The BMW 3 Series is an automotive legend. In human terms, it’s akin to a mashup of Muhammad Ali and Dr. Stephen Hawking; it punches like a prizefighter that’s also the smartest kid in class.
This unique blend of ferocity and finesse is just part of the reason it’s been so successful over the last few decades. And if that’s not enough, the F30 generation that’s on sale today is also luxurious, stylish and feature-laden, offering just about everything you could ever want in a sports sedan, all while continuing the nameplate’s proud tradition of driving excellence.
SEE ALSO: 2015 BMW M4 Review
But what if you don’t want a BMW? Suppose you find the latest 3 Series a little too soft, its design less inspired than a whitewashed living room wall? What if it’s not available with the options you want for a price you’re willing to pay? Well, this shouldn’t be an issue, because you could always go with a sports sedan from a different automaker.
And there are plenty to choose from on the market today. Listed below are just five worthy alternatives to this thoroughbred BMW, rival machines that are practically guaranteed to get your blood pumping.
5. Audi A4
And we start with Audi’s A4, a classic foe of the 3 Series, the quintessential foil to Munich’s finest. In fact, the intense rivalry between these two sedans is as palpable as a knee to the groin.
Countering BMW’s offering, this four-ring four-door features subtle, tasteful design, a top-rate interior and the confidence of quattro, arguably the most advanced all-wheel-drive system on the market today. The A4 is a legitimate threat in every way.
SEE ALSO: 2017 Audi A4 Review
Power is provided by a silky-smooth 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that pushes out 220 horses. Three transmissions are available, from a six-speed manual to a CVT to an eight-ratio automatic. If you want more power, consider the S4; if fewer doors float your boat, Audi will happily sell you an A5.
4. Lexus IS
With Audi’s offering, it should come as no surprise that one German automaker can out-German another German car company that’s headquartered in the same federal state of Germany. But it’s germane to mention that the Germans aren’t the only ones that can build an entertaining sports sedan.
Japan will not sit quietly in the corner, and Lexus’ IS lineup is a fine example of this island nation’s relentless pursuit of perfection … and sales, really, they’re after more sales. This sedan is offered with three different engines: a 214-horse turbo-four, a 3.5-liter V6 with 300 ponies and a more muscular version of this bent-six that provides 306 horsepower. Rear- and all-wheel drive are available, the former with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the latter with a six-ratio unit.
If you’re looking for a fun-driving luxury four-door that’s more interesting to look at that than a BMW, the Lexus IS could be for you.
3. Chevrolet SS
Wait, what? How is the Chevy SS a rival to the BMW 3 Series? You’re right, it’s probably a better match to the 5 Series … in M form, but whatever. This car has the goods. Check the rubric; it’s got four doors, rear-wheel drive, a powerful engine, engaging chassis and even offers a manual transmission. That sounds like a perfect formula to us.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Chevrolet SS Review
Under the hood resides a fire-breathing dragon, a 6.2-liter V8 engine with enough ferocity to give you second-degree burns. It puts out 415 horses and 415 lb-ft of torque. Ensuring the Chevrolet SS can handle all of that performance, GM’s magical Magnetic Ride Control suspension system is standard. It’s no secret, we LOVE the SS and you should, too.
2. Infiniti Q50
Lexus isn’t the only purveyor of Japanese luxury sports sedans, oh no. Infiniti builds a mighty-fine foil to the fabled 3 Series as well.
This brand’s G50 features a proper rear-wheel-drive architecture for maximum fun, though it can also be had with all-wheel drive for enhanced traction in poor conditions; a fuel-sipping hybrid model is also on the menu.
Putting the Q50 in motion is a muscular 3.7-liter V6 that delivers 328 horses with 269 lb-ft of torque; it can spin to 7,500 rpm. A seven-speed automatic transmission handles all of that delicious performance potential. This Infiniti is a strong offering in the segment and in our not-so-humble opinion one of the best looking of these BMW rivals.
1. Cadillac ATS
Finally, we come to the Cadillac ATS, an American take on the classic 3 Series formula. Small, light and potent, it’s a red-white-and-blue retort to Munich’s latest offering. This machine is everything a driver could want in a sports sedan.
As for power, there’s a bottom-feeder 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s not even worth mentioning. But stepping up from the basement’s lowest step, you can get a great 2.0-liter turbo that cranks out 272 horses. Moving on from there you can indulge in a smooth-running 3.6-liter V6 that puts out a stout 335 horses. An eight-speed automatic transmission is pretty much standard across the board, though the force-fed four can be had with a six-speed stick.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Review
But wait, there’s more! Cadillac also offers the ATS as a coupe, which has particularly dramatic styling. And for REAL enthusiasts the company also builds V variants of the car that offer devastating performance.
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