Like the sedan segment itself, sport sedans are a dying breed. There’s just a small handful of proper mid-size, rear-wheel drive and fun-to-drive sedans left on the U.S. market. Thankfully, BMW isn’t giving up on the segment it pretty much invented. The segment leader 3-Series has been updated for 2023 with styling and features that should keep its faithful buyers from straying to the dark side of SUVs. I just got back from BMW’s annual Test Fest in Southern California, where the brand gathers cars and journalists for a catch-up on all the new models. Here’s what you can expect from the 2023 3-Series.
For 2023, the 3-Series lineup consists of three powertrain choices for the U.S. market. We start with what BMW calls its core model, the 330i. Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four with 255 horsepower (because remember, BMW’s numeric model names don’t mean anything anymore). That engine gets paired only with an eight-speed automatic — you can’t get a stick-shift in a base 3-series today. The 330i is the classic choice for those that just want a no-frills 3-Series sedan.
For those who want a bit of efficiency, you can choose the 330e plug-in hybrid. A 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four with 181 hp gets paired with a 107-hp electric motor for 288 total hp. There’s also a 12-kWh battery pack that’ll allow the 330e to drive as far as 22 miles on electric range alone.
The top of the 3 Series range is what I think of as “the M3 lite,” the M340i. It a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six with 382 hp. The big news for 2023 is the addition of a 48-volt mild hybrid system on the M340i, integrated directly into the eight-speed automatic transmission (again, the only transmission available). While it offers some efficiency improvement and makes for a smoother engine stop/start system, BMW says the main purpose of the hybrid system here is to boost passing power and off-the-line acceleration.
Another plus: xDrive all-wheel drive is available with every powertrain in the 3-Series.
BMW tossed me the keys to a 2023 M340i and told me to have fun for a few hours of driving in and around the San Bernardino National Forest. I wanted to see how the addition of the mild hybrid system affects this performance sedan’s handling.
The first thing you notice is how quiet the 2023 M340i is under normal driving. Pulling out of the hotel and stopping at a few lights, the hybrid setup seamlessly engages the start/stop system. I usually have a universal hate for these types of systems as they’re often annoying and rough when they engage. But I have to say, the M340i had one of the smoothest stop-start systems I’ve ever encountered. I never actually tried to deactivate it, which is a first for me.
Once I got to the mountain pass, I pressed the sport mode button to liven things up. I’m here to tell you, the M340i is excellent. Some recent BMW decisions may seem to indicate that the brand has forgotten what the Ultimate Driving Machine means, but the 2023 M340i dispels that fear. The chassis, and the way the car responds to inputs, are truly excellent. I understood everything that was going on from the feedback through the steering wheel. I was confident enough to take curves 15-20 mph faster than I would have and not wonder if the front end would wash out without warning.
The mild hybrid system acts almost like a second turbocharger that’s always on boost. Passing slow-moving vehicles on two-lane roads is hilariously easy. And the exhaust note is glorious. BMW’s straight-six has always had a great voice, but I wasn’t expecting it to pop and burble on deceleration. That’s a fun touch, especially on a hybrid, and it definitely turns heads. The performance level is so high, a few years ago this could have been an M3.
The 3-Series gets some styling and tech updates for 2023. The 330i and 330e get sporty new bumpers front and rear, with glossy black air intakes ahead of the front wheels; the headlights and DRLs are slimmer with a more chiseled look.
The 2023 330i and 330e are available with the M Sport appearance package. You get M-specific front and rear aprons, 19-inch alloy wheels and a honeycomb pattern on the front grille. It’s not just all show, either — the M Sport package brings adaptive suspension and sport steering.
You’ll really be able to tell the 2023 M340i apart from the rest of the lineup, thanks to its more aggressive styling all around, from a mesh design on the kidney grilles to M-specific exhaust outlets and 18-inch (or optional 19-inch) M split-spoke wheels.
The interior gets a redesign too. As with so many new vehicles, the 3-Series ditches its separate instrument cluster and infotainment display and replaces them with one large curved panel housing two screens. BMW has updated the 3-Series infotainment system with the latest iDrive 8 operating system, running on a 14.9-inch display, along with a 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel. Slimmer air vents and a tiny, toggle-like gear selector help to make the interior sleeker and more minimalist.
The 2023 BMW 3-Series is on sale now. The base-spec 330i starts at $43,295; the 330e adds $1,000. You have to pay to play when it comes to the M340i, which starts at $55,845. Tack on $2,000 to add xDrive all-wheel drive to any trim. All the prices listed here include BMW’s $995 destination fee.
It’s great to see BMW keeping the sport sedan alive with the 3-Series. With the coming EV revolution here’s hoping a future all-electric 3-Series can continue that effort. Until then, the 2023 3-Series does a great job of living up to the legend of the brand.