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The 2012 BMW 3 Series (BMW).
The BMW 3 Series is often called the best sedan in the world. The Bavarian automaker today unveiled the sixth design of the 3 Series since 1973. The question is whether the company has done it again. Will it keep the crown?

The 3 Series is not only hailed globally, but it is by far the most important vehicle to BMW's current financial performance and future growth plans. It is built in four plants, including the Munich plant that is in the same neighborhood as the company's headquarters.

How does the all-new 3 Series compare with the old one? BMW has stretched the car's new shape around an engineering platform that's larger in every dimension. Its front track is wider by 1.46 inches, the rear by 1.85 inches and length has increased by a full 3.66 inches. Despite being bigger, the new 3 Series is also 88 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Those extra inches outside translate to a smidge more rear seat room inside. What BMW defines as "legroom inside the doors" increases by 0.71 inches and knee-room is up by 0.6 inches, while headroom grows a scant 0.31 inches. As mentioned, trunk space has grown with the 2012 model to swallow three golf bags at once.

The new 3 Series is also marked by the arrival of BMW's new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that first debuted in the new Z4 roadster. This move to four-cylinder engines may take some Bimmer enthusiasts by surprise. But, in fact, BMW is going back to the future. BMW's four-cylinder engines were key to the company's rise in the 1960s and 70s as the premier maker of sports sedans. And while a four-cylinder engine is a novelty in a premium performance car in the U.S., BMW has, in fact, never stopped offering them in the 3 Series in Europe where gas prices are higher and fuel economy more of a priority. BMW is so identified with the four-cylinder engine in Europe that its headquarters in Munich is literally designed to look like four cylinders.

>>View Gallery: 2012 BMW 3 Series

The benefit of the four-cylinder over the six? More power for less dollars at the pump.

Replacing the brand's venerable 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder in the 328i model, the new four-cylinder produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, both significant increases. BMW claims the new 328i will also be more fuel efficient despite the extra power, and while fuel economy numbers aren't available yet, the company does say the new 328i will scoot to 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.

The more powerful 335i model retains its N55 single-turbo 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder that once again produces 300 hp and 300 lb-feet, but thanks to new fuel-saving measures like Auto Start-Stop, Brake Energy Regeneration, an ECO PRO mode and new eight-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is standard), BMW says the 335i can now achieve an estimated 32.6 mpg, though, again, official EPA numbers aren't yet available.

The new 3 Series will be available in four trim levels to suit individual tastes: Sport Line, Luxury Line, Modern Line and M Sport Package. The Sport Line is identified by its dark side, which means lots of gloss black trim on the exterior, as well as gloss black interior bits with red accents. The Luxury Trim, in contrast, favors shiny chrome and receives a special set of 18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels. The Modern Line is a bit more subtle, decked out in satin aluminum trim with 18-inch turbine-style alloy wheels. Lastly, the M Sport Package alters the sedan's new look with an aerodynamics package and 18- or 19-inch M Design wheels. While falling short of a full on M car, the M Sport Package does also offer an M Sport suspension, M short-shifter and various other M-branded bits.

3 Series Hybrid

Lastly, the 2012 3 Series gains some tech enhancements that include a new full-color, high-resolution Heads-Up Display; Active Blind Spot Detection System; Camera monitoring for a Lane Departure Warning System and Collision Warning; and a new Surround View system with Top View and Side View to augment the rear-view camera. The 3 Series lineup will also welcome a hybrid variant later on in 2012 called the ActiveHybrid 3 that produces a combined gas/electric power output of 335 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque.

The 2012 BMW 328i and 335i will arrive in U.S. showrooms in February 2012, with pricing to be announced at a later date, while the all-wheel-drive 328i and 335i xDrive models will be available in this summer. The ActiveHybrid 3, meanwhile, goes on sale in the fall of 2012. Now the only thing left to do is drive them. Stay tuned, and we will let you know if BMW keeps the crown when they give us the opportunity to air out the new cars on the autobahn.
with John Neff of Autoblog

AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley is author of Driven: Inside BMW, The Most Admired Car Company in the World; John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree with those that have correctly pointed out the Bmw'sflaws. Much over hyped yuppie junkyard mobile.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I just bought my 4th BMW and I would never buy any other car.... they are most definitely the best car made. I would never own anything but a BMW. All of my BMWs have been awsome cars. Anyone that wants to dispute that... go for it. Those that put it down are probably the ones that are jealous because they don't have one. Any BMW owner knows its a GREAT car and holds it value better. So in today's economy it IS wise to buy a BMW. I always buy one that is a year or two old with low miles. You don't have to buy a new one to buy a great car. I will always stand behind BMW. They also give you "GREAT" service.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Jealous? lol with todays incentives, lease options, and certified pre-owns, anyone can have a BMW. Especially a 3 series. People just have their own opinions. Perhaps you should drive somethng else and you will see that there are just as good or better out there.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I hate this new body style...they totally ruined this car. The coupe was so beautiful from 07-11....now they flared up the back lights...just sad. I was really looking forward to this re-design, I was hoping for a sleek look but it's very boxy. Guess I will wait longer!
      Ghetto Cat
      • 3 Years Ago
      Anybody who's ever had a BMW knows it is a rush to own such a car but everybody looks at you like you're a jerk!
      • 3 Years Ago
      It is ugly.
      • 3 Years Ago
      VOLVO! My little baby is fast & furious!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Can u imagine a car of this caliber...being a 4 cylinder?
      • 3 Years Ago
      So tired of angry-looking BMWs (they have been this way for years, now). Things are really tough these days and we can use any happy images we can get. Am I the only who has a really emotionally negative response when i see one of these things growling behind me? There are enough negative things in my life without your angry car staring me in the rearview mirror. If you drive one, please know it makes me not want to cut you any slack (at all!).
      Ron Baker
      • 3 Years Ago
      That cut line above the grills where the hood ends looks sooo cheap. The more I look at this design the more it pops out. The overall front end change is mostly attractive but the straight cut of the hood above the badge dramatically cheapens the look.
      • 3 Years Ago
      That is personal opinion. Means nothing to people shopping for a new car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Best sedan in the world... OMG!!! What a joke!!!
      Clay S. Conrad
      • 3 Years Ago
      What about the diesel version? The 335d may be the most eco-friendly luxomobile available.
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