$8,478 - $13,334

2012 BMW 3-Series Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 BMW 3-Series was new.


Performance: 8.6

Only the 3-Series sedan sees performance changes for 2012. The coupe and convertible’s powertrains remain unchanged. The 2012 BMW 3-Series sedan has a new base turbocharged four-cylinder engine and optional eight-speed automatic transmission. Test drivers really like the new combination, saying it’s plenty powerful. Handling on all 3-Series models remains sporty and aggressive, and reviewers call the 3-Series one of the most engaging cars to drive in the class.

  • "It still sets the standard for sheer driving chops in its segment, and the new turbo four is a nice piece of work, more powerful and efficient than, if not nearly as smooth and refined as, a straight-six." -- AutoWeek (sedan)
  • "Quite simply, no other entry-level luxury model can match the Bimmer's exquisite combination of athletic handling and premium ride comfort." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

For 2012, the BMW 328i sedan gets a new 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a new optional eight-speed automatic. A six-speed manual is standard. The 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder is still offered for 2012 in the 335i sedan. BMW 328i coupes and convertibles have a 3.0-liter, 230-horsepower inline six-cylinder engine and either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. The 335i coupe and convertible have the same engine found in the 335 sedan. The BMW 3-Series is rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available.

The EPA rates each 2012 3-Series model’s fuel economy differently depending on the body style, engine and availability of all-wheel drive. The 328i sedan gets 24/36 mpg city/highway with an automatic transmission and 23/34 with a manual. Coupe and convertible fuel economy ranges from 17/24 to 19/28 mpg. The 2012 3-Series sedan receives praise from critics, who love the new eight-speed automatic and the new turbo four. They say the combination is lively and powerful.

  • "Whatever the purists might believe, this engine is born to run with the eight-speed automatic. It's a lovely device and, in our test car, had the optional paddle shifters which is a tacit admission from BMW that the old model's push-pull paddle shift arrangement was, well, silly. This one runs the same one-up, one-down philosophy as M has been using for years, and it works intuitively." -- Inside Line (sedan)
  • "BMW's new N20 2.0-liter four-cylinder powering the 328i sounds like a throwback to simpler times but that impression vanishes the first time its twin-scroll turbo pumps up 18.9 psi of boost and output swells to 240 horsepower at 5000 rpm. What this engine lacks in cylinder-count prestige, it more than makes up for with what may be a world record for vigor per cubic centimeter." -- Car and Driver (sedan)
  • "The turbo four, called N20 internally, displayed no lag to speak of, but it did at times sound much like a diesel. At start-up and idle, the clack-clack-clack from the rockers and the vibrations they send through the cabin very much resemble that of an oil burner. The effect is especially noticeable when the stop/start feature is on; taking off from every stop sign sends shivers, both palpable and audible, through the car. Otherwise, it is remarkably quiet on the road, with little tire noise and less engine noise to speak of." -- AutoWeek (sedan)

Handling and Braking

Reviewers like the strong brakes, but aren’t in love with the steering. They say the steering requires less effort than the previous sedan generation, but in their opinion, this is a negative because they prefer the steering on the previous model because they like the way it gently eases the car into turns. Overall though, the new 3-Series is still one of the best-handling cars in the class and is still a great car to fling around corners.

  • "The fifth-gen 3-series greeted its driver with a secret handshake: high-effort steering that bends the car smartly into every corner with total authority over body motion. The 2012 edition that arrives in February says ‘Have a nice day’ with normal steering effort and a ride that glosses over pavement flaws the way cream cheese fills bagel crevices. Impact harshness is significantly reduced." -- Car and Driver (sedan)
  • "As with the rest of the chassis, the brakes are tremendously strong and adjustable midcorner. The pedal position never moved in four hours of hard mountain driving, either. The steering is, in this return to absolute driving fun, not brilliant. Well, it's not bad, it's just not quite at the standards of the rest of the car and is damned by the comparison." -- Inside Line (sedan)

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