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Three’s still the charm.
What are the key elements of automotive perfection? From our perspective, the list of qualifications includes eager responses, supple ride quality, smooth power, supportive seats, athletic proportions with limited front overhang, attractive styling with familial features that endure through the generations, a car that is always entertaining to drive.
For us, the sum of those attributes is epitomized by the BMW 3-series. Not only is this true for 2009, the addition has been coming out the same way now for 18 years: a string of consecutive 10Best Cars appearances that’s unique in the 27-year history of these awards.
Renewed in 2006, the U.S. line of the 2009 3-series includes the broadest array of models in its history: four body styles, including folding-hardtop convertibles; four engine options, including a 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel inline-six and, a first for this family, a V-8. The latter is the 414-hp, 4.0-liter V-8 that propels the latest M3 coupe, sedan, and convertible to the threshold of supercar territory. There are even three transmissions, including BMW’s first dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.
Is this perfection? History has shown that there’s always room for improvement. But even so, in our view, no current family of cars comes closer to that elusive target.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine; rear- or 4-wheel-drive; 4–5-passenger; 2-door coupe, 2-door convertible, 4-door sedan, or 5-door wagon
BASE PRICE: $34,225–$68,675
ENGINES: DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 230 hp, 200 lb-ft; twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 300 hp, 300 lb-ft; twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter diesel inline-6, 265 hp, 425 lb-ft; DOHC 32-valve 4.0-liter V-8, 414 hp, 295 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed auto with manumatic shifting, 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 108.7 in Length: 178.2–181.8 in Width: 70.2–71.5 in Height: 54.1–57.0 in
Curb weight: 3350–4150 lb
EPA city/highway driving: 13–23/20–36 mpg