2007 BMW 3 Series Sedan

By January 22, 2007
2007 BMW 3 Series Sedan

If you’re shopping for a smaller luxury sedan that puts a premium on driving satisfaction, the BMW 3 Series remains the place to start. It’s one of the world’s best sports sedans.

For 2007, 3 Series sedans and wagons come with powerful new engines, a couple of new colors and some minor interior tweaks. The 3 Series is expanding for 2007 with the introduction of an all-new, two-door 3 Series coupe and an all-new 3 Series convertible. (The 2007 3 Series Coupe is evaluated in a separate review.)

The 2007 BMW 328i and BMW 335i accelerate more quickly, stop shorter and turn with more lateral grip than any of their predecessors. The current 3 Series sedans are the roomiest ever, with more standard and optional equipment and more sophisticated electronic controls. BMW’s x-Drive all-wheel drive system is available on the 328i.

Yet what characterizes the current 3 Series sedans as much as anything is its high-technology. We presume the car-buying public expects the latest technology in BMW products, and the 3 Series delivers in spades. It’s everywhere in this compact sedan, some of it first in class and some not previously applied in any BMW.

The 2007 BMW 3 Series cars offer Active Steering that actually turns the front wheels without driver intervention, not to mention 150-mile run-flat tires, turning Bi-Xenon headlights, and an optional i-Drive interface. It was the first car in its class to offer radar-managed active cruise control, and even the standard cruise control will automatically apply the brakes if you get too close to a car ahead.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but owners of older 3 Series models may wonder where their purist sports sedan went, or at what point all the gizmos start detracting from that sporting character. Rest assured, this remains a true sports sedan, but its sporting heart is a little more difficult to find under all the stuff.

Any 3 Series model still delivers a special mix of performance, practicality and European luxury in a compact package. This car defines sports sedan, and it’s the benchmark every luxury car maker from Acura to Volvo aims at. The 3 Series embodies consistent product character and values, defining what has made BMW one of the most respected brands among car enthusiasts. Above all, the 3 Series is a driver’s car: accelerating, turning and stopping with remarkable agility and balance, without seriously compromising comfort or common sense.

What’s New for 2007: The sedans and wagons get new engines, and a corresponding change in nomenclature. The 325i is replaced by the 328i. The new models have a more powerful version of BMW’s 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, generating 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, for an increase of 15 hp and 15 lb-ft over the previous models. The 2006 330i sedan is replaced by the 2007 BMW 335i, featuring BMW’s new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 producing 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. That’s an increase of 45 hp and 80 lb-ft for the 2007 335i sedans and wagons.

Model Lineup

BMW’s line of 3 Series sport sedans and wagons includes five distinct models. True to BMW tradition, all are powered by a variant of the company’s inline six-cylinder engine, with a standard six-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is offered on both sedan and wagon, and BMW’s six-speed Steptronic automatic ($1,275) is optional on all models.

The BMW 328i ($32,400) and 328xi ($34,300) sedans are powered by a 225-hp 3.0-liter six. This high-tech engine is the first in mass production with a magnesium alloy engine block, to trim weight. It’s light, powerful for its size and fuel efficient. The 328xi comes with BMW’s x-Drive permanent all-wheel drive system.

The 328s comes well equipped, with automatic climate and headlight control, a climate-controlled center console, heated washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, a power moonroof, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD and BMW’s self-braking Dynamic Cruise Control. Burr walnut trim is also standard, with BMW’s Leatherette vinyl upholstery. Lighter poplar trim and aluminum are available as no-charge options.

The 328i Sports Wagon ($34,300) and 328xi Sports Wagon ($36,100) are equipped comparably to the sedans, with the 225-hp engine and all-wheel drive for the xi model. The big difference, of course, lies behind rear roof pillars and seats, where the wagons offer more load-carrying potential and versatility than the sedan, with a rear tailgate and rear window that can be opened separately.

The 335i sedan ($38,700) features a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder the generates 300 horsepower. The 335i also adds standard equipment, including eight-way power seats with memory, xenon adaptive headlights that turn into a curve with the car, and BMW’s 13-speaker Logic 7 stereo, with two subwoofers and surround-style digital sound processing.

Beyond the 6-speed automatic transmission, there are three major option groupings. The Premium Package ($2,450 of the 335i, $3150 all other models) adds Dakota leather upholstery and a number of conveniences, including Bluetooth cellular phone interface, power folding side mirrors, a digital compass in the rear-view mirror and hardware for BMW Assist, the telemetric package that provides safety, convenience and concierge services. After the first year, you’ll pay for the subscription.

The Sport Package ($1,500) includes sporting suspension calibrations tuned by BMW’s M performance division, more heavily bolstered sports seats and a wheel/tire upgrade: 17-inch alloys with W-rated performance tires for the 328s; 18-inch for the 335i. Finally, the Cold Weather Package ($600-$1000, depending on model) adds electrically heated seats, high-intensity headlight washers and a split-folding rear seat with ski sack.

BMW’s Active Steering system ($1,250) and radar-managed Active Cruise Control ($2,200) are available as stand-alone options on the 3 Series, as is a DVD-based navigation system ($2,100). Sirius satellite radio hardware ($595), the Logic 7 stereo ($1,200) and power rear-window and manual side rear-window sunshades ($575) are also available as standalone options, as are most of the individual components of the three packages, including the split-folding rear seat ($475) and BMW Assist ($750). BMW also offers various dealer installed accessories. In all, there are more than 600 choices in equipping the 3 Series sedans.

Safety features include dual stage front-impact airbags that deploy at different rates depending on the severity of impact, front side-impact airbags and full-cabin head protection airbags. BMW no longer offers rear side-impact airbags on the 3 Series, on the basis that few buyers took the option, and that the protective benefit does not exceed the risk of airbag related injuries.

Active safety features, designed to help the driver avoid collisions, include Dynamic Stability Control and the latest generation antilock brakes. The ABS preloads the brake pedal when the driver suddenly l

Walkaround

The 2007 BMW 328i and 335i sedans are recognizable as BMWs in an evolutionary way, but they are substantially different from the more familiar, previous-generation models.

For starters, they are the largest 3 Series cars ever. They're more than two inches longer and three inches wider, and wheelbase has increased 1.4 inches. Most of the increased exterior dimensions translate into more interior space, particularly in the back seat.

The 3 Series shares many of its design features with BMW's other sedans. Some critics claim the 3 Series has been spared: that it has not suffered from some of the styling excess in BMW's current 5 and 7 Series. Certainly the approach with the 3 Series has been more conservative, and it's easy to understand why. This car accounts for nearly half of BMW's income. Nonetheless, spared is not a word we'd use.

The 3 Series has BMW's traditional double beam headlights, now under clear covers that wrap around the corners and taper to a point to emphasize the car's width. In profile, the sedan's front and rear overhangs seem even shorter than before. The hood line continues past the windshield pillars all the way to the rear, while the roof line is rounder than before.

Design is the most subjective of all automotive traits, and clearly the 328i and 335i retain some basic BMW qualities or character. Yet in certain respects they also look more generic than their predecessors. The sides are basically flat planes with a single crease below the door pulls and above the wheel wells, but the ends of the car are busier, and we've yet to discover cohesion to the design. Particularly in rear view there are lots of lines, and in this aspect the 3 looks as if it might have been designed in Asia rather than Munich. In short, we're still getting used it.

One thing is certain. Larger wheels and tires filling the wheel wells are almost always a good thing for appearance's sake, and we like the 328i and 335i better with the wheel upgrades (to 17-inch on the 328i and 18-inch on the 335i). The 335i can be distinguished from the 328i by more than its wheels. The 335i's windows and grille slats are trimmed with chrome, while that slats across its lower front air intakes are body colored rather than black.

The high-tech theme that permeates the 3 Series sedans is even visible from the outside. The 335i comes standard with adaptive bi-xenon headlights that turn with the steering wheel to aim into a curve. All models have BMW's adaptive brake lights, which are based on the idea that drivers in the cars following a 3 Series will know when the 3 is attempting a panic stop just by the brake lights. The LED lights illuminate more intensely, over a larger area, when the driver applies the brakes full-lock or when the ABS operates.

The trunk is larger than ever. With 12 cubic feet of space, it gives the 3 Series sedan a trunk that's more competitive, if not best in class. Moreover, the trunk opening is considerably larger, making it easier to get things inside, and the additional trunk volume does not count a new divided storage bin under the load floor (where a spare might have gone, if not for the 3 Series' run-flat tires). There's also a drawer hanging under the rear interior shelf to take better advantage of what is often useless space. The sedan is also available with a split-folding rear seat and ski sack, which expands cargo space into the rear of the cabin.

Redesigned for the 2006 model year, the 3 Series Sport Wagon is identical to the sedan from the center roof pillar forward. Rearward, its roofline tapers slightly all the way to the rear of the car, while the bottom line of the rear windows tapers upward slightly, creating something a of teardrop shape. Roof rails are standard.

The wagon's rear gate opens electrically, with a switch on the key fob or dashboard, and swings high for easy access to the load floor. A reflector on th

Interior Features

What's New for 2007: Climate control knobs in the 3 Series sedan are now trimmed with the same Galvanic Silver plastic that surrounds the start button. The three-spoke steering wheel with the Sport Package is finished with the same material.

The 3 Series cabin takes the best of several ideas introduced in the larger BMW 5 Series and 7 Series sedans, synthesizes them for a smaller car and improves them in the process. We aren't completely enamored with everything inside, but we have few real gripes.

The 3 Series sedans no longer have a keyed ignition switch, relying instead on a slot-type key fob and a starter button. We don't love it. It sometimes seems balkier than a regular key. The fob slides into a slot next to the steering column, and you push the button to fire up. The benefit of this design? We're not sure. The Comfort Access option makes everything automatic: With fob in pocket, the doors unlock automatically as the driver approaches, and the seats are waiting in their proper position. The driver just pushes the start button, and pushes it again when it's time to get out. These systems are not our favorite feature and sometimes seem like the answer to a question no one is asking.

Seats have long been 3 Series strength, and the new ones are better than ever. Even the standard-trim front buckets provide excellent support without feeling too hard. The manual adjustments work great, though we recommend using them when the car is parked. The 335i gets power adjustments with three memory positions and they are coded to the key. The power seats that come with the Sport Package are outstanding. Additional back and bottom bolstering make them a bit harder to slide into, but we'd rather have them during a spirited drive.

The instrument panels have a pronounced horizontal format, with more community and less driver orientation than before. There are actually two: The standard setup has a single bubble, or hood, over the instrument cluster, while the optional navigation system has a dash that accommodates the system with a second hood.

The front door panels are different on each side, as well. The passenger side has a sloped, vertical door pull, while the driver's door lays the door pull horizontally in the arm rest. Moreover, the new doors address one of our biggest gripes with previous 3 Series cars. Window switches are now clustered near the driver's arm rest, where they're easier to locate without glancing, rather than spread around the shifter on the center console.

The soft vinyls and plastics in the 3 Series sedans are an improvement in both touch and appearance compared to previous generations, and they put the car more closely in line with the best cars in this class. Burr walnut trim is now standard, and there's a lot of it on the dash and doors. BMW's Leatherette vinyl is not the least bit tacky. The optional leather is soft and thick. The new 3 Series follows BMW's tradition of soft orange backlighting for the instruments. Some will like it, some won't.

The automatic climate control that comes standard features separate temperature adjustments for driver and front passenger. A mist sensor measures moisture on the windshield and automatically adjusts the defroster, while a heat-at-rest feature keeps the cabin heating on for a time after the car is turned off.

The standard in-dash single-CD player is easy to operate and sounds good, with 10 speakers and separate subwoofers under the front seats. The orange readout on it is almost invisible when wearing polarized sunglasses on a sunny day, even though similar orange readouts for the climate control are perfectly readable. Switching between AM and FM and other modes is difficult and complicated while driving. The 335i comes with an upgraded system called Logic 7. This system adds wattage and three speakers, with the latest digital sound processing and surround technology. Audio controls on the stee

Driving Impressions

BMW's 3 Series has always been about the driving. It has many of the attributes of a sports car with the practicality of a sedan. It offers rear-wheel drive and manual transmissions in a class increasingly dominated by front-wheel drive and automatics. Driving has never been much better than the 3 Series, or at least not with seating for five, decent mileage and a high level of all-season comfort.

BMW's x-Drive permanent all-wheel-drive system greatly enhances all-season capability, not a traditional strength of these cars. The x-Drive delivers most of the power to the rear wheels most of the time, maintaining the sporting feel associated with rear-wheel drive.

The 2007 3 Series sedans are true to their predecessors, with a couple of caveats, in our view. The typical BMW buyer will likely appreciate the technology built into the new 3, and particularly the electronic skid-control wizardry. Enthusiasts, however, may pine that the 3 Series' purity has been lost.

The heart of any BMW is its engine, and those in the new 3 Series are first rate. They remain true to BMW's commitment to straight or inline six-cylinders, as other manufacturers have switched almost exclusively to V6s. The straight six presents more packaging challenges, but its unique performance characteristics and smoothness make it a favorite among enthusiast drivers.

In both the 328i and 335i sedans, the engine is fantastic. No one will feel short-changed on performance if they make the more economical choice of the 328i. Either engine delivers quick acceleration by any standard: 0-60 mph times of 6.3 seconds for the 328i and 5.4 seconds for the 335i when equipped with manual transmissions, according to BMW.

We found the 328i fun to drive, with good throttle response that made us feel a class above other cars in traffic. Our bright red 328i sedan had the manual, which was smooth and precise, easy and enjoyable to flick between gears. It was also quick and easy shifting from first to reverse and back when parking. Clutch pedal effort made taking off easy, without having to think about it. Shifting was so easy that the clutch didn't need to be fully depressed.

The 335i is, however, particularly enjoyable, with an engine that's stronger than any 3 Series engine before, short of the limited production M3s. What's best is its linear quality, or the steady supply of acceleration-producing torque at any speed. There's more torque down low than before, but the new engine pulls like a sprinter all the way to its 6800-rpm redline and never misses a step. Moreover, the joy of a straight six isn't hidden under the high tech. It sounds great, with an emphasis on clean mechanical noise from the engine bay rather than the tone of the muffler.

The manual transmission is great, too. The shifter seems to have slightly shorter throws between the gears than before, and its operation is appropriate to a world-class sports sedan. The sixth gear adds even more flexibility to the 335i's power band and lowers engine revs at cruising speeds.

The automatic we liked a bit less, but it's hardly disappointing. With six speeds, the same advantages apply here as with the manual. The automatic can be a bit slow to react with an appropriate gear change in Normal mode, but leaving it Sport mode pretty much solves the problem, with a slight payback in more abrupt shifting. Then there is the Steptronic manual mode, which allows manual gear selection by toggling the shift lever to the left. No problem with shift response when you do it yourself.

The other half of the 3 Series equation has always been ride and handling. This is the prototypical sports sedan, or about as close as you can get to sports car driving dynamics in a practical sedan. For 40 years, the 3 Series had defined that mix: rear-wheel drive, great steering feel and balance between the front and rear axles. Moreover, the 3 had always delivered an impressive balance be

Summary

The BMW 3 Series sedans and wagons remain the benchmark for the class, particularly for those who derive satisfaction from the driving experience. These cars are loaded with technical wizardry. But all this technology can be a double-edged sword, at least to old-time 3 Series buyers. Yet rear-wheel drive and manual transmissions remain crucial components of the 3 Series experience, and BMW's commitment to the combination says something about its priorities as a car company. By virtually every objective measure, from space to horsepower to performance, these are the best 3 Series sedans ever.

J.P. Vettraino filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Detroit.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:BMW 328i sedan ($32,400); 328xi sedan ($34,300); 328i wagon ($34,200); 328xi wagon ($36,100); 335i sedan ($38,700)
Engines:230-hp 3.0-liter inline-6; 300-hp twin turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6
Transmissions:6-speed manual; 6-speed Steptronic automatic
Safety equipment (standard):dual front airbags with two-stage deployment, seat mounted front passenger side-impact airbags, full-cabin head protection airbags, tire-pressure monitoring system, traction control, anti-lock brakes, Dynamic Stability Control and post-impact system to unlock doors, switch on hazard and interior lighting and disable fuel pump
Safety equipment (optional):all-wheel drive
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Munich, Germany
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):BMW 328i sedan ($32,400)
Standard equipment:leatherette upholstery, burr walnut trim, automatic climate control with dual passenger/driver temperature and micro filter, climate-controlled center console, cruise control, power windows, remote keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt/telescoping steering column, rain-sensing variable-speed wipers, halogen foglights, two-way power moonroof, 16-inch wheels with H-rated tires
Options as tested (MSPR):Sport Package ($1600) includes M sports suspension, 17-inch wheels with W-rated tires, power sport seats and155-mph speed-limiter; Premium Package ($3,150) includes Dakota leather upholstery, Bluetooth cell phone interface, power folding side mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature on passenger side, digital mirror compass and BMW Assist telematics; Cold Weather Package ($1,000) includes electrically heated seats, high-intensity headlight washers and split-folding rear seat with ski sack; Active Steering ($1250)
Destination charge:$695
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$40095
Layout:rear-wheel drive
Engine:3.0-liter double overhead cam 24-valve inline-6 with variable valve timing
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):230 @ 6500
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):200 @ 2750
Transmission:6-speed manual
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:20/29 mpg
Wheelbase:108.7 in.
Length/width/height:178.2/71.5/55.9 in.
Track, f/r:59.1/59.6 in.
Turning circle:36.1 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.5/NA/41.5 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.5/NA/34.6 in.
Cargo volume:12.0 cu. ft.
Payload:N/A
Towing capacity:N/A
Suspension, f:independent, double-pivot lower control arms, coil springs, twin-tube shocks, anti-roll bar
Suspension, r:independent five-link, coil springs, twin-tube shocks, anti-roll bar
Ground clearance:N/A
Curb weigth:3340 lbs.
Tires:225/45WR17 / 255/40WR17 run flat
Brakes, f/r:11.8-in. ventilated disc/11.8-in ventilated disc with ABS
Fuel capacity:16.1 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of January 22, 2007.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-831-1117 - www.bmwusa.com