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New BMW 3-series makes best better

BMW doesn’t take chances when it comes to designing an all-new 3-Series.

For the sixth generation of its iconic compact sports sedan, the Bavarian company opted, as is its wont, for a conservative approach: Evolutionary restyling; improved engine performance and economy; a modest increase in dimensions inside and out; and a more luxurious, redesigned interior.

All these things taken together simply mean that the 3-Series will undoubtedly retain its crown as the undisputed champ of the compact sport-sedan class.

2012 BMW 335i
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door, five-passenger, compact sport-luxury sedan
BASE PRICE: $42,400
PRICE AS TESTED: $54,070 (incl. delivery fees)
POWERTRAIN: 3.0-liter, DOHC, twin-turbo six-cylinder; 300 horsepower; 300 lb.-ft. torque; six-speed manual transmission; rear-wheel drive
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 110.6″/182.5″
CURB WEIGHT: 3,571 pounds
EPA FUEL RATING: 20 mpg city/30 highway (premium grade)

BMW’s designers stretched the 3 by about four inches but reduced front and rear overhang, resulting in a welcome increase in interior space.

And while they were at it, they drafted an all-new cabin with handsome shapes, exquisite materials and detailing and generally excellent ergonomics. Nothing over the top – just top-notch execution with typically impeccable fit and finish.

On the performance front, there is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine in the 328i, while our 335i tester came with BMW’s fantastic twin-turbo inline six. This engine delivers virtual performance perfection, with 300 eager horsepower paired with 300 pound-feet of torque. It happily sings in a sweet, keening tenor right up to redline, while the turbo-induced thrust increases as the revs rise.

All this power, and still 30 mpg on the highway. Sweet.

Our tester had a six-speed manual transmission that swapped cogs with uncanny precision, once the clutch’s long pedal action was mastered.

Over the road, there has been a subtle shift in the 3-Series’ attitude. Steering (now electronic) is ever-so-slightly less communicative, while the ride and handling are just a bit softer. It’s a trade-off for a more luxurious-leaning approach, but most won’t notice and might even appreciate the newfound ambience.

One thing that hasn’t changed in the redesign is the car’s vault-like build quality. BMWs don’t come cheap, but the new 3-Series is proof of the truth of the old adage that you get what you pay for.