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Like the 2012 BMW 6-Series, the 2012 BMW 3-Series is all-new this year, though unlike the 6-Series, it might be a little harder to tell if you don't have an eye for detail.

That's not to say the new 3-Series looks like the last--just that it doesn't look all that different on first glance. Look more closely, however, and you'll notice a lower, neater front end rising into a slightly taller hood. The familiar kidney grille remains, of course, but the headlights are more streamlined, the lower air dam is more cleanly integrated, and the roofline is slightly longer. Of course, the last 3-Series was a fantastic car on most measures, looks included, so BMW can't be blamed for not wandering far from its previous mark.

Under the hood, there's an all-new engine in the 328i. The normally-aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder in last year's model is gone, replaced for 2012 with BMW's new 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Rated slightly stronger at 240 horsepower and a significantly punchier 260 pound-feet of torque, the new four-cylinder is a worthy replacement. The 335i's turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder is as good as ever, its 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque providing a brilliant power source for a well-balanced sport sedan. Both models are equipped with a standard eight-speed transmission, with an available six-speed manual. The ActiveHybrid 3, with a hybrid drivetrain, will be available later this year.

Handling is perhaps the 3-Series' best trait; among midsize luxury sedans, it's essentially the benchmark. A refined, comfortable ride is balanced with a willing, capable chassis that delivers dynamic, responsive handling and good driver feedback. With advanced traction and stability controls and variable levels of intervention, it should be high on any driver's list of fun-yet-practical cars.

If the exterior's redesign was less than obvious, the interior's is the opposite: everywhere you look, it's a brand-new car. The redesign is largely successful, too, with a more premium look, better materials, and on the comfort front, more rear-seat space. Comfort is good all around, though best up front for adults.

A host of high-tech and innovative features can be added to the 2012 BMW 3-Series, including the new BMW Apps system, BMW Connected, iDrive infotainment, and more. Advanced safety features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, forward collision warning, and surround-view monitors enhance the feeling of security behind the wheel. Being so new, however, neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS have yet crash-tested the 2012 3-Series.

For more on the 2012 BMW 3-Series, be sure to visit the full review at The Car Connection.

UPDATE2012 BMW 3 Series Sedan, 2013 Acura RDX Get IIHS Top Safety Pick Awards

Both the 2012 BMW 3 Series sedan and the 2013 Acura RDX crossover have earned "Top Safety Pick" designations from the IIHS. Read Update

UPDATE2012 BMW 3-Series Models Recalled For Head Restraint Issue

BMW is recalling 7,600 new 3-Series models to correct a potential defect with the front seat headrests. Read Update

UPDATEBMW 3-Series Long Wheelbase Set For 2012 Beijing Auto Show

The long-wheelbase 3-Series is making its world debut at the 2012 Beijing Auto Show and has been developed exclusively for the Chinese market. Read Update

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