DETROIT -- Those who covet the BMW 3-series probably don't need a lot of reason to buy a new one -- other than that there's a fresh model for 2012. But after a splashy reveal on Friday in Munich, Bimmerphiles and mainstream consumers alike have reason to consider the 2012 BMW 3-series for both practical and enthusiast-oriented pursuits.
Here's why: The sixth-generation BMW 3-series is fitted with a host of the latest technologies both underhood and underskin, which make the 3-series more relevant for the times, yet true to its heritage. Really, the car doesn't look that much different, but other changes might be more significant than what happened on the surface.
The turbo four-cylinder that displaces 2.0 liters likely will become a very popular powerplant, perhaps even eclipsing the turbo 300-hp straight-six. This twin-scroll turbo pumps out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, and we've driven it in a 5-series wagon. Even in that barge, the engine is strong. Look for an even more energetic experience in the 2012 BMW 328i. This summons the heritage of the 3-series, which didn't get a six-banger until a 1977 showing at the Frankfurt motor show.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is a top-level, efficient shifter that's available as an option. It's the same gearbox found on higher-level models and is one of the silkiest of its kind in the industry. Fret not, purists: The six-speed manual is still the base 2012 3-series transmission.
The hybrid, or ActiveHybrid 3 will pair the straight-six making 300 hp with an electric motor for a net output of 335 ponies. That's green but rather mean.
Auto start/stop will be another key feature that's becoming relatively common on BMWs. It will take some consumer education but could prove prescient for the German carmaker if it catches on.
The chassis should be better than ever. Few cars actually market and are known for their driving dynamics. It's a true test of mettle rather than a gimmick or a flashy power rating. BMW took a fresh approach with the 2012 3-series, using a double-wishbone setup in front and a multilink configuration in rear. The new 3-series also uses extensive aluminum construction and should make for a solid drive.