If you're a die-hard inline-6 aficionado, and are looking for something to finally replace that aging AMC Hornet, you're in luck, as the new 2012 BMW 3 Series looks to be an engaging new way to drive around behind a sextet of lined-up cylinders.
Aside from being one of the rapidly dwindling vehicles of any kind to offer a straight-6, the new 3 Series sports an all-new design, an optional 8 speed automatic gearbox, auto start-stop engine function, and a parking assist system. No word yet if the parking assist system supports the traditional BMW favored parking style of diagonally across two spots.
Design-wise, BMW refers to the 3 Series' new face as a "more athletic face than ever" though personally I find the new headlight treatment that incorporates small extensions of the headlight glass that meet the kidney grilles to be less "athletic" looking and more resembling the nosepiece of a pair of glasses. Which isn't exactly a criticism, as it makes the car look, you know, smarter.
Also on the front facia, the new 3 Series optional Xenon lights incorporate LED "eyebrows" (BMW's term for them. They think cars' headlights are eyes, too) and the lower air intake has been split into two separate parts, forming a dogbone-in-the-Tron-universe sort of shape. The rest of the body design is all new as well, while incorporating the evergreen BMW standbys as the set-back greenhouse and the Hofmeister kink, with new character lines and faceting of the body panels that the BMW press release breathlessly refers to as "taut," "striking," and "injecting brio." It's an attractive, determined looking package, even without the eye-rolling adjectives.
The car is a bit bigger in every dimension, with most of the extra room going to the rear seat passengers. Despite being bigger, it did drop an anorexic teen's weight of 88 lbs, so that's that much less the 240 hp turbo 4 or the 300 hp 6 has to lug around. With a slightly wider track (60.3 front, 61.9 rear) and wheelbase (110.6) the stance has improved, while keeping an ideal 50:50 weight distribution.
Also new for the 3 Series is an ECO PLUS setting for BMW's Driving Dynamics Control Switch, which will let drivers play at hypermiling with on-dash feedback for very efficient driving.
But perhaps the most important change, one that BMW drivers have no doubt been clamoring for, is that one of the front cup holders can now be swapped for an "oddments tray." You're welcome.