Fully deserving of its popularity, the 2007 BMW 3 Series sets the standard for overall driving enjoyment, luxury and refinement in an entry-level luxury car. Only its high price will give you pause.
If you're thinking about buying an entry-level luxury car this year, your attention will undoubtedly turn to the 2007 BMW 3 Series, which we consider the top candidate in this class by a significant margin. Whether your priority is an engaging driving experience, an elegant cabin environment or simply curbside prestige, this car delivers in spades.
The sedan and wagon were completely redesigned for 2006, and this year the coupe and convertible get the same ground-up makeover. The coupe is longer and lower than the previous-generation two-door, and with its tidier tail design, it's arguably more attractive than the sedan. Much the same can be said of the late-arriving convertible, as its retractable hardtop gives it much the same look as the coupe with the top raised. With the top down, the 3 Series convertible offers clean, uninterrupted lines. The hardtop itself is comprised of three folding steel panels which, mechanisms and all, pad on an additional 450 pounds over the 3 Series coupe. In order to maintain optimal front-to-rear weight distribution in the pudgier convertible, plastic quarter panels are used up front. According to BMW, these new panels are not only 50 percent lighter than equivalent steel versions, they're also dent-resistant.
The other major development for 2007 is the arrival of a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine -- it's the first turbocharged gasoline BMW engine in decades. Standard on the top-line 335i convertible, coupe and sedan (which supersede last year's 330 models), this force-fed 3.0-liter inline-6 foregos the aluminum-magnesium block found in the normally aspirated version in favor of an all-aluminum block. It also uses the latest direct-fuel-injection technology, which improves efficiency and performance by contributing to a cooler intake charge, thus allowing a high 10.2:1 compression ratio. Turbo lag is essentially nonexistent, giving the new engine the feel of a much larger normally aspirated engine. Meanwhile, last year's 325 models give way to the 328i and 328xi, which still have a 3.0-liter engine but are now rated for 230 hp and 200 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive is a new option on the coupe, and unlike last year, buyers have the option of getting a rear-drive wagon.
With its extensive array of body styles and drivetrain configurations, the 2007 BMW 3 Series will accommodate just about anybody's tastes. Want a sport sedan or sport coupe? Go with the twin-turbo engine, a manual gearbox and the optional sport suspension. Or, you can play up the luxury angle by adding the Premium Package and an automatic transmission. Choose all-wheel drive and the compact Bimmer becomes a capable snowbelt car. The major knock against the 3 Series has always been its high price of admission, as comparably equipped versions of the Acura TL, Audi A4, Infiniti G35, Lexus IS, Saab 9-3 and Volvo C70/S40/V50 can all be had for less money -- in some cases, substantially less. These cars are all worth considering if you're mainly looking for a luxury experience, but for those who put driving dynamics above all other concerns, none will satisfy like the BMW 3 Series.