If you’ve visited a car dealership in the past two years, you might be feeling discouraged. Car prices, both for new and used vehicles, have skyrocketed. Factors such as a global pandemic, international supply chain disruptions, and recent geopolitical upheavals have only exacerbated the problem by limiting car production. Fortunately, there are now signs that the car market is slowly returning to normal in terms of supply.
However, there is increasing demand from consumers for better performance and growing pressure from governmental regulations to provide lower emissions and safer cars. While today’s cars are better than ever, they have become more expensive as a result. As of August 2023, the average price of a new car in the US was $48,421, according to Kelley Blue Book. With this being the new average car price, are there any BMW models that remain relatively affordable while still delivering the performance, technology, and quality we expect from BMW? Luckily, the answer is yes. I have identified three cars that I believe are the best new BMWs you can purchase today for under $50,000.
1. The Pragmatic Choice: 2024 BMW X3 xDrive30i
Compact SUVs are ubiquitous on today’s roads, and with all that the BMW X3 xDrive30i has to offer, it’s no wonder why. The X3 is considered a benchmark in the luxury compact SUV segment. With a starting price of $48,900, it strikes a wonderful balance between value and performance. The X3 retains the traditional BMW aesthetics that many have lamented as being lost in some of the newer BMW models.
This traditional look is paired with a proven powertrain: the B48 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to the ZF 8-speed transmission. This combination has proven its worth in numerous other BMW models. The X3 provides the confidence of xDrive while still achieving a respectable 24 MPG combined (28 MPG on the highway). The trunk offers 28.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the passenger compartment, along with 40 inches of legroom for the second row, providing ample room for a car of the same length as the G21 generation 3 series. The BMW X3 xDrive30i represents the perfect blend of everything you could desire in a daily driver.
2. The Efficient Choice: 2024 BMW 330e
Whether we like it or not, the electric future is upon us. Given current gas prices, you may be contemplating a switch to an EV soon. However, you might also be concerned about the state of the EV charging network around the United States. What if there were a way to handle most of your daily commute and local driving without using any gas, without the anxiety of finding charging stations during road trips? Enter the often overlooked world of Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs), and BMW happens to make a pretty good one with the 330e.
The 2023 BMW 330e combines the B48 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor integrated between the B48 and the ZF-derived 8-speed transmission. This combination delivers a total system output of 288hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. BMW claims this car can accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds, but independent testing by MotorTrend found it can achieve the feat in just 5.0 seconds. The 12 kWh battery provides an estimated 22 miles of pure electric range, although many users have reported closer to 25 miles on all-electric power.
The average American drives 15,000 miles per year, or approximately 41 miles per day. This PHEV offers the capability to cover over 50% of your daily driving on all-electric power if you charge it every night. Given that the average American spends nearly $2200 annually on gas, and charging is significantly cheaper (as of October 2023, California electric prices would cost approximately $1.71 to fully charge the 330e each night), this could result in significant savings at the pump. Furthermore, on those rare occasions when you need to embark on an extended road trip, you won’t be dependent on a charging network. Some 330e drivers report that the car can achieve closer to 40 mpg in hybrid mode on the highway.
The 330e starts at $45,600, and it may even be possible to purchase one for less with the help of subsidies. As a plug-in hybrid, this car may qualify for certain state and federal tax credits, although recent changes to the federal $7500 tax credit now only apply to vehicles manufactured within North America.
3. The Fun Choice: 2024 BMW M240i
Every car brand has its own formula that defines its identity. Ford has pickup trucks, Porsche has rear-engine flat-six sports cars, and for BMW, the recipe that has produced some of its most legendary cars has remained consistent over the decades. Just like the iconic E46 M3, a rear-wheel-drive coupe with a straight-six engine under the hood. This formula has always delivered driving delight, and fortunately, it’s still available at a reasonable price in BMW’s 2023 lineup. The M240i starts at $49,700, and while options can push the price above $50,000, recent price drops and BMW’s efforts to replenish inventory might enable you to find these cars below the MSRP.
For your money, you get a 382hp sports car with an electronically controlled Multi-plate limited-slip differential. What sets this car apart is its engine – the power comes from what is quickly becoming a legend: The B58. This 3.0L straight-six features a twin-scroll turbocharger and a closed-deck block design that enhances engine strength and durability. BMW has been producing 3.0L straight-six engines for decades, with the M78 being the first-ever BMW-produced straight-six engine dating back to 1933.
The predecessor engines, the N54 and N55, received numerous awards and built a solid reputation for their silky-smooth power delivery. The B58 represents the culmination of decades of experience and clever engineering, offering an engine that delivers not only smooth and linear power but also fuel efficiency and exceptional robustness. The previous-generation Toyota Supra featured the legendary 2JZ engine, renowned for its reliability and ease of boosting for substantial horsepower gains. The engine Toyota chose for the new A90 Supra? The B58. This new M240i in RWD is not only the classic formula that combines practicality with fun but also the most affordable car with a B58 under the hood.
Unfortunately, a manual transmission is no longer offered on the 2 series, except for the M2. However, for those seeking a comfortable daily driver, this may not be a drawback. The ZF 8-speed transmission is as reputable as the engine it’s paired with, delivering quick and reliable shifts for a long service life, along with a gear spread that contributes to commendable fuel economy given the power rating, achieving 23 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway.