by Clint Burgess

Europe has always symbolized a certain sense of fashion and style. In the auto industry, a few standout manufacturers have upheld a high standard of luxury and elegance that embodies European sensibilities. BMW is one of those companies. Building its ideals on offering a superb driving machine that offers comfort as well as elegance, the Bavarian motor giant has continually offered consumers fine choices in vehicle styling and engineering. As expected from a company with this reputation, the BMW 3 series sedan offers all the accoutrements one would expect from an automaker known for excellence.

The 2005 3 series BMWs are configured in a vast array of styles. There are convertibles, coupes, wagons and sedans. The sedans are the most practical and offer a good value for the base price of just over $30K. The sedan has undergone numerous makeovers in the last five years. These changes have brought a refinement to the 3 series that comes from consumer scrutiny and has assisted in the emergence of a better vehicle all the way around. Its stylish accessories and option packages make for an attractive purchase. Even more attractive are the sleek design, a bulked-up steering system, and a standard 184-hp V6 engine. Small changes in engine and transmission configurations have improved performance as well as handling and have proven to be a big hit with consumers. And these are just a few of the improvements found on this car.

For a value-priced luxury sedan, the 3 series offers more in the way of driver comfort and safety than most of its counterparts in the same price range. Keyless entry, automatic climate control and a power moon roof make for an alluring package when considering options. Additional standard features include a Harman Kardon sound system with CD player, as well as 16" alloy wheels. For all its niceties, the 3 series sedan is no slouch on safety. Front-impact ratings for this model earned high marks in government tests and the conglomeration of air bags (front, side and head curtain) provide peace of mind for the safety-conscious driver. The suspension is top-notch and provides for responsive handling. Couple that with four-wheel antilock brakes and BMW's stability control and this sedan comes through numerous rough spots unscathed.

The interior layout of the 3 series is ergonomic and focuses on functionality as well as driver comfort. Some of the drawbacks to this driver-oriented focus include a lack of shiny knobs and digital readouts. However, if you can handle having all power options, sleek dials with numbers that don't require electricity and a visually stylish interior, then this car should suit you just fine. More of what makes this BMW appealing are elements like good gas mileage (nearly 30 mpg), good cargo space in the trunk, and cup holders that actually hold cups. The biggest drawback that consumers have found about this car is the lack of interior space in the rear seat.

The luxury market is as competitive as ever these days. A luxury sedan under $40K -- especially one coming from the likes of BMW -- is a rarity. That's practically a pittance for all the punch that the 3 series sedan possesses. But the proof is in the driver's experience. If your interest is piqued by the 3 series, they can be found at Camp BMW in Spokane at 215 E. Montgomery Ave.

Publication date: 05/26/05

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