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Autos

BMW's new 3 shows joy of four

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 08:28 PM

BMW should start its own reality TV show. Title it "BMW 3 Series - How Do They Do That?" and it could be bigger than M.A.S.H.

Fact is, since its intro back in 1975, the 3 Series has enjoyed Starbucks-like love and loyalty, accounting for almost four out of every 10 new BMWs sold.

And with each new generation - we're up to six - the car has delivered more joy, more driving pleasure and more style. How they do that?

Take this newest 2012 328i I've been driving. Instead of the previous 3-liter six-cylinder motor, it features a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.

Using a turbo and direct fuel injection, it delivers the same power — 240 horseys — as the six. When it's coupled to a new eight-speed automatic, performance stays the same, but fuel economy leaps to 24 mpg city and a terrific 36 mpg on the highway.

How they do that?

Part of it is down to BMW's so-called Efficient Dynamics technology. Among many things, it'll cut the engine when you stop at a light, and pump juice back in to the battery when you hit the brakes.

This new "3" also is more accommodating, thanks to its 3.7-inch stretch and a couple of inches added to its wheelbase. That gives a little more knee room in the back.

While the body is an all-new design, in usual 3 Series fashion you have to squint to spot the changes. The biggest is that the new headlights are joined up to the trademark kidney grille.

On the road, it's more than a joy to drive, with the new turbo-4 delivering oodles of right-now response — especially in Sport mode — along with refined high-speed cruising.

Pricewise the 328i kicks off at a tempting $35,795, with the 335i six-cylinder model starting at $43,295.

Either way you'll be asking yourself, "How do they do it?"

Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be contacted at walkweb@verizon.net.

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