2014 BMW 3 Series Walk Around

Now in its sixth generation, the 3 Series sedan is instantly recognizable as a BMW. Signature design cues include the twin kidney grille, stretched back, slightly wraparound headlamps with double-bezel lamps, short front and rear overhangs and a uniquely shaped side rear window with a distinctive curve in the bodywork known as the Hofmeister kink.

Sedans are available in Luxury, Sport and M Sport trims. Each has unique exterior trim. Luxury Line uses chrome kidney grille bars, a chrome exhaust pipe trim and a multi-spoke wheel design. Sport Line comes with black kidney grille bars and a five double-spoke wheel design. The M Sport line adds an aero body kit that includes a larger lower front air intake, sculpted rocker sills and different five-spoke wheels.

The Sports Wagon is decidedly a wagon, but retains a front end nearly identical to the sedans. From the side, it looks boxy, although the gentle curving slope from the top of the roof to the rear bumper softens an otherwise squarish appearance. Like the sedans, the Sports Wagon is available with Luxury, Sport and M Sport trims.

The new Gran Turismo bears the least resemblance to the rest of the 3 Series lineup. Based on the long-wheelbase 3 Series architecture developed for the Chinese market, it's 7.9 inches longer than the 3 Series Sports Wagon with a 4.3-inch longer wheelbase. It's also 3.2 inches taller. Not quite a wagon and not really a crossover vehicle, the GT looks big and tall. The gaping maw and fastback silhouette from many angles looks more like a mini version of the 5 Series GT than its 3 Series relatives. In back, BMW's first active rear spoiler sits atop the GT's shelfy behind, which reduces lift at highway speeds.


The standard interior looks like traditional BMW. The base seats are nice, and the leatherette looks and feels like leather. It's functional, but some might consider it boring. The Luxury line interior is traditional and attractive, and is our choice for commuting, business or road trips. Luxury Lines are warm and pretty with tan leather and burr walnut wood. The Sport line is all about the business of driving, featuring black seats with high bolsters and black and red interior trim, our choice for track days.

The different trim levels available on the sedans have unique features on the inside. A choice of leatherettes (vinyls) and leathers is available for the different trim levels. All the seats we tried, base, Sport, Luxury and M Sport, were comfortable and held us in place. We hardly took note of them, a good sign. And getting in and out of these cars was easy.

Regardless of trim, the 3 Series sedan's cockpit is oriented around driving, the dash angled slightly toward the driver bringing all controls within easy reach. Four circular dials (fuel gauge, speedometer, tachometer and oil temperature gauge) come with a black panel display. Climate controls are traditional BMW, intuitive and easy to operate. Overall, the trim is nice. Soft-touch plastic inside the interior door handles feels upscale. We didn't care for the plastic glovebox latch, which looked and felt cheap.

The iDrive screen is large, bright and easy to read. But unless your car is equipped with navigation, it will be of little use. In one of our test cars without any options, the screen simply displayed audio, phone and vehicle information. The pricey Technology package adds a whole suite of features, including navigation with real-time traffic information and BMW Connected, an app that allows users to sync their smartphones with their cars to use Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, a vehicle finder function and more. The BMW Apps suite integrates selected subscription-based applications into the car such as Pandora, Stitcher and MOG. This package also adds a head-up display.

Cars can come equipped with a traditional rearview camera that automatically displays what's behind the car, or an optional Surround View with side- and top-view cameras, which offers a bird's-eye perspective of the vehicle and the area around it. If that's not enough, the optional Parking Assistant helps the driver parallel park by finding a space, turning the steering wheel, practically parking the car itself. We recommend the rearview camera. Besides helping the driver spot a child behind the car when backing up, it's handy for everyday use, allowing the driver to use all of the available space when parking without touching the car behind and speeding the parking process. The other features are bonus features fun to use occasionally but not something we'd normally miss.

Getting in and out of the back seats is easy in all variants. In the sedan, rear legroom measures 35.1 inches, and headroom comes in at 37.7 inches, which is about on par with the Audi A4, but slightly more than the Mercedes-Benz C250. Trunk space in the 3 Series sedan is typical for the class at 13 cubic feet.

The 328i Sports Wagon is just as comfortable as the sedan; however, the rear center seat's tall headrest hampers rearward visibility so much that we opted to drive our test car with the center seat folded down, exposing the rear pass-through slot. The wagon's wide C and D pillars create large blind spots. In the back, the wagon gets slightly more headroom with 38.3 inches. Cargo space in the wagon is more plentiful, at 17.5 cubic feet with the rear seats in place, enough for two large suitcases and multiple small carry-ons. About 53 cubic feet is available with the rear seats folded flat.

Gran Turismo models have seats that sit more than two inches higher than the sedans, giving a commanding view of the road. There's also more leg- and headroom, including 2.8 inches more legroom in the rear than in the sedan and wagon. This is the roomiest of the bunch, with 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place.

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