The 2011 BMW 3-series is a beautiful entry-level vehicle for the luxury sedan sector. It can still serve to haul the family around, and delivers excellent performance, but it's definitely an upscale mid-sized four-door. The 3-series has been on Car and Driver's "10 Best" for 19 years running. Gas mileage is commendable at 18 city and 28 highway and the MSRP range is reasonable for the genre at $31,830 to $54,880. It's not, however, the most comfortable car of its kind on the market, being bested in that department by the Lexus ES. (Other close competitors include the Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti G37, and Audi A4.)
Still, the 3-series is BMW's bestseller for good reasons. It comes in sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon form factors with both RWD and AWD. There are three engine choices: a 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 230 hp and 200 lb. ft. of torque; a turbo-charged version of that same engine, which boosts the horsepower to 300; and a twin turbo-diesel that manages 425 lb. ft. of torque. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, but there's an option on any trim for an automatic with or without paddle shifters. The 3-series has a reputation for cornering hard and has superior brake performance thanks to a system that wipes the rotors dry when the windshield wipers turn on.
There have been some minor cosmetic changes for 2011, smoothing out the trunk lid and making the fascia more consistently aggressive across all form factors. The coupe and convertible have new head and tail lights and a kidney-shaped grill with updated front and rear bumpers. Inside you'll find the expected luxury synonymous with the BMW name. The space in the backseat and trunk are not good (about 11-12 cubic feet on cargo space), but the materials are top shelf in the cabin and the electronics bordering on cutting edge.
The 3-series safety ratings are below that of the Audi A4 and other competitors, but the car did pick up five-stars on side impacts. (It rated just four for front crashes on both driver and passenger protection.) Roof strength tests by the insurance industry came in at just "acceptable."
Still, taken altogether, it's hard to even suggest the 2011 BMW 3-series isn't a great line of entry-level mid-sized cars. Especially for the BMW faithful, the 3-series cars are descendants of tried and true friends. Very good value for the money and rated 2 out of 21 cars reviewed in the class by US News. Highly recommended.