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July 21, 2013

High tech makes BMW 3 Series luxurious

(Continued)

Based in Germany, BMW also sells diesel-powered and hybrid-drive versions of its 3 Series sedan in the United States. On top of those, a 3 Series two-door coupe starts at $39,595, and a two-door convertible opens at $48,495.

The sedan version of the 3 Series is by far the most popular body style. The 3 Series itself is the most popular BMW sold in the U.S. by a large margin. Its pricing in the $30,000s makes it accessible to more people – easier to pay for than, say, the BMW 5 Series sedan that starts near $49,000, or the ultra-deluxe 7 Series at more than $74,000.

But even at a reachable price, the 3 Series sedan is a luxury car to the core. The model I drove last week included an optional $1,900 driver assistance package that added rear-, side- and top-view cameras, parking distance control and blind-spot monitoring. A $3,100 technology package added navigation that incorporated road and travel updates, and a head-up display, which is jet fighter technology that projects important vehicle information like speed onto the windshield so you don’t have to take your eyes from the road to find it. With a few other options thrown in, the final price of the model I evaluated was $51,095.

A lot of the stuff was wonderful. BMW’s iDrive system of cabin controls through a color screen and a hand-operated knob enabled me to dial an address into the navigation system with ease uncharacteristic of many nav setups. While guiding me, the system shot turn directions and other route data through the head-up display onto the windshield. That helped a lot. I’ve used navigation systems of every variety in every type of car. BMW’s version struck me as the most accommodating.

The 6 1/2-inch display screen stands tall on top of the 3 Series dashboard in a position that breaks the graceful surface of the dash. Usually screens are integrated into the center stack of cabin controls well below the top of the dash, and at first I thought BMW’s position was aesthetically awkward. But while driving I found the screen perfectly placed for me to find information or operate controls while maintaining a safe, up-and-ahead view of the road.

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