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For 2016, every 3 Series receives mild exterior styling updates and interior trim enhancements, along with a smattering of suspension and steering tweaks that are said to improve handling precision. The six-cylinder sedan gets a name change from 335i to 340i, a new engine with more output and a standard 16-speaker stereo, though the ActiveHybrid 3 has been discontinued. LED headlights are now available, as are automatic remote updates for the navigation system and a new Track Handling package that replaces the Dynamic Handling package. Finally, the Sport Line package is now standard on all but the 320i, though it comes without last year's M sport suspension, which is available separately.
It's shaping up to be another banner year for the 2016 BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon. One could argue that BMW has lost its traditional sporting edge in some respects, but when it comes to the compact luxury sport segment, the 3 Series continues to stand apart. Facing fierce competition from fresh-faced rivals, BMW has responded with a number of changes for 2016 that help keep the 3 Series current. Even without them, though, this would still be the segment front runner, both for avowed driving enthusiasts and for shoppers who just prefer a pleasing luxury car experience.
Don't blink. You might miss the 2016 3 Series' refreshed front-end styling, which can be accented with new LED headlights.
Headlining this year's updates is a brand-new engine for the six-cylinder 3 Series sedan, which gets a new 340i name to mark the occasion. Though it retains its predecessor's turbocharged 3.0-liter specification, the 340i makes 20 more horsepower and 30 additional pound-feet of torque. It's a timely improvement, as our performance testing showed that the 335i was barely quicker than the fuel-sipping four-cylinder 328i, making the six-cylinder's price premium hard to rationalize. Notably, the 340i is offered with a six-speed manual transmission in both rear- and all-wheel-drive layouts, something few luxury automakers bother with these days.
The other changes for 2016 are relatively minor. BMW has tweaked the styling front and rear, but you've got to be a hard-core fan to notice the difference. Similarly, there are a few new interior touches -- a gloss-black center console, for example, with a handy lid for the cupholders -- but we'd hardly call them game-changing. The available LED headlights (standard on 340i) are an increasingly common feature that BMW did well to add. Fundamentally, though, this is the same 3 Series we've known and loved since 2012, and the competition is still scrambling to keep up.
The most direct threat to the 3 Series' throne comes in the form of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which entices with its baby-S-Class styling, appealing feature set and strong performance. The 2016 Audi A4 (or the related Allroad wagon) is getting up there in years, but it's a satisfying choice nonetheless with its nimble handling and understated elegance. There's also the bold, well-equipped 2016 Lexus IS 350 (as well as the new turbocharged IS 250) and the sharp-handling Cadillac ATS. But if you want the best of everything in one place, the 2016 BMW 3 Series keeps on leading the way.
The 2016 BMW 3 Series is available in sedan and wagon body styles. (A hatchback model, the 3 Series Gran Turismo, is reviewed separately, as are the coupe and convertible, which are collectively known as the BMW 4 Series.) Sedans come in 320i, 328i, 328d and 340i trim levels. All are offered with all-wheel-drive, which BMW calls "xDrive." The wagon is available only in 328i xDrive and 328d xDrive trims.
Standard features for the entry-level 320i include 17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, automatic headlights, foglights, remote keyless entry, push-button start, automatic wipers, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way manually adjustable front seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, BMW Assist emergency telematics, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface, a 6.5-inch display and a nine-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
The 328i sedan adds a more powerful version of the 320i's engine, LED foglights, the Sport Line trim package (gloss-black exterior accents, anthracite headliner, sport instrumentation and 10-way power-adjustable sport front seats), power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors with heating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wood trim, driver memory functions and split-folding rear seatbacks. The 328d sedan is diesel-powered but otherwise similarly equipped. The 328i and 328d wagons, too, are comparably equipped and also come with a panoramic sunroof.
The 340i sedan adds the six-cylinder engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, matte chrome exterior trim, keyless ignition and entry (including a power trunk lid with a foot sensor), a sunroof and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system (optional on most other models).
There are several bundled option packages for the 2016 3 Series. The 320i alone is eligible for a Sport package that adds 18-inch wheels, the anthracite headliner, manually adjustable sport seats and an M steering wheel. The 320i's Premium package adds a few of the higher trims' standard items, including auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition and the sunroof, and it also adds power front seats (of the non-sport variety) with four-way power lumbar and satellite radio. The 328's Premium package is pared down to keyless entry and ignition, the sunroof, satellite radio and power lumbar, though it also adds leather upholstery.