When it comes to sports sedans (and wagons), BMW’s 3 Series remains a high water mark for performance, luxury, and technology. This isn’t to say that the 3 is without company. The new-for-’17 Audi A4 nips at its heels, not to mention the accomplished Benz C-Class and recently-updated Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, and Lexus IS. It’s enough to keep BMW on its toes, giving the 3 Series another comprehensive update for 2017.
Last year’s update saw the 3 Series Sedan and Touring receive freshened exterior styling with full LED headlamps, restyled taillights, and revised dynamics courtesy of tweaks to the suspension and steering. The unusual long-wheelbase Gran Turismo hatchback missed out on these changes, and for 2017 receives the visual update, plus new wheel designs.
Inside, all 3 Series models get BMW’s latest version of iDrive. The fifth-gen setup, which debuted on the 7 Series last year, features an all-new menu design and enhanced graphics, too. Unfortunately, gesture control and touchscreen capabilities haven’t been carried over from the 7. From a connectivity standpoint, the 3er also gains wireless device charging, and wi-fi capabilities are also offered, providing it a leg-up on the competition for in-car connectivity.
More big news lies under the hood: a brand new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine has been added to the lineup. It still displaces 2.0 litres and packs BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology, but boasts 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Cars featuring this engine also get a new name – 330i, in place of 328i. The entry level 320i continues as well. Both 330i and 320i feature xDrive all-wheel drive as standard and come with an eight-speed automatic.
Excluding the M3, the range-topping powerplant is a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder which was launched just last year. The 340i features 320 horsepower and 332 oh-so-smooth lb-ft of torque. For 2017, this engine is being offered on rear and all-wheel drive 340i sedans and is also available on the 340i Gran Turismo. The sedan offers a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic; the Gran Turismo is auto-only.
A hybrid version of the 3 Series also makes its return for 2017, though, this time around it’s a plug-in. The 330e Plug-in Hybrid puts emphasis on economy and efficiency over performance and uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder sourced from the 320i, in place of the powerhouse 3.0-litre turbo straight six that was used in the ActiveHybrid 3. The 330e has a 7.6 kWh battery pack that powers an electric motor that produces 87 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque; together, with the gas engine, total output is 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Charging the 330e is done through a port mounted on the driver’s side front fender, and takes 2.5 hours on a 240-volt charger. A fully charged 330e can travel about 20 km solely on electricity before turning into a conventional hybrid vehicle. Despite its newfound plug-in abilities, the 330e is a whopping $6,400 less than the ActiveHybrid 3 when it was last offered in 2015.
Should big, bulky battery packs not be a thing, there’s still a diesel engine offered. As the engine carries over unchanged, the diesel bucks the 20-30-40 naming convention by keeping its 328d badge. Buyers can choose between a sedan or a wagon body style, but opting for the diesel means sticking with an eight-speed automatic and xDrive all-wheel drive. Power output is a healthy 180 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.
Pricing for the 3 Series kicks off at a hair under $40,000 - $39,990 to be precise. The 328d starts at $48,350, while the 340i starts at $52,050. The new Plug-in Hybrid sells for $51,900.