$20,872 - $50,137

2018 BMW 3-Series Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 BMW 3-Series was new.


Performance: 8.9

The 2018 BMW 3 Series mostly lives up to its reputation of ultimate driving pleasure. Its handling is crisp and responsive in every iteration, though spirited drivers will want to avoid the base engine. Luckily, five additional engine options (all stout) and a handful of performance upgrades are available.

  • "The 2017 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. For most 3 Series models, power delivery is strong and complemented by benchmark handling and exemplary composure when going around turns." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "Every 2017 BMW 3 Series focuses on driving pleasure. It's a trait that puts them at or near the top of the segment in terms of ride and handling. They're all fast and fun to drive. … The 8-speed automatic transmission is sublime, and the optional 6-speed manual transmission is a joy." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)  
  • "The smooth, quiet ride is impressive, and there's plenty of power, particularly in the downright-fast 340i. This BMW delivers a true premium driving experience." -- Autotrader (2016)

Acceleration and Power

BMW separates its powertrain options by trim level. All are turbocharged. The base 320i comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard and a six-speed manual transmission is available; both are excellent. While this 180-horsepower powertrain is refined, spirited drivers may find it lacks enough grunt. Drivers with a heavy right foot will want to skip the 320i in favor of the 330i. Its engine has the same displacement, but its 248-horsepower rating translates to brisker acceleration. The difference in fuel economy between these two is trivial, with the 320i rated at 24 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The 330i drops only 1 mpg on the highway.

Powering the 340i is a 320-horsepower 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The EPA estimates the 340i’s fuel economy at 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway. A more potent version of this engine is under the hood of the 425-horsepower M3. These six-cylinder engines feel as robust as a V8 and are accompanied by throaty exhaust notes.

Alternatively fueled 3 Series models include the diesel-powered 328d, which comes standard with a 180-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. It has a fuel economy rating of 31 mpg city/43 mpg highway. The 330e is a plug-in hybrid. Its 248-horsepower setup includes the same engine size as the base trim. The 330e can drive about 14 miles on all-electric power, and when using both the gasoline engine and electric motor, achieves a 71 mpg-equivalent rating. A full charge takes about two hours at 240 volts, according to the EPA. For both the 328d and 330e, the combination of outstanding fuel economy and eager power make these trims excellent picks for commuters.

  • "Other than the 320i, which is expectedly slow given its 180 hp, acceleration is strong. We've tested a bunch of 3 Series models, and all have impressed. In our tests, a 340i xDrive sprinted from zero to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. Expect the 330i to take about 5.5 seconds." -- Edmunds
  • "Moving to the 248-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine in the 330i brings what we think is the best combination of performance and price, while the 320-horsepower 340i delivers V8-like power and growl. For those seeking the elusive M3, it's a track-ready terror whose dual-clutch automatic doesn't quite live up to the car's promise. Go with the manual." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "We believe BMW went for smoothness and linearity instead of break-neck performance because when this [330i] engine and the 8HP50 eight-speed automatic are combined, it's sweetheart marriage. … Also, the transmission calibration is top notch with smooth, refined upshifts and rightly timed downshifts that include matched-revs throttle blips when done manually. … Altogether, this is perhaps the most seamlessly integrated turbo-four and automatic in the segment, even if it's not the most powerful." -- Motor Trend (2017)

Handling and Braking

The 3 Series comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Among its performance upgrades is all-wheel drive, the M Sport performance package, and a Track Handling package. This BMW delivers nimble handling and is fun to drive – especially when driven aggressively – though the 3 Series isn't as athletic as it once was. Softened suspension tuning has led to a smoother ride, at the cost of keeping body movement in check.

  • "The supple ride attests to BMW's focus on luxury, but a true sport sedan lies beneath. The harder you push a 3 Series, the better it feels. The optional M Sport lowered suspension increases athleticism without a stiffer ride penalty. Retains a sense of refined performance that sets it apart." -- Edmunds
  • "All were in agreement, however, that the 3 Series has lost its once-unimpeachable handling edge. The 3 Series used to feel eager, alert, and ready to dispatch a corner or a competitor. What once felt special and inspiring now feels like common transportation, a decent daily driver was a common backhanded compliment. … Granted, our test car likely would have received more compliments for its handling had it been equipped with the $2,300 Track and Handling package that included adaptive M suspension and M Sport brakes plus specific high-performance summer tires. Prior 3 Series sedans didn't require such a package to feel special, to feel like a BMW all the time." -- Motor Trend (2017)
  • As the 3 Series has matured, some trademark playfulness has been lost, but there's still an overwhelming sense of confidence and control." -- Autotrader (2016)

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