BMW's 3-Series has always been an exemplar of how to combine luxury and sportiness, and this continues with the 2008 versions. The 328i features BMW's exceptional 3.0L engine, which uses double-VANOS technology to steplessly adjust both the intake and exhaust timing on way to producing 230 horsepower. The 335i models are powered by a twin-turbocharged version of the same six-cylinder. This gem of an engine produces 300 horsepower and an equal amount of torque. Both six-cylinder powerplants are matched with a superb six-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is a $1,275 option.
The 3-Series is available as a coupe, a retractable hardtop convertible, a sedan, and a wagon. In addition to rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive is available on all body types except the convertible. All vehicles have a marvelously balanced chassis and outstanding road feel. Easily adjusted and very supportive seats are the norm, as is one of the nicest steering wheels found in a modern automobile. A stiff suspension means the 3-Series is at its best when carving corners.
The fourth generation of the legendary M3 joins the lineup in 2008. Coupe, sedan (a first in 13 years), and convertible versions will be available, all powered by an all-new high-revving 4.0L V8 engine. The light powerplant--it is about 33 pounds lighter than the previous M3 generation's inline six-cylinder--will generate 420 horsepower and spin up to 8,400 rpm. Power production was enough of a concern for the naturally aspirated engine that much of the front end is changed from the normal 3-Series in order to maximize air intake--so much so that the fog lights normally standard on the 3-Series are omitted for more air intake capacity. Other performance-minded improvements include a lower carbon fiber roof, a new aluminum suspension, Mdrive to allow driver configuration of the engine control, high-performance compound brakes, and a regenerative braking system that powers the electronics.
Standard equipment is generous, with stability and traction controls, xenon adaptive headlights, a moonroof, power heated mirrors, a tire pressure monitor, dynamic cruise control, automatic tri-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system, side seat-mounted and curtain air bags, and power windows and locks. The all-wheel-drive versions add retractable headlight washers. The 335i models include a memory feature for the mirrors, power seats, a LOGIC7 sound system with 13 speakers and surround sound simulation, and an assortment of visual adjustments.
Differences between body styles, aside from the obvious, are minimal, except for the M3. The convertibles add memory to the mirrors and power to the seats. The sedan and wagon ride on 16-inch alloys instead of the 17-inchers found on the coupe and convertible. The wagon also has roof rails for extra cargo-toting flexibility.
Options are extensive, ranging from a rear parking assist and a DVD-based navigation system, to run-flat performance tires and an increased top-speed limiter. New for 2008, paddle shifters can be added to the entry-level 328i versions.
BMW's excellent 3-Series returns for 2008 with minimal changes to the core lineup, save for the addition of the all-wheel-drive 335xi coupe (previously available only with rear-wheel drive). Paddle shifters are newly optional on the entry-level 328 versions. On the 335i coupe, a new 19-inch alloy wheel set is available, and the standard 16-inch alloy wheels have been restyled for the 328 sedans and sport wagons.
The new M3 is 2008's big change. The coupe is expected to go on sale in the U.S. in spring of 2008 starting at around $62,500. M-level exhilaration will be provided by an all-new ridiculously light high-revving 4.0L V8 engine--it is 33 pounds lighter than the previous M3's inline six--creating 420 horsepower at a pulse-raising 8,400 rpm. It will make 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. A carbon fiber roof will lighten and lower the car. Other firsts for this latest generation of M3 are an aluminum suspension, Mdrive for driver configuration of the engine control, and a nifty regenerative braking system that powers the electronics. Convertible and sedan versions will follow later in 2008.