The 3-Series is available as a coupe, a retractable hardtop convertible, a sedan and a wagon. In addition to rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive is available on all body types except the convertible. All vehicles have a marvelously balanced chassis and outstanding road feel. Easily adjusted and very supportive seats are the norm, as is one of the nicest steering wheels found in a modern automobile. A stiff suspension means the 3-Series is at its best when carving corners.
The fourth generation of the legendary M3 continues in 2009. Coupe, sedan and convertible versions will be available, all powered by a high-revving 4.0L V8 engine. The light-weight powerplant generates 420 horsepower and spins up to 8,400 rpm. Other performance-minded improvements include a lower carbon fiber roof, a new aluminum suspension, Mdrive to allow driver configuration of the engine control, high-performance compound brakes and a regenerative braking system that powers the electronics.
Standard equipment is generous, with stability and traction controls, xenon adaptive headlights, a moonroof, power heated mirrors, a tire pressure monitor, dynamic cruise control, automatic tri-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system, side seat-mounted and curtain air bags and power windows and locks. The all-wheel-drive versions add retractable headlight washers. The 335i models include a memory feature for the mirrors, power seats, a LOGIC7 sound system with 13 speakers and surround sound simulation, and an assortment of visual adjustments.
Differences between body styles, aside from the obvious, are minimal, except for the M3. The convertibles add memory to the mirrors and power to the seats. The sedan and wagon ride on 16-inch alloys instead of the 17-inchers found on the coupe and convertible. The wagon also has roof rails for extra cargo-toting flexibility.
Options are extensive, ranging from a rear parking assist and a DVD-based navigation system, to run-flat performance tires and an increased top-speed limiter. Paddle shifters can be added to the entry-level 328i versions.