HomeNorth American International Auto Show
Consumer Reports auto experts report from the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
BMW 3 Series

What is it? The redesigned 6th-generation 2013 3 Series grows in all dimensions, including adding 3.6 inches to its length, yet sees curb weight cut by 88 pounds. Two turbocharged engines will be offered at launch, with a hybrid version to join the line.

The six-cylinder from the current 335i carries forward, but the high-volume normally aspirated 3.0-liter Six gets replaced by a turbocharged four-cylinder first shown in the Z4. Both engines will be combined with a fuel-saving automatic start-stop function and an eight-speed automatic transmission will be available. A six-speed manual transmission is standard.

To further aid fuel economy, BMW is employing some mechanical trickery by disengaging some components when not needed, such as with the air conditioning compressor, thereby reducing engine drag. The driver modes now add “Eco Pro” to Comfort, Sport, and Sport + allowing the personality and priorities to be adjusted as desired. The steering becomes “electro-mechanical” with a purely mechanical setup built into the “Variable Sports Steering” option.

The first 3 Series hybrid variant joins the line in fall 2012. The ActiveHybrid 3 will use a 300-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine. When combined with the electric drive system, total output will be 335 horsepower. BMW claims it will show a 12.5-percent fuel economy benefit over similarly powered engines, clearly favoring performance over extreme conservation.

Pricing for the 328i sedan will start at $35,795 and the 335i at $43,295. Both include $895 destination.

What's new or notable? The 3 Series will offer myriad convenience and safety technologies, notably including a full-color heads-up display, surround view to see around the vehicle, active cruise control with a stop-and-go function, lane change and departure warnings, blind-spot detection, and camera-based collision warning system. Among the available gadgetry, a Parking Assistant scans available parking spaces when traveling at 22 mph or less. Once a spot is found, the car can steer itself into the space, with the driver managing the brakes and accelerator.

The infotainment is enhanced with real-time traffic information and apps that enable such things as using social networks. Via Bluetooth, the ConnectedDrive system can provide other Internet-based services, plus provide calendaring functions and read texts and emails.

CR's take: The current 328i does well in Consumer Reports tests, but doesn’t reach its full potential on the standard 16-inch run flat tires. One element our engineers are keenly interested in is the steering. Steering feel is still best in class in the current 3 Series, being quick, well-weighted, and communicative. The current 5, 6, and 7 Series use an electric steering that lost much of the enthusiast flair. We hope that while BMW has crammed the car with technology, it still made sure it adheres to the soul that has made the car legendary.

When will it be available? February 2012.

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