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Redesigned last year, the BMW 3 Series continues its long-standing role as the benchmark of compact sport-luxury motoring. For Spring 2013, BMW adds a new model to the bottom of the line, the 320i sedan, designed to deliver all the renowned quality and agility of the 3 Series plus high efficiency and a comfortable price.
At the heart of the 320i is BMW's lauded twin-turbo 2-liter four-cylinder engine. With 180 horsepower on tap, it isn't the fastest sport sedan out there, but it does lead the pack in fuel economy, achieving up to 36 mpg on the highway. Rear-drive versions can be equipped with an eight-seed automatic transmission or six-speed manual. The automatic is mandatory with BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive system, a relative bargain at about $2,000.
Like the rest of the 3 Series line, the 320i brings to the table near-perfect weight distribution, responsive electric steering, and a reassuringly solid feel on the road. The standard Driving Dynamics Control system allows drivers to select one of three modes (Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport) that adjust the car's performance to their tastes. Most comfort and convenience upgrades found on other models are available here too, although buyers looking for a wagon or coupe body will have to reach higher in the lineup.
Sans options, the 320i will probably appeal to BMW purists and the eco set, but the majority of buyers shopping in this league will want to add the Premium Package, which includes power seats with lumbar adjustments and driver memory, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, satellite radio, universal garage door opener, trunk accessories, and a sunroof. Heated front and rear seats are available as part the Cold Weather Package, which also adds a heated steering wheel and retractable headlamp washers. Leather seating and interior wood trim are standalone options.
For extra performance, the Sport Package offers a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport seats and steering wheel, and specific headliner material. Alas, BMW's full-boat M Sport treatment is not available on the 320i.
All 320i models are powered by a twin-turbo 2-liter matched to an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. BMW's Driving Dynamics Control system allows drivers to select from three driving modes depending on their priorities: performance, ride comfort or fuel economy.
Other standard equipment includes leatherette seating (black or beige), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps and wipers, foglights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a trip computer, Bluetooth, BMW's iDrive control interface with graphic display, an HD radio, and iPod/USB connectivity. Individual options include wood interior trim, leather upholstery, a sunroof, a split-folding rear seat and navigation.
The available Premium Package pulls together a variety of popular features: power seats with lumbar adjustment and driver memory, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, a satellite radio, a sunroof, a universal garage door opener and a trunk storage package. The Sport Package adds a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels and sportier interior trim.
Beyond that, BMW offers a Cold Weather Package with heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, and retractable headlamp washers. The Driver Assistance Package adds front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. For enhanced nighttime vision, buyers can select the Lighting Package with adaptive xenon headlights.
Drivers who face snowy winters might want to consider the xDrive model, which carries BMW's competent all-wheel drive system. Aside from mandatory automatic transmission, the 320i xDrive offers the same mix of equipment and options as rear-drive models.
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|Build & Price|
Stylish and entertaining, but lacks the BMW's track record
High refinement and class, gets pricey with options
Plush inside, well equipped, not as fun to drive
Stellar mileage, more space, front-drive layout limits performance