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Chosen by some reviewers as the #1 near-luxury car, the 2006 BMW 3 Series is consistently rated one of the very best in its class. A summary of all reviewers on Autos.com rates the 2006 325 and the 330 2nd best of 31 near-luxury cars. The only significant critique mentioned by some reviewers is that the 3 Series cargo space is limited. On the other hand, the BMW 3 Series offers a driving experience that is incomparable. The cars accelerate and handles in a way that is very exciting to people that enjoy driving. The similar attention to detail in the interior satisfies the driver who focuses more on comfort and luxury.

See also the main fact sheets for the BMW 3 Series.


Low PointsEdit

  • Small trunk and limited rear cabin space (New Car Test Drive)
  • The 3 Series are the highest priced cars in their class. (The Detroit News)

Performance and HandlingEdit

The 2006 BMW 3 Series offers Active Steering that turns the front wheels without driver intervention. The 2006 3 Series remains true to BMW’s commitment to the inline six-cylinder engine. The inline six has unique performance characteristics and smoothness that driving enthusiasts prefer. It is a 3.0 liter and it includes the first mass-produced magnesium alloy engine block, which reduces weight. It’s the first six cylinder engine without a conventional throttle. The 325i produces 215 horsepower and the 330i produces 255 horsepower. The Dynamic Stability Control chassis has more sensors measuring more than ever before. It aggressively integrates BMW’s Active Steering into the electronic stability control scheme. If the DSC senses something out of the ordinary it can react by applying the brake at a specific wheel or it can reduce engine power to keep the car going in the intended direction.

Gas MileageEdit

According to EPA estimates summarized on Autos.com, both the BWM 325 and the BMW 330 rank 11th out of 31 near-luxury vehicles:

  • 325 Trims: 20/30 MPG
  • 330 Trims: 20/30 MPG

It's worth noting, though, that the gas mileage of the top vehicles in this class varies only slighty-- by a few miles per gallon.

SafetyEdit

The 3 series sedan achieved a four-star safety rating for driver and front-seat passenger in the federal government's frontal crash test. On the side crash test the sedan achieved a five-star safety rating for driver and front-seat passenger. See the BMW 3 Series NHTSA crash test results.

The BMW 3-series comes available with the following features:

  • Four wheel ABS
  • BMW’s adaptive brake lights
  • Radar managed cruise control
  • Driver’s and passenger’s front airbags
  • Seat-mounted front side-impact airbags
  • Interlocking door anchoring system
  • LATCH attachments for child-restraint safety

Reliability and MaintenanceEdit

BMW has a Full Maintenance Program that covers the cost of all service for the first 4 years and 50,000 miles including brake pads, oil changes, wiper blades and inspections. There's no scheduled maintenance for at least 105,000 miles, except for oil changes, and even those are required only every 10,000 miles. Both engines run on regular gas. JD Power rates reliability 4 stars (out of 5).

Interior and ComfortsEdit

The cabin takes the best of several ideas introduced in the larger BMW 5 and 7 Series sedans, synthesizes them for a smaller car and improves them in the process.

The 3 Series sedans no longer have a keyed ignition switch, relying instead on a slot-type key fob and a starter button. The fob goes in a slot next to the steering column, and you push the button to fire up. The Comfort Access option makes everything automatic. With fob in pocket, the doors unlock automatically as the driver approaches and the seats are waiting in their proper position. The driver just pushes the start button, and pushes it again when it's time to get out.

Seats have always been one of this car's strengths, and the new ones are better than ever. Even the standard-trim front buckets provide excellent support without feeling too hard. The 330i gets power adjustments with three memory positions coded to the key. The 10-way power seats that come with the Sport Package are outstanding. Additional back and bottom bolstering in the seats make them a bit harder to slide into.

The new instrument panels have a pronounced horizontal format, with more community and less driver orientation than before. There are actually two: standard, with a single bubble or hood over the instrument cluster, and optional, with the navigation system. The option dash features a "double wave, with a second hood above the navigation screen at the top of the center stack. The front door panels are different, too. The passenger side has a sloped, vertical door pull, while the driver's door lays the door pull horizontally in the arm rest. Moreover, the new doors address one of our biggest gripes with the old 3 Series interior. Window switches are now clustered near the driver's arm rest, where they're easier to locate without glancing, rather than spread around the gear change on the center console.

The soft vinyls and plastics in the new 3 Series sedans are an improvement in both touch and appearance, and they put the car more closely in line with the best cars in this class for materials and workmanship. Burr walnut trim is now standard, and there's a lot of it on the dash and doors. BMW's Leatherette vinyl is not the least bit tacky, though the optional leather is soft, thick and tight. The new 3 follows BMW's tradition of soft orange backlighting for the instruments. Some will like it, some won't.

BMW's multi-layer, mouse-style iDrive interface is optional in the new 3 Series sedans, but if you want the DVD-based GPS navigation system, you'll have to take iDrive. We'd probably do without the nav system, and have encountered few people who remotely like iDrive. Yet there is this in BMW's defense: The art of driver-computer interface remains in its infancy, and no one does it very well. In certain respects the 3 Series cabin is more consumer-friendly than ever. There are more storage pockets and nooks than before, and those in the doors are much larger. The new climate-controlled center console is a huge improvement, in both function and appearance. So are the cupholders. Rear-seat accommodations are substantially improved, as well. For starters, there are now rear air vents that can be separately adjusted for both temperature and air-volume. There's also more space, particularly in front of the knees. Remember: this is still a compact car, and rear passengers with long torsos will still feel hair rubbing on the headliner. The center position is still best left to children. Nonetheless, the rear seat feels more spacious than before, and puts the 3 Series on better footing with the roomiest cars in the class.

ExteriorEdit

The 3 Series was totally redesigned in 2006. They are larger in everything from the wheelbase (1.4 inches) to the back seat & the trunk. Most reviewers give high praises to the new styling, noting that it has a bolder and more chiseled look. It does have the unmistakable BMW stylings, including the double headlights in order to appease dedicated BMW enthusiaasts.

Larger wheels and tires filling the wheel wells are almost always a good thing for appearance's sake, and the 3-series' new wheel upgrades do not disappoint (17-inch on the 325i and 18-inch on the 330i). The 330i can be distinguished from the 325i by more than its wheels. The 330i's windows and grille slats are trimmed with chrome, while slats across its lower front air intakes are body colored rather than black.

Styles and OptionsEdit

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The major model options with the BMW 3 Series are:

  • Coupe, Sedan, Convertible or Wagon
  • 325 or 330

Trim Sedans are available in 325i, 330i, 325xi and 330xi trims:

  • In the 325i sedan ($30,995), the new engine generates 225 horsepower, for an increase of 40 over the 2005 model.
    • The 2006 BMW 325i comes equipped, with automatic headlight and climate control, a climate-controlled center console, headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers, a power moonroof, 12-speaker AM/FM/CD and the new self-braking Dynamic Cruise Control.
      • Burr walnut trim is standard, though the standard upholstery is BMW's Leatherette vinyl.
      • Lighter poplar trim and aluminum are available as no-charge options.
  • The 330i sedan ($36,995) has a more powerful version of the 3.0-liter inline-6, producing 255 horsepower, or an increase of 30 from 2005.
    • The 330i comes with more standard equipment than the 325i, including eight-way power seats with memory, an auto tilt-down feature for the right side mirror when reverse is engaged, xenon adaptive headlights that turn into a curve with the car, and 13-speaker Logic 7 stereo with two subwoofers and surround-style digital sound processing. Vinyl upholstery is standard.
    • The new six-speed automatic transmission comes as an option($1,275).
    • There are also three major option groupings:
      • The Premium Package adds Dakota leather upholstery to the 325i ($2,900) and 330i ($2,200) along with other conveniences, including a Bluetooth cellular phone interface, the tilt-down right side mirror on the 325i, power folding side mirrors, a digital compass in the rear-view mirror and hardware for BMW Assist, the telemetric package that provides safety, convenience and concierge services.
      • The Sport Package ($1,600) includes sporting suspension calibrations tuned by BMW's M performance division, 10-way sports seats (power adjustable in the 330i) and a wheel/tire upgrade: 17-inch alloys with V-rated performance tires for the 325i; 18-inch with W-rated tires for the 330i.
      • The Cold Weather Package($1,000) adds electrically heated seats, high-intensity headlight washers and a split-folding rear seat with ski sack.
        • BMW's Active Steering system ($1,250) and radar-managed Active Cruise Control ($2,200) are available as stand-alone options for the first time on the 3 Series.
        • Sirius Satellite Radio hardware ($75) and power rear-window and manual side rear-window sunshades ($575) are available as stand-alones, as are most of the individual components of the three packages, including the split-folding rear seat ($475) and BMW Assist ($750).

In all, there are 624 choices in equipping the 2006 3 Series sedans.


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Coupes and Convertibles are available in 325Ci and 330Ci trims:

  • The 2006 325Ci coupe ($30,100) and 325Ci convertible ($37,300) are powered by a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter six-cylinder engine. Standard equipment is roughly comparable to the new 325i sedan, with notable exceptions, including the power moonroof. The 330Ci coupe ($35,600); and 330Ci convertible ($42,900) have a 225-horsepower 3.0-liter engine that's different from the newer one in the sedans.
  • The M3 coupe ($46,500) and M3 convertible ($54,900) deliver a much-higher level of performance than the other 3 Series models, starting with a 3.2-liter engine rated at 333 horsepower. They are based on the previous-generation 3 Series.

Main CompetitorsEdit

External linksEdit

Autopedia Contributor Favorites

BMW Manufacturer Sites

Community Sites

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