One annoyance can be the unrefined nature of the automatic engine stop-start function. Thankfully, this fuel-saving feature can be disabled for drivers who find it tiresome. 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 lacks the organic feel that made older BMWs feel special. Also, the variable-ratio steering option is sometimes criticized for responses that are out of sync with the driver inputs, so be sure to sample this technology before signing up for it.
The 3 Series cabin combines classic BMW design cues with thoroughly contemporary technology. The familiar analog gauges provide a historical link with BMWs of previous decades, and materials quality remains exceptional throughout. Perceived build quality is also high. However, while the standard 6.5-inch iDrive infotainment system is adequate, you'll want to get the available 8.8-inch screen for a true luxury electronics interface. The touchpad on top of the iDrive controller can be used to handwrite 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 2016 3 Series has a remarkably accommodating backseat. Even 5 Series shoppers might be pleasantly surprised.
The base 320i's manually adjusted front seats are comfortable and supportive, while the upgraded sport seats are even more so. There's an impressive range of adjustments 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 this 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 about the same as the rival Audi Allroad.