What's the best selling luxury car in America? Yes, it's the BMW 3 Series ... and for good reason. It's also very likely to retain its #1 spot for the 2009 model year. It remains just a joy to drive while still offering impressive comfort and attractive styling.
And there's few changes for the 2009 model year. However, some of the sedans and wagons have been given a new front fascia to correct what some thought were weaker design features. Coupes and convertibles remain unchanged.
In addition, the iDrive electronics interface, which comes with the optional navigation system, now has physical menu buttons surrounding the iDrive controller to improve some of the past "ease of use" issues, while the navigation system itself is now on a hard drive (and includes real-time traffic).
A more significant new development this year is the introduction of BMW's first clean-diesel engine for the United States, the 2009 335d. The BMW 335d is equipped with a powerful twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine that still gets good gas mileage (23 mpg city and 33 mpg on the highway). It's also a clean burner, having met strict emissions requirements in all 50 states.
The new BMW 3 Series comes in sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible (hardtop) body styles. All 328i's feature rear-wheel-drive, while the coupe, sedan and wagon are also available in all-wheel-drive 328i xDrive form.
In the 335i trim, all but the wagon are available in rear-wheel-drive, while the sedan and coupe also offer 335i xDrive all-wheel-drive.
Standard features on 328i models include heated side mirrors, sunroof, 16 inch wheels, leatherette vinyl upholstery, automatic climate control and a 10-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack.
A sport-tuned suspension also comes on the coupe and the convertible has a power-retractable hardtop.
Along with its more powerful engine, the 335i adds power front seats with driver memory, xenon headlights and 17 inch wheels. The diesel 335d is equipped this way as well.
Most 3 Series vehicles come already equipped with the Premium Package, which includes leather upholstery (heat-reflective in the convertible), auto-dimming mirrors, BMW Assist telematics, Bluetooth connectivity, and power seats with driver memory on 328i models.
The Sport Package adds a firmer suspension on convertibles, sedans and wagons, larger wheels, sport seats, sport steering wheel, and "Shadowline" exterior trim.
The Climate Package includes heated front seats, heated steering wheel, retractable headlight washers and, except on the convertible, fold-down rear seats. Most of these features are also available as stand-alone options.
Other stand-alone options include a navigation system with iDrive controller, an active steering system on the 335i, keyless ignition/entry, active cruise control, paddle shifters for the optional automatic transmission, xenon headlights on the 328i, front and rear parking assist, rear window shades, satellite radio, HD radio, iPod adapter and a Logic 7 surround-sound audio system.
Powering the rear-wheel-drive BMW 328i and all-wheel-drive 328i xDrive is a 3.0 liter inline-6 that delivers 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque.
The 335i and 335i xDrive are equipped with another 3.0 liter inline-6 that's twin-turbocharged and produces 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The twin-turbocharged diesel engine of the 335d produces 265 horsepower and an extremely athletic 425 lb-ft of torque.
The standard transmission on all models is a six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic is an option, as are accompanying paddle shifters.
In performance testing, the manual transmission 328i sedan has been timed from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. The convertible is heavier and adds several tenths of a second to this time. And both 335i sedans and and coupes go the distance in just over 5 seconds.
Even with its powerful engines, the 3 Series still manages to achieve some respectable gas mileage performance. Depending on drivetrain and bodystyle, the 328i gets 17-18 mpg in the city and 25-28 mpg on the highway.
The automatic gets 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Slightly lower numbers result with the manual transmission or all-wheel drive.
Standard safety equipment on the new 3 Series includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, run-flat tires, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags (not in the convertible, it has regular front side airbags that extend up to head level). The convertible is also equipped with pop-up rollover hoops.
In government crash tests, the sedan and wagon received four out of five stars for frontal collision protection and five stars for side protection.
And many driving enthusiasts feel it just doesn't get much better than the 2009 BMW M3, with its near perfect combination of power and driving dynamics, while still maintaining daily-driver livability (and available as coupe, sedan or convertible).
And for the first time, it comes with an eight-cylinder engine. However, BMW has designed it as the lightest V8 in the world, even weighing less than M3's previous inline-six.
Other M3 features include a specially tuned suspension, six-speed manual transmission, carbon fiber roof, and exterior modifications.
The new V8 produces 414 horsepower and a peak torque of 295 lb-ft at 3,900 rpm. Even more impressive is the fact that approximately 85% of the engine's peak torque remains available through an enormous speed range of 6,500 rpm.
A 6-speed M3 coupe can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds and do a quarter-mile in just 12.7 seconds. And while obviously not meant for those looking for fuel efficiency, EPA gas mileage estimates for the M3 are 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway for all models except the convertible, which gets 13 mpg city.