By on February 1, 2011

Lexus and Infiniti have been gunning for it for years now. Cadillac is working on its answer to it. And now, Jaguar says that it wants to take on the nameplate that every luxury brand wants to replicate: the BMW 3 Series. Jag’s Adrian Hallmark tells Autoweek

We need different models. We need lower priced models. Whether we do one, two or three body styles, we can still decide. But we have to be in the lower price. We don’t want to be fighting it out in the fleet business with little engines and small wheels and discounted 25 percent. If we go into the smaller car market, we want to build elegant cars with great technology that give a sense of occasion and position us above that competition — where Jaguar should be.

And no wonder everyone is out to get Mr 3: moving 100k+ units with a starting price over $35k in the US market is the holy grail of every luxury brand… and even the Chevy Volt is shooting for that lofty goal. But the Dreier has been building its market position for decades… and it won’t give up its throne without a fight. And if Jaguar and Cadillac jump into the fight at the same time, they could end up simply taking share from each other. But then, there’s no easy way to spin cars into gold.

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61 Comments on “Everyone Hates The BMW 3 Series...”


  • avatar
    Tstag

    I doubt Jaguar will worry about Cadillac at all. Most of Jaguar’s competition will come from Europe and will be in Europe or Asia. Given Cadillac’s complete failure in Europe then I suspect Cadillac needs to do more worrying than anyone else.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Seems like the template is in place – Infiniti has shown how to take a bite out of 3 series sales by offering value AND driving feel.  The 3 is expensive, so unless you’re going to undercut on price and win on content, just stay home.
     
    Jag has a much better chance to win this game than Cadillac, even with the success of the CTS.

  • avatar
    salhany

    Sigh. At least the X-Type looked like a Jag.
     
    I wish them luck, but the odds are stacked against Jaguar here. They have to make a lower-priced car that still feels special to drive and view; the X-Type drove like a mundane car, not like a Jag. Their 3 Fighter will have to have a presence about it to truly be a Jag.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I think the title should be changed slightly as I and most people I know don’t hate the 3 series itself…just most of its drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      lmike51b

      +1, although hate is a bit strong.  But a lot of shared space encounters with BMW drivers makes one realize that just because someone has a drivers car, doesn’t mean they can drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      +1  Is there a car which has a higher ratio of obnoxious preppy snide owners than der Dreier?

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      I agree that the BMW brand of past has represented A-hole attitudes and Yuppies, etc. Its what happens when you do a good job in brand building, everyone shows up, even the dickheads. But that was the 90′s at the latest. The new Attitude sled around here is no doubt the Infinity G whatever, I nearly get run down in my own company parking garage weekly by several. They are a much easier buy for the young employed under-informed and under-performing driver.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      @dswilly: Ugh, 1000% yes to this.  For years I’ve complained about Nissans and the Infiniti G: massive horsepower numbers and “aggressive” styling for not too much $$ is a recipe for each a-hole with over-tinted windows who cuts me off on the highway.
      I was looking at cars in this segment over New Years, and hadn’t even considered the Infiniti G simply because of this image I have in my head.  I told myself to get over it and at least drive one to see if it’s a better car.  The dealer spent 30 minutes trash-talking other cars in the segment as underpowered, telling my wife “You know how girls like a guy with a flashy car!” (note: exactly the wrong person to say this to), and then trying to haggle for a price to close on the spot even though I’d told him at the outset that I wasn’t buying anything that day.  I’m sure they’re great cars, but that dealer experience solidified every preconception I’d developed.

    • 0 avatar
      SJKel

      The G coupe is probably the cheapest RWD coupe you can buy on the market now.  The most aggressive drivers of the G are driving a coupe, not the sedan, from my experience.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The G coupe is probably the cheapest RWD coupe you can buy on the market now

      Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, Hyundai Genesis. But I think I see what you mean.

    • 0 avatar
      EChid

      A…GREED.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I think the hate referred to was intended to reflect the emnity felt by BMW’s competitors against a car that so thoroughly dominates a market segment that each of said competitors would just love to be competitive in…

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      We own 4 3 series, an E30, E36, E46 and E90, I do take corners a little faster than the average person, so perhaps does my fam, but I don’t think its a big deal. I think I’ve been pretty save.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    3-series?  That’s so yesterday.   Why go after the 3′er when the future for luxury brands is so much smaller?

    Go straight to making a proper Aston Martin Cygnet fighter by leveraging in-house platforms.  Jaguar Nano!

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      +1
       
      BTW, I have no interest in a luxury Tata.
       
      If I were to buy a luxury car, I wouldn’t want a brand or even company that also offers much “cheaper” models. So, to me, the prestige of the brands rank as follows:
      1) Porsche – Boxster being cheapest
      2) Lexus – IS or ES being cheapest
      3) Infinity – G
      4) BWM – 1 series isn’t too bad
      5) A class or A1 or BTS, I don’t know which is worse.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      @wsn:

      So, in your opinion, a “luxury” car very closely related to what must be the definition of bland, the Toyota Camry, is higher in “prestige” than a car based on a unique rear-wheel-drive platform (shared with nothing more pedestrian) that can more than hold its own on the Autobahn? 

      Interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Wagen, you are confusing the terms “performance” with “luxury”.

      Lexus ES is a bland luxury car. A WRX STI is a performance car, but not a luxury car. A car like the A-class is neither luxury, nor performance. Got it?

  • avatar
    twotone

    If Jaguar wants to compete against the 3 Series, they need to start with reliability and customer satisfaction.
     
    http://i104.photobucket.com/albums/m180/two2tone/jdpowerloy.jpg
     
    Pretty low on the customer retention list.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    For what you are getting, I don’t think the 3-series is all that expensive. A HUGE amount of tech in even the basic 328i. I just ordered a 6spd rwd-only 328i wagon for factory-delivery in July, came in at $37K. Very basic. White paint, roof rails, sat radio, cold weather pkg. Of course, if you go nuts with the option list you can pay far more…. I would much rather have the most basic available version of a bespoke car than a tarted-up cheap car, and obviously I voted with my wallet.

    Note that for a rwd, manual transmission proper station wagon I think the choice in the US is either a 3-series or a Cadillac CTS-V, and the CTS-V is WAAAAY out of both my price range and my performance needs. I would have at least considered a manual tranny regular CTS wagon, if such existed though. And I liked the X-type wagon, but no stick in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Well, by having a standard transmission, you are not a typical buyer of this group …

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      For what you are getting, I don’t think the 3-series is all that expensive. A HUGE amount of tech in even the basic 328i.

      This couldn’t be more untrue.  For the base 328 you get a manually-adjusting driver seat, no satellite radio, and rear seats that do not fold down.  Those are the bare-bones basics, well before you get into mid-range creature comforts like sunroof, heated seats, ipod adapter…..

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      vbofw: You are mistaking tech toys for technology that goes into building a car that is fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      carguy, a power driver seat is a necessity, not a toy. A manually-adjusting driver seat can never get close to the precision of a powered seat, thus making driving uncomfortable. It’s a standard item on the most basic model of the economy car that I am currently driving… FYI.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The people who buy BMWs for the right reasons often buy them with manual transmissions, that is why BMW still sells them that way. I am SURE they would be perfectly happy to not spend the money on certifing them in the US. Note that the US is the only place in the world where you can buy an M5 with a manual transmission – that was purely due to enthusists request. Automatics are the soul-sucking work of the Devil, and more expensive all around to boot.

      I prefer that the tech be in the engineering of the car, not in the engineering of the toys. Aluminum structure and suspension, advanced safety engineering, and one of the finest engines in the world. 230hp and near 28-30mpg is fine for my needs.

      As to toys, BMW’s manual seat adjusts in every direction the same as the power seat, with the exception that you can’t move the lumbar support up and down, just in and out. The manual seats are about 100lbs lighter, and I can pretty well guarantee that they will never need to be fixed. iPodUSB, splitfold rear seat and a ginormous double sunroof are standard on the 328i wagon. I would actually prefer it without the roof hole and save $1000 or so. For that matter, I would love to be able to buy one with a 2.0l turbo, or better yet the 320D.

      Not that they are perfect by any means – I find the lack of a dipstick offensive, and I plan to have the solution to the runflat tire problem sitting in my garage before the car gets off the boat from Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      Enjoy your wagon. For reference we have an 03 325iT that sold at 38Kwith the sport and Premium pkg. It is also manual.  great car.

    • 0 avatar
      wallstreet

      @ krhodes1
      That’s not necessary true. BMW offer certain model in automatic only such as 335d which also has a dipstick.

    • 0 avatar
      neevers1

      You just called a BMW “bespoke”, that made me laugh.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @wallstreet

      You can’t get a 335D (or any BMW with that engine) anywhere with a manual, BMW does not have a manual transmission that can handle that much low-rpm torque. And given how craptastic the automatics are, I wonder how long they last in a 335D. The next generation diesel will not have a dipstick, the current engine is a relatively old design.

      As the wagon is only offered in the US with the 3.0L 230hp gasoline six, it has no dipstick.

      @neevers1

      The 3-series is bespoke in the sense that it does not share a platform with anything else. I guess you could argue that the platform is shared with the 1-series, but I don’t really think of those as a seperate line, just the slightly smaller version of the 3. They certainly aren’t much cheaper. If I didn’t need a wagon, I would probably have bought a 128i. Or if they sold the hatch version here….

    • 0 avatar
      wallstreet

      @krhodes1,

      You are correct BMW does not have a manual transmission that can handle 425lb/ft torque. That’s the same reason why that specific ZF unit is choosen to cope with 335d. It depends on how your define “craptastic “, ZF unit is certainly more superior & better designed than GM unit they build into 328i. It counds like you are ordering an E91 with manual which is the only touring model availavle here in US. That’s a good choice which I will have gone for except they didn’t bother to bring over the oil burnner version.

      As for RFT, I will advise you to drive the car prior to swapping it out. My 2011′s Interconti RTT is by no mean a hugh improvement over 2009′s.  I do not believe the ride is harsh at all. 

    • 0 avatar
      paanta

      @wsn You’ve got to be kidding me about the manually adjusting driver’s seat.  I’d trade my BMW’s power adjusting seats for the manually operated ones in my VW in a heartbeat for speed and ease of adjustment, not to mention the weight savings.
      No sports sedan should have 100lb seats, period.
       

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Just don’t make a $35,000 car that with options ends up costing me $40,000. 

  • avatar
    redliner

    As a past XJ owner, it pains me to see Jaguar struggle. There are so many entry level lux cars out there. Jaguar is really going to have to do something special, and no, a leaper on the hood is not special. Perhaps a small executive saloon along with a low priced coupe with the availability of a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    How does that joke go, What’s the difference between a BMW and a porcupine?  The prick is on the inside.  Seriously when we were looking for a car for the wife I test drove a 3-series sport sedan. I came away less than inspired. What a pooch! My Tahoe is more fun to drive. BTW we went with an Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      Your Tahoe is more fun to drive than the 3er where exactly?  Off-road? 

    • 0 avatar
      philipbarrett

      One can describe the 3-Series as many things but a pooch?  Obviously life no longer affords you the excitement it once did.  Might I recommend a Hayabusa and some retread tires?
       
      In a serious note, I actually found my 325i to be somewhat of a bargain.

    • 0 avatar
      beken

      Hey!   I testdrove an Audi and was intent on buying one.   Then testdrove a BMW and though we liked the Audi interior better, we (my wife and I) liked driving the BMW more.  To each his/her own. Though I would never have thought to testdrive a Tahoe and compare it with the BMW,   I have experience owning a Buick and various other GM cars.
      As for the old joke, I never let my prejudices of other drivers decide which car I should buy for me.  Maybe I am a prick.  Or everybody out there are driving chick cars or gay cars or …. oh whatever.
      Sad about Jaguar though.  I really liked their eccentric designs until they started passing rebodied Ford Mondeo’s that drove like Fords as Jaguars.
       
       
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Having driven both Tahoe and Camry, if both you and me are right, a Camry LE handles much better than a 3-series!

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      First time I drove a Tahoe, it was a lot of fun. I felt like I was in a tank, super high in the air, looking down at toys. First time I drove a 3 series (E30), I was like omg, how can this car be such a smooth operator. First time I drove a Camry I was like, well this car is quite a competent vehicle.
      To each their own, I split the difference somewhat, I got a 5 series (stick).

  • avatar
    stuki

    It must be particularly annoying that the 3 can maintain it’s leadership position despite being hamstrung by those run flats. If things ever get too tight, simply dropping those for real tires, and a suspension retune, and the others are left in the dust again.
     
    I wonder what the next 3 will be like. Now that the 5 and 7 is so much closer, platform wise, that ought to give BMW room to put some serious thought into keeping the 3 as optimal as it gets, again leaving the M shared G platform at a disadvantage. As for Audi, relying on that unrefined tractor motor for most of their A4 lineup, just doesn’t cut it compared to BMWs inline sixs. The S4 is nice, with a manumatic that is arguably better than the 3ers regular 6 speed auto even in stop and go, but I don’t know if Audi will ever bring that combo much downmarket. And the BMW 8 speed is better yet, anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      hurls

      Disclaimer: I have both a BMW inline six and the unreliable tractor motor in my fleet, like ‘em both.
       
      I’m assuming you’ve not seen the news that BMW is launching a 2.0 liter turbo DI four? Here’s hoping it’s not going to be as tractor-like as the Audi engine, but I’ll be shocked if it’s any more reliable, given BMW’s recent path and the trends of the six cylinder DI turbo engines.

  • avatar
    william442

    My friend and I are taking her C Class to the MB dealer Friday because the tail lights have evidently quit. I fear this visit will leave the 3 Series as the only viable car on my spring list.
    Tire rack has multiple solutions for the run-flat problem.

  • avatar
    findude

    I’d love to see Jaguar succeed with a 3-killer. To do this, Jaguar will have to draw their inspiration from the XJ6 and the XKE/E-Type and avoid looking at more recent Jags.
    –In-line six
    –Rear-wheel drive
    –Comfortable cockpit with ergonomically outstanding shifter, pedals, steering wheel, and gauges.
    –Great suspension with confident cornering in a wide range of conditions
    –Wonderful acceleration throughout a broad power band
    –Fabulous brakes
    –Supple leather upholstery and classic wood accents
    I actually think they can pull this off if they keep their eye on the ball.
     
     
     
     

  • avatar
    carguy

    While every prestigious brand will gain a following of social outcasts, there is a point that is missing from many of the above comments. Not everyone buys cars for the image – some actually just want a car that delivers driving enjoyment and practicality. While the C class, A4, IS and G35 are in the luxury class with the 3 series, none of them delivers the same combination of driver focus and practicality. The C class feel cheap and is no fun to drive, the G35 is an ergonomic nightmare, the A4 can’t match the driving dynamics and the IS is way too soft. There is a very good reason why the 3 series continues to be the gold standard in this segment no matter how you feel about the brand or the people who drive them.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWfan

      Very good description carguy. I really don’t care whats on the hood, I like driving my 3. I too found the Audi interiors to be nicer, and other cars have far more horsepower, but I still went with the 3 series E46. I have owned cars that were much faster in a straight line, but I have never owned one that was this much fun to drive. The new cars that BMW makes are not for me, so hopefully when my car is done, there will be something else comparable to fill the void.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Exactly why I bought mine! There is just no other car that does everything as well on average. You can beat the 3-series in this category or that category, but nobody else makes such an all-rounder. Drives beautifully, efficient for the available performance, enough space but not bloated, not ridiculously expensive for what you are getting.

      My current Saab 9-3 Combi is a terrific car too, and for what I paid for it a scorching bargain, but it doesn’t drive nearly as nicely as the BMW. I would have prefered to keep it a couple more years, but this is my last chance for a BMW wagon in the US so I went for it.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      I’ll admit even my 525i cant run like 3, but the 3 series is not the most comfy car over bumps I found. The Benz, G35, and Audi seem to do better over bumps, the 3 is compromised in ride quality (chassis rigidity?) even though its gotten better. Perhaps the next one, then again others (like Audi) are getting better too. The IS can do better too.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      “Not everyone buys cars for the image – some actually just want a car that delivers driving enjoyment and practicality”
      That is probably why I am still driving my 2002 Accord.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Interesting . . . It would seem to me that the company wanting to challenge the 3-series needs to find a way to pick on its vulnerabilities.  They are, it seems to me, a relatively high price (once you get into options that shouldn’t be optional at this price level) and inconsistent reliability.
    And, of course, you have to match its driving dynamics.  That is, the overall integration of the package, not just a faster 0-60 time or higher cornering Gs.
    Here’s the tale:  Last summer, I was in LA helping my 26-year old daughter buy a car (after working in NYC for 3 years, she needed one).  She announced that, in her line of work, it just wouldn’t due for her to show up in shiny new Nissan Vera or equivalent.  So, we began the high-risk business of looking for a used “luxury car” within that price range.  One of those we looked it was about a 5-year old 3-series.  Not by any means a gearhead, my daughter’s immediate reaction surprised me: “Ooh!  This car drives really well.”   And she was not speaking as a result of exploring the edges of the car’s performance envelope.  She was just talking about how it drove on city streets at speeds under 40 mph.
    That’s the bogey which the other guys have to hit.  (No; she didn’t buy the car.  Mostly because I was concerned about the possibility of her having to spend money on an expensive repair.)

    • 0 avatar
      Tifighter

      She announced that, in her line of work, it just wouldn’t due for her to show up in shiny new Nissan Vera[sic] or equivalent.

      Okay, I’ll bite. What does she do that makes a Versa so not appropriate?

    • 0 avatar
      Wagen

      And what kind of Acfinius did she end up buying?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Bruce, you mention the performance bogey.  This is but one key part of the equation, from the side of your daughter, but there is the bogey from your side of the equation, namely reliability, robustness, and long-term affordability… that, or, or and also, a hyundai-benchmark-level warranty plan.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    Which unrefined Audi tractor motor are you talking about?  If you’re talking about the 2.0L Turbo I have one in a GTI and it’s a treat.  I wish there were more tractor motors like it.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Your Tahoe is more fun to drive than the 3er where exactly?  Off-road?” 

    It’s not. Considering all the hype around the 3 series BMW I was expecting a lot more. It rode and handled nice enough but the motor was a real snoozer. Not much sport in that sport sedan IMO. The 3.2 V6 in the Audi was a whole lot more fun. The Audi salesmen loved the fact that we test drove the BMW(and others) but still ended up doing the deal w/him. 

  • avatar

    Please…the x type started life as a Contour.  I know someone with one and can pick out the parts that are common.
    The secret to the 3 is simple.  It really is, at least in the E46 model, the ultimate driving machine.  Now, I know a lot of the buyers are Yuppie asshats who are basically driving a rolex.  BMW caters to them by making sure the base price of the car can be raised with things like $4000 wheel upgrades or superduper leather interiors.  Why leave money on the table ?
    What they do right is make the car good, even where you don’t see it.  In the last 235k, I’ve taken most of the car apart for various radio related reasons (ham radio) and stereo upgrades (mediabridge mekes a nice bluetooth/ipod integration).  The car is thoroughly soundproofed, screws and such are used instead of crappy plastic clips, and while I may wonder why five different clips may be used for the trunk trim, I know someone thought about it and spent the money to do it right.
     
    BMW does punish you, as the competitor is always the same price as the base BMW, but when you add bizarre things like ipod, or xenon, or power seats (what ? in a $40k car you expect power seats ?) you then ramp up the price 10-15k over the equally equipped competitor.  They know that those who know will pay, those who don’t know but seek status will really pay, and the rest will buy used if at all.
    The competitors don’t drive as well.  The G35 is bigger and I’ve never seen a manual in a sedan.  An IS feels like a toy (OK not the F but I’ve never seen one outside the auto show)  I’m not an Audi fan but the A4 began life as FWD so it starts off behind, and until you end up with an S4 or RS4 it’s still too VW-cheap. (asbestos suit ON).  The C class is a waste of space and over designed…it makes the current E90 look reserved in a good way.
    BMW spends the money where you can’t see it.  The rivals have to not target the last model.  They have to beat it.  I’m betting on the Koreans to win this one.  They are the only ones who “get” it.

    The service life of a 3 is also longer, from my experience. Partly it has to to offset the higher prices, but also because BMW pushes technology at all levels.

    Sometimes this backfires, like runflats or no dipstick, but other times, it means new technologies and manufacturing processes. BMW has eaten a lot of engines (early M3, or aluminum V8′s that can’t eat American gas) doing this. I got satnav back in 2003 when the BMW DVD system was bleeding edge, and when it didn’t work, BMW NA cared and I ended up as a beta tester…it wasn’t crappy stuff, it was pushing the edge. If you get something that does not work right, and the response is not only adequate but overwhelming, you learn a lot about the internal workings of the company. BMW folks are passionate. (BMW NA, not the stealerships, although there are a lot of good folks there too, at least in my journey with BMW)

    Today, you can get things like night vision, HUD, and such…which a lot of the competitiors don’t have. They may be cherries atop other option packages and ripoff expensive, but they are exclusive, and like satnav, may be common in ten years.

    Ignoring the idle rich and the yuppies, few cars can cater to the retired golf set and still do hot laps when the golfer’s kid sneaks the car out for a track day.
     
     

  • avatar
    Pete Kohalmi

    For the last 11 years I’ve driven a ’96 328i. I test drove a dozen cars before I bought it and when I drove it on the test drive, the car had something the other dozen didn’t. It was, and is,  a hoot to drive. It’s now got 250,000 miles and runs like a top (thanks to my indy BMW mechanic). It’s never let me down–mechanically or spiritually. Tomorrow morning I will take it to work in 18″ of snow and it will get me there like it has every day for 11 years, no matter what. It does piss me of that so many poseurs aspire to own them. That’s not why I bought it. It had a manual trans, RWD and 4 doors–a rare combo. When this car finally gives out, I will almost certainly buy another 3 series–this car has EARNED my loyalty.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto.  When the 2003 meets its end, the replacement will be either another E46 with manual and sport package, or if new, a 328i manual/sport.  I might stay with the E46 for the next car as the new ones aren’t all that much different unless we are talking M3 or 335d.  With my mileage, I’d be afraid of turbos or high pressure fuel pump issues, and the only con to the otherwise spectacular 335d is the absence of a manual in the US-when you’ve done six sets of brakes, three sets of shocks, etc you consider such things.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    +1  Is there a car which has a higher ratio of obnoxious preppy snide owners than der Dreier?

     
    Audi?

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Regardless, BMW does offer the best diesel performance sedan in US.


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