3-Series Overview


2018 BMW X3 Comparison
How does the 3-Series stack up against the competition?

Both the BMW and Mercedes are finely honed cars, worthy of lust, envy, and car payments. They offer all-wheel drive for those dwelling in winter's snowy misery and fire-breathing high-horsepower variants that can run with some of the most coveted sports cars in the world. The bottom line is that they both deliver satisfying driving experiences and provide comfortable and well-fitted cabins.

But the devil is in the details, and that's what separates these two Teutonic titans.

With the 3-Series, you can still get one with a manual transmission, and it's available as a wagon-a rarity in this segment.

As for the C-Class, the seven-speed automatic transmission works well, but it ranks half a notch lower than the eight-speed unit serving in the BMW. Shifts are smooth and timely, but they are noticeable and some part-throttle downshifts may not be swift enough in Comfort mode. Plus, the four-cylinder engine sounding somewhat like a diesel detracts from the premium experience. With the C-Class, some commonly expected features, such as phone voice commands, are not standard. And prepare yourself for sorting out the car's complex controls, with its combination of a controller knob and touch pad on the console that make even simple selections, like changing an audio source, a distraction.
Also the shifter is designed to be low-effort, and is a wand on the right side of the steering column that looks a lot like a wiper stalk. If you're new to Mercedes, you'll hit it the first few times it starts raining.


The A4 offers only one engine: a 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns 273 lb-ft of torque and delivers power through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. Audi says the new A4 should go from 0 to 60 mph in around 6 seconds.
Meanwhile, the 3 Series offers four engines. Base-level 320i models use a 180-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder (good for a 7.3-second 0-to-60 dash), while the mid level 328i delivers 240 hp and goes from 0 to 60 in just over 5 seconds. Drivers especially interested in gas mileage should opt for the 328d, which offers 180 hp, a fuel-economy rating of 36 miles per gallon in combined driving and a 0-to-60 time of just over 7 seconds. Shoppers who want the most muscle will opt for the new 340i, with its 320-hp turbocharged 6-cylinder that goes from 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds.

Although we're impressed with the A4's 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, this one's a no-brainer: The 3 Series offers enthusiast-friendly rear-wheel drive, more power, more choices and better handling. If you want performance, you'll want the BMW.


With the A4's recent redesign and the BMW's constant updates, there are very few high-tech features not offered by both of these two models. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are notable exceptions -- they're only available in the Audi.
Otherwise, any tech you can think of is probably available in the A4 and the 3 Series likely. There are automatic high beams, 8-plus-inch touchscreens (8.3 inches in the Audi, 8.8 inches in the BMW), navigation systems, heated steering wheels, LED headlights and many other options, including all-wheel drive, adaptive cruise control and multi-angle camera systems. While there are a few features unique to each model (like an automated parking system in the BMW or traffic-sign recognition in the Audi), we suspect most people will find themselves right at home in either of these two models.

2017 BMW 3-Series vs. Audi A4 & Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Head to Head

3-Series Pros & Cons

Pros: Powerful optional engines. Composed and agile handling. Intuitive infotainment system. Spacious cabin.
Cons: No standard advanced safety features.

Audi A4 Pros & Cons

Pros: Plethora of tech features. More rear-seat space than many rivals. Solid mix of performance and comfort. Posh interior.
Cons: Occasionally finicky transmission.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Pros & Cons

Pros: Powerful engine lineup. Soft ride. Superior cabin
Cons: Difficult infotainment system. Confining rear seats

BMW 3-Series Research

While the BMW 3 Series has historically set the standard in the compact premium sport sedan class, it is facing new and improved competition from German, Japanese, and even American automakers. To keep it competitive, the 3 Series is available in several flavors.

The base engine in the 2017 BMW 320i is a turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 making 180 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. Depending on transmission and drive type, the 320i is EPA-rated 23/34-35 mpg city/highway. The mid-range turbocharged 2.0-liter in the 330i makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft and is EPA-rated 21-23/32/34 mpg depending on configuration. Power for the BMW 340i comes from a turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 making 320 hp and 330 lb-ft. EPA fuel economy for the rear-drive 2017 BMW 340i with the eight-speed automatic is 21/32 mpg. EPA numbers aren't yet available for all 2017 340i models, but the manual-equipped 2016 340i was rated 20/30 mpg in rear-drive trim and 20/29 mpg with all-wheel drive. An all-wheel-drive 2016 340i equipped with the automatic achieves 22/33 mpg, according to EPA's estimates.

The BMW 330e plug-in hybrid sedan combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine, making 180 hp and 215 lb-ft, with an 87-hp electric motor and eight-speed automatic. Total system output is rated 248 hp and 310 lb-ft. The 2016 BMW 330e is EPA-rated 72 mpg with its 14 miles of pure electric range and 31/31 mpg in hybrid form. A BMW 328d powered by a turbo-diesel engine is also available.

At the top of the 3 Series lineup is the high-performance BMW M3 sedan powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 making 425 hp and 406 lb-ft. The engine is backed by either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. Along with a slew of suspension and drivetrain upgrades, an available Competition Package boosts engine output to 444 hp. The M3 is EPA-rated 17/24-26 mpg.

What's new with the BMW 3-Series?

The biggest change to the New 3 Series is a more powerful engine for the top-end model, which also receives a name change from 335i to 340i. Other changes include a very subtle cosmetic update and newly optional LED headlights.

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