It’s been 34 years since BMW launched the 3-Series and, at the same time, essentially created the small sport sedan segment (called the compact executive in Europe). 2006 marked the introduction of the fifth generation of the model and the 2009 edition has received a few new perks to help separate it from the growing field of competitors.
The 2009 3-Series is available in several variants; a sedan, a wagon, a coupe, and a hard-top convertible, and has two trim levels, the 328 and the 335. 2009 marks the first year that a diesel variant will be offered to American models in the form of the 335d sedan, and a 335d wagon is forthcoming. The 328i models have a naturally aspirate 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that produces 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, the 335i models have a turbocharged variant of that same engine that produces 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the 335d models have a turbrocharged inline six that produces 286 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque. Whichever model you get, you will have ample power on tap. These engines are mated toa six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, but the 335i coupes and convertibles can also receive a new seven-speed auto-clutch manual transmission that gives you incredibly quick shifts without any loss of traction from a depressed clutch.
Styling changes for the 2009 3-Series are minimal and mainly amount to accenting features of the previous year’s design. For example, the front end has been made a bit more prominent and aggressive and adds a lower air intake. The side mirrors, taillights, and the distinctive kidney grille also have received revisions. Put a 2009 3-Series beside a 2008 model and you’d have to stand fairly close to notice the difference, but considering how well-accepted the styling of this fifth generation has been, that is by no means a bad thing.
The interior maintains BMW’s level of quality and receives a few new perks over the 2008 model. The iDrive system (BMW’s computer interface) has been streamlined, and those who have dealt with previous iterations of the system will be thankful for that. The old setup was confusing to navigate and buried some functions deep within sub-menus. The new system has four buttons devoted to the most used features and a revised menu system that is far more intuitive. There is also an in-car internet option and the satellite navigation receives a bigger 8.8 inch screen (which doubles as the internet interface.
The 2009 3-Series handles exactly as it should. It is crisp, responsive, and equally comfortable tackling a windy mountain road or the city streets of your daily commute. The suspension is largely untouched from the 2008 model which, once again, is a good thing. The 3-Series has always had a reputation as a car in which it is impossible not to have a good time driving.
The 328i sedan is the least expensive of the 2009 3-Series models, starting at $33,600, and the 335i convertible is the most expensive of the lot at $50,700. Also, the sedan, coupe, and wagon have the option of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, which costs an extra $2,000. The market for small sports sedans and coupes has been filling up with offerings from Lexus, Mercedes, and Infiniti, but the 3-Series remains the gold standard.