A new generation of the BMW 3-series is always a big deal given this sports sedan's reputation, and the new G20 generation has extra weight on its shoulders given the somewhat disappointing dynamics of its F30 predecessor. Based on our experience with the new 3-series so far, we're cautiously optimistic.
There are now fewer versions of the 3-series for us Americans to choose from, since the wagon and hatchback Gran Turismo models will soon disappear from our shores. But there's still plenty of choice for the discerning 3-series sedan buyer, so we dove into the car's online configurator and chose our ideal version.
MODEL WE'D CHOOSE:
M340i (base price: $54,995)
A 3-series with rear-wheel drive and an inline-six engine up front might be an obvious choice, but that's because it's the correct one. While the base 330i model with its turbocharged four-cylinder is a far better value, it's hard to resist the pull of BMW's sweet turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that's standard in the M340i. This M-badged car, though not quite the full-on performance beast that the forthcoming M3 will be, also comes standard with a few desirable performance goodies and a distinctive look.
OPTIONS WE'D CHOOSE:
Mocha leather upholstery with contrast stitching ($1450)
19-inch wheels with non-run-flat tires ($600)
Mineral Grey Metallic paint ($550)
Adaptive M suspension ($700)
Ambient lighting ($250)
Heated front seats ($500)
Spare tire ($150)
Because the M340i's starting price is steep, we kept it relatively light with the extras to try to keep the price below $60,000. BMW may have abandoned the 3-series' purist sports-sedan mission years ago, but we still like the idea of a modestly optioned example that lets us focus on the driving experience. Even still, the attractive brown leather upholstery drew us in, as did the extra-cost metallic paint; we did select a subdued gray hue so as to not attract too much attention. Both the $700 adaptive dampers and the upgraded 19-inch wheels with summer non-run-flat tires (which necessitate adding a $150 spare tire) were no-brainers, while the frivolous $250 ambient lighting comes with the upgraded leather interior. Heated front seats may seem superfluous for those in warmer climes, but trust us, they're necessary in Michigan, where we live.
Our M340i comes in just under the $60K mark, at $59,195, and it strikes us as the best way to decide if the new 3er is able to live up to its past successes. Now when is it going to show up at our doorstep?
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