The BMW 3-series gets a mid-cycle refresh in 2016. Revised front and rear styling looks a little bit sharper, while upgraded suspension and a redesigned electronic power steering system help aid handling. The biggest news for 2016 however, is the introduction of the 340i, which replaces the 335i at the top of the standard 3-series hierarchy. The new name hints at a more powerful engine, with the 340i making about 20 more horsepower than the old 335i did. Other changes for 2016 include a newly available track handling package on the regular 3-series as well as LED headlights on the ultra-sporty M3.
The 3-Series is offered in Sedan or Sports Wagon body styles. Sedans are offered in 320i, 328i and 340i variants. The 320i makes 180 horsepower and the 328i makes 240 horsepower, both employing a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The 340i offers a 320-horsepower 3.0L turbocharged six. All three engines employ twin-scroll turbocharging for quick responsiveness as well as strong torque output just above idle, which makes them feel like much larger engines. New-generation 8-speed automatic transmissions help the cars achieve excellent mileage, too -- up to 34 mpg with the 328i Sedan.
Special xDrive versions of the Sedan and Sports Wagon offer all-weather capability to the 3-Series.
The M3 is seen by BMW as a separate model altogether, although it's essentially a top-performance model based on the Sedan. It comes with a 425-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 3.0L straight-six and a standard 6-speed manual or optional 7-speed M Double Clutch Transmission, plus Electronic Damping Control with an optimized M Dynamic Mode. Compound cross-drilled brakes are also included, as are an M variable differential lock and an M Drive button that allows you to save personalized settings.
Separately, those who like the idea of a sport sedan but want to make an especially green statement might want to consider the ActiveHybrid 3. With its TwinPower turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and a sophisticated electric-motor and management system, the ActiveHybrid 3 delivers 335 horsepower to the rear wheels and can accelerate to 60 mph in as little as 5.3 seconds, yet it achieves EPA ratings of 25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway. The system permits operation on electric power alone for up to 2.5 miles, as well as coasting with the gasoline engine off at up to 100 mph. The lithium-ion battery pack reduces trunk space somewhat.
Sedan and Sports Wagon models both have Auto Start-Stop, which shuts the engine off at stop lights and quickly starts it again when the brake is released. There's also a Driving Dynamics Control system, to customize driving specifics, with Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Eco Pro modes.
3-Series Sports Wagon models are distinguished by their elongated roofline and exemplary utility and versatility compared to the other models. Available only in 328i trim, Sport Wagons feature comparable trims and materials to sedans, yet offer four cargo-floor tie-downs, a storage tray under the floor, a deep stowage compartment and a partition net, all to help keep cargo secure, while the rear seatbacks can be folded down as needed in three separate sections, with a 40/30/40 split. Compared to the last-generation wagon, there's more width between the wheel arches and a wide tailgate opening, scuff plates and available racking systems for outdoor gear or storage boxes help make the most of it. A Top View rearview camera system and a BMW Parking Assistant are there to help with visibility and make parking easier.
Most of the 3-Series lineup is offered in Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line versions, with each of these distinguished by separate trims, materials and details. There's also an M Sport package that brings an entire set of appearance features that give a nod to the M3 in appearance -- and add a firmer M Sport suspension.
Major options include a variable-ratio steering system, the Adaptive M Suspension, a Head-Up Display, Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning and a High-Beam Assistant. The rear-view camera Surround View feature and the available Adaptive xenon headlamps swivel with the steering angle to help see around corners are also available.