By on March 25, 2012

No car has defined and dominated a segment like the BMW 3-Series. It is the compact sport sedan everyone else has been gunning for since the origin of the line over 30 years ago. So when the 3er is redesigned, as it has been for 2012, everyone wonders: have they once again raised the bar, or have they lost their way, perhaps even choked? An answer, in two parts. First up: a “Luxury Line” 328i automatic. Next month: a three-pedal “Sport Line” 335i.

The 3-Series rose to dominance as a car for driving enthusiasts. But if BMW was ever content with such a narrow focus, that ended decades ago. Even back in the 1980s there were luxury-oriented “L” variants of the 6- and 7-Series. The newest 3 lifts a page from the Mercedes playbook to more distinctly target different groups of buyers with a “Luxury Line” alongside a “Sport Line.” A “Modern” Line” is essentially the former with less chrome on the outside and more adventurous trim on the inside. (Cheap SoBs content with 17-inch rims and satin plastic trim can get a car with no “Line” at all.) Of course, trim levels are relatively cheap and easy. Much more ambitious, especially given the relatively small size of the company is how BMW has sold some variant of the 3 to anyone seeking a $35,000+ compact sedan. But can a single model hope to be the best car for everyone?

Even successful revolutions tend to be followed by counter-revolutions. Chris Bangle’s “flame surfaced” designs sold cars and were widely copied. But enough of BMW’s core constituency expressed (at times vehement) disapproval that by the time the “E90” 3-Series (below) was introduced six years ago the American innovator had been tamed. With the new “F30” 3-Series no new aesthetic ground was sought, and even less was gained. No one will mistake the new 3 for anything else. Well, unless they mistake it for the previous generation sedan or the current “F10” 5-Series. The new car looks much the same as the old one, only with mildly softened, simplified lines, including a more bulbous nose and widened “kidneys.” An already watered-down design has been watered down further, and some of the old body’s tightness and rightness have been lost in the quest to produce a more broadly appealing, less pedestrian injuring car. Compared to the F10, the main difference is size.

Oops, wrong photo. Here’s the right one:

This is likely the last time BMW can get away with such a mild update. The F30 sedan is an attractive car, but not a striking one. Next time around, they’d best attempt an aesthetic reinvention along the lines of the E36. We’ll have plenty of warning. Design innovations tend to be tested first with the 7 then the 5. The upcoming “i” cars enable a preliminary round where truly risky concepts can be tested well ahead of any new 7.

The F30’s interior similarly represents a further development of the design language established by the 2002 7-Series, though in its case the changes are generally for the better. As with the current 5 and 7, the center stack has been vertically shortened, for a sportier appearance. For the F30 they’ve gone a step further, visually separating the display screen from the rest of the center stack. As a result, the screen sticks out of the top of the instrument panel much like a retractable one would—only it doesn’t retract. Not the cleanest appearance, but this does successfully minimize the perceived mass of the IP and thus makes the car itself seem less massive. I drove the new 5 a week earlier, and even more than past midsize BMWs it feels a little large to me. Sliding into the new 3, I instantly felt at home. Okay, not quite instantly. Unlike those in the Audi A4 and upcoming Cadillac ATS, the 3’s driver seat feels too low (to this 5’9″ driver) when in its lowest position. The seat adjuster provides a quick and easy fix.

There’s luxury, and then there’s “BMW Luxury.” In cars without the “Sport Line” treatment you get BMW’s basic seat, so it’s firm and lacking in contour. Theoretically the four-way lumbar adjuster should enable a perfect fit, but as is often the case with these no setting seemed quite right (YMMV). The “Sport Line” includes BMW’s sport buckets, with larger adjustable bolsters (oddly decontented from the current 5).

The biggest surprise with the new 3: nearly as much rear kneeroom as in the 5, and considerably more than in competitors. (Ignore the on-paper superiority of the Audi A4—it doesn’t exist in the real world.) On top of this, the rear seat is even comfortably shaped and positioned, a rarity in the segment. The trunk has grown even more. At 17.0 cubic feet, it’s easily the largest in the segment. The optional folding rear seat now splits 40:20:40. With the passive entry option, swinging a foot under the rear bumper pops the lid open hands-free.

I’m just old enough to remember when most 3ers were sold here with four-cylinder engines. And Audi fits most A4s with fours. Even so, it’s a little hard to get my head around the idea of a 328i with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The inline six feels and sounds so good in runs to the redline, how could a four possibly serve as a suitable replacement? Well, it just can’t.

Not that the four is bad. It’s plenty powerful and capable of getting to sixty in under six seconds. But at idle and low rpm it sounds shockingly similar to a diesel, transitioning to a boxer-like brogue in the mid-range, and then finally to an engaging snarl over 4k. At no speed does it sound like a conventional four. But it only sings sweetly at higher engine speeds, and even then the positive impression lasts only until you get behind the wheel of a decent six.

The boosted nature of the engine is evident in a sluggish throttle response at low revs. The four might bang out 260 pound-feet at a low, low 1,250 rpm, but these “torques” aren’t immediately available. Let the transmission manage its own shifts and you’ll often find yourself seriously thrust-deficient mid-curve unless you request said thrust at turn entry—or earlier. Even in “sport” mode (which makes much less of a difference than in past BMWs). The solution is to manually shift the occasionally bumpy eight-speed automatic and keep the revs over 3k. Or get something else with a six.

An undeniable advantage of the four is fuel economy. In “Eco Pro” mode, the throttle feel approaches that of a Prius, and I found it oddly soothing to ooze slowly away from stops much as I would in a Prius. (So much so that, when I drove a 528i with the same powertrain, a Prius first tailgated then passed me. Payback’s a…well, you know.) The payoff of going extra easy on the gas: when hyper-miling through the burbs, the trip computer reliably reported 37-38 miles-per-gallon. On one trip between the kid’s school and home where the traffic signals aligned in my favor, I even managed a bit over 40. Does it lie? (I’ve asked the fleet company to let me know how much gas they put in it when the car is redeployed tomorrow.)

In less casual driving, expect high 20s to low 30s. Employ a lead foot and spend a lot of time over 4,000 rpm? Then hello high teens. With the turbo, fuel economy varies widely based on driving style. Dare the 2.0 to drink, and it’ll drink.

[Update: the fleet company got those figures to me, and they're not pretty. If they're correct, the 328i managed only 21.9 miles-per-gallon during its week with me. This is about 8 to 10 mpg lower than the figures reported by the trip computer, a huge difference. The trip computer also reported surprisingly high numbers with the 528i, so BMW trip computers could tend to be highly inaccurate.]

One fuel economy trick in need of further refinement: an automatic stop / start system. Stop at a light in Drive with your foot on the brake and the engine automatically cuts off. Lift off the brake and it automatically restarts. Hybrids have done this for years, and in heavy traffic, moving from signal to signal you’ll save a lot of gas. Unfortunately, the stops and starts are far from seamless—each is accompanied by a shudder that will provoke a visceral reaction from anyone who has ever stalled a car with a stick. More of a quibble: as in some hybrids, it can be easy to forget you haven’t actually turned the car off. The tach provides a clue, with the needle at “ready” when the engine is off but the ignition isn’t.

BMW’s reinvention of the slushbox shifter is no more desirable in the new 3 than in the 5 and 7. A tip to OEMs: if your shifter requires on-screen instructions, it’s probably too complicated. Another: people operate these things with their hands. It’s more important that they feel good when grasped than that they give sci-fi fans the cold fuzzies. A more hand-friendly reinvention, once you figure out what they’ve done: the secondary release under the hood is impossible to find, because there isn’t one. Instead, pull the release inside the car twice.

So you’ve got the engine north of 3k and head into that curve. Can the Luxury Line 3er handle it? The car’s initial reactions set off alarm bells. The body heels over and, if the pavement gets wavy, the nose also bobs considerably. Body motions are more tightly controlled in a Buick. But, what do you know, despite all the swaying and bobbing there’s no weaving. The 3er adheres faithfully to your specified line. And while the feedback might not all be confidence-inspiring, it is at least still provided in quantity, through the seat of your pants more than through the fairly light, somewhat vague (yet still superior) steering. Oversteer is easy to induce, even easier to correct. Squeeze the go pedal just so (with the revs and thus boost up) and the rear end slides around beautifully, even gracefully. Squeeze the pedal a little further to…well, just because driving sideways is fun when you can feel confident that a touch of counter-steer will dependably bring the rear back into line. You can connect with this car, the bond just isn’t as strong, as engaging, or as rewarding as in the E90 (at least not in non-Sport form). Does this matter? If the car will do what is asked of it, must it necessarily do so with a smile?

The combination of precise handling (when the chips are down) with a smooth, quiet ride might well be the best of both worlds for non-enthusiasts. But the new 3 doesn’t quite deliver the latter. As soft and squishy as the suspension can feel at times, bumps and divots still announce their presence more loudly and sharply than in a Lexus. Overall noise levels are low, perhaps lower than in the larger 528i, yet enough small sounds intrude to break the spell. Much like the interior doesn’t look like that of a luxury car, the ride doesn’t sound or feel like that of a luxury car. Many people will no doubt blame the mandatory run-flat tires, and they could well be right. But I also get the sense that, no matter how much BMW wants to appeal to luxury car buyers, they can’t entirely escape the corporate DNA.

One group BMW remains happy to leave for other auto makers: those seeking affordable wheels. The base price of the F30 is up only a few hundred dollars from the E90’s, to $35,795. Accounting for the disappearance of last year’s no-cost leather widens the gap, but a $400 adjustment for the new car’s additional features (using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool yields a roughly $1,300 bump. But the E90 was already more expensive than the competition. Check most of the option boxes, as with the tested car, and the 2012’s sticker stops just short of fifty large. A similarly-equipped Infiniti G37 (no need to bother with the torque-free G25) runs about $4,000 less after adjusting for remaining feature differences.

I remember my first drive in the BMW E90. I instantly bonded with that car, and had a blast pushing it hard along my twisty route. In comparison, many aspects of the F30 328i impressed me—most notably the rear seat and the fuel economy—but the driving experience just isn’t quite the same. BMW seems so confident of its handling superiority that it has sought to only hold the line (or even yield a little) in this area, and concentrate on improving the car elsewhere. Like the buttoned-down bureaucrat who decides to cut loose one night after work, the result in incomplete and unconvincing. Few true sybarites will be fooled. And driving enthusiasts? Well, the “Luxury Line” isn’t intended for us. I’m still very much looking forward to a week in a “Sport Line” stick-shift 335i next month.

BMW provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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76 Comments on “Review: 2012 BMW 328i Luxury Line sedan...”


  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Once you’ve removed the “sport” out of BMW, what have you got? Nothing that appeals to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      This. I like the interior in this model, but if it’s not a sports car, a wealth of cheaper and more stylish alternatives appear.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      +1. Remove the sport package and manual transmission from a BMW, and I don’t think there is much to set it apart from less expensive competition.

      And maybe it’s just the angle of the photo, but the dash looks like it is melting on the passenger side, near the vent.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      What you’re left with, is highly confident and efficient high speed people moving. Which appeals to people who likes to think of themselves as important enough to ‘need’ this more than other people.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    The 320i looks kinda interesting. Low pressure turbo with 184 ft-lbs of torque from 1250-4500 rpm. I wonder how the stick and the start-stop system work together, because it’s supposed to be offered across all drivetrain combos.

    The previous rental 323i was boring to drive; I liked the Mazda3 better.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    BMW should stick to what it does best with the I6 engines. Let Audi make the turbo 4s. I don’t understand the rage of the electronic shifter, the conventional ones seem more robust.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I don’t mind four bangers very much, because the old two-litre M10 made the BMW 2002 popular in North America. A four might mean less mass up front, but BMW does have their six set well back. Return of the 2002 Turbo?

      An Audi inline-5 or VR5 turbo would be kinda neat.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      100% agree. Let Audi make the turbo 4s. Everybody wins. Obviously this was done in the spirit of fuel economy, but what Beemer owner is concerned about that?

      The front end of this thing is gorgeous. The interior is far from it. Good descriptions Michael. And those front seats look thin and not a bit supportive.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      With the kind of fuel economy figures Mazda gets cheaply from their non turbo CX-5 (a CUV, for csakes) while remaining sporty enough for Baruth; you’d think BMW, with much more leeway as far as engine cost go, should be able to build a very efficient I6 in a similar configuration.

      Truth to be told, paired with a clever auto, turbo motors may well be the bee’s knees, but with a manual, they’re way more clumsy than NAd, or even SCd ones. And those straight 6 BMWs are (or were, I guess) pretty much perfection as far as subjective factors go. Light, smooth, torquesy, revvy, creamy and beautiful to look at, listen to and drive.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    If you’re 5’9″ then the seat should be too low for you when all the way down. If it wasn’t then those of us who are taller would be out of luck. I like being able to drive without affecting the “gangsta lean”.

    • 0 avatar

      Makes sense. But I’ve gotten spoiled by the fact that many cars seem tailor-made for someone my size!

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Absolutely. What was up with this comment? If you got in the car and the seat was set too far back for you, would you complain about that too?

      If you couldn’t get in a comfortable position, that should be noted. If the seat just happened to require adjustment when you sat down, that’s not something that belongs in a review.

      And frankly, I’m sick of the “command seating” that says I can’t get my butt on the floor these days. The fact that the seat gets low is absolutely praiseworthy.

      As for the rest of the car…

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    I still have fond memories of my E36 328i. This four pot turbo thing does not seem worthy of the badge.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Fast, boring, higher priced, at least one complicated interior feature, and a big focus on fuel economy.

    It’s a 2012 vehicle alright.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’ve been a BMW driver for over 30 years — 3.0 CSi, 535, 540 and my current 1998 328i. Part of the reason has been their silky smooth I6 normally aspirated engines coupled to great manual transmissions. My next car will be a 2006 E46 330i sedan, manual 6-speed RWD. Considering BMW has scrapped their NA I6 engines, I may have to buy several E46′s to last the rest of my driving days.

  • avatar
    lagunadallas

    I just drove a 2012 335i Sport and it was pretty impressive, though definitely bordering on being too large and a bit soft. The start/stop feature was completely insane…99% of drivers will disable it. Most aspects of the car are fantastic, but the major issue is the price. I’ve owned 4 previous 3-Series cars over 3 generations (1987, 2000, 2004 & 2007 models) and just can’t wrap my head around a $56,000 (as-tested) 335i.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      The unfortunate thing about start/stop is that it seems to re-enable itself everytime you start the car. I was a passenger in a ’12 5-series wagon for a couple of days in Austria. Auto start/stop was definitely the most wonky feature. The owner even hated it.

      • 0 avatar

        As noted in the review, it very much needs to be smoother. I hate wasting anything, though, so I’d personally learn to live with it.

        They do put the switch right next to the engine start button, so it wouldn’t too inconvenient to hit one right after hitting the other. I didn’t test whether it works to hit them both at the same time.

      • 0 avatar
        ElSnuggles

        I need to note down to test this next time I go car shopping (which will be in the next 6 months) – does it turn off and stay off.

        I can’t stand the auto-start/stop “feature”. In every car I’ve been in that implements this feature, the stop/start is disturbing…except the Prius.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s even more transparent in the Volt than in the Prius. And it’s smooth in most hybrids. The size of the electric motor that starts the engine is likely the key variable. A motor sized to move the entire car can start and stop the engine effortlessly–especially if it handles acceleration off the line before doing so.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    The old 3-series reminded me of that London bar where they made everything just a bit off… floor a bit slanty, angles that don’t quite make 90 degrees, light a bit too harsh, music a bit too indistinct… all in the name of putting you subconsciously on edge as part of some post-modern living art installation. Well, that’s the feeling I got after jumping back into the E90 after trying the new 3-series. The extra room inside is really welcome. My own feeling about the different lines:

    Sport – Drug dealer
    Luxury – Old fart
    Modern – Just right.

    However, the sheer complexity of the engine makes me nervous about the out-of warranty period…turbos, variable valve, direct injection… there’s just no way that this is going to be a cheaper car to service than previous iterations. However, I like the car quite a bit, but not enough for the $50k that a properly spec’d version actually costs.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      To be fair, all cars are becoming scarier out-of-warranty propositions. Even more affordable C segment cars use turbos, direct injection, variable valve timing, 6-speed automatic transmissions (in at least one case automated dual clutch), and increasingly invasive electronics. The market demands it.

      “Car enthusiasts” like to imagine themselves as advocates of simple, efficient engineering, but I don’t see it. The comments section of most any TTAC entry on a Honda or Toyota product using older engine or transmission technology is filled with complaints about why those manufacturers aren’t competing with the rest of the market segment.

      The situation is kinda funny/extra unfortunate in BMW’s case though. Remember this is a company that used to provide a toolkit in the trunk lid.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        wait 10 yrs down the track and see how all that stuff with the biodegrable plastics works out

        right now e46s are hitting that mark and you can see the results… where i am basic e46 sedans are cheap as and the complexity puts people off

        i am tempted by LS1 transplants into an e46 though!

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        “Car enthusiasts” like to imagine themselves as advocates of simple, efficient engineering, but I don’t see it.”

        Me neither. It’s still about spec sheets and bragging rights. Not on TTAC, but on a lot of forums “Car Enthusiast” equates to “bullies people who would rather have a car rather than an image enhanced”.

        Also, Insideline did a suspension walk around with the 328i. It’s not just the engine, The control arms are quite sophisticated, but look like they have a lot of vulnerable seals/brushings, etc. Provided that the engine hasn’t caught on fire, my impressions is that the suspension is tends to be a culprit on older BMW’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      The “drug dealer” description of BMW’s sport packages is funny but true. It wasn’t always that way, though. You can see the change for the worse (in my humble opinion) between the early and later E60 5-series; in the early cars, the sport package changes were subtle but meaningful, while the later cars were just gaudy, “blingy”, “LOOK! I drive an M5…well, not really”.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxseven

      With the Modern Line, I can’t get past the Cremora Coffee Creamer gauge background color. That’s a deal-breaker right there. The Luxury is clearly the best of the three, and you are correct about the Sport line looking like it’s only one step away from checking into the “stanced car” asylum.

  • avatar

    The first BMW I ever drove was a 750. It handled really well for it’s size – cause you’d expect any car that big to be sluggish. I can understand why people love their cars so much.

  • avatar
    Good ole dayz

    While perhaps a “cost effective” way way for manufacturers to goose their CAFE numbers, I have to believe that the start-stop systems are terrible for consumers: 1) the loss of oil pressure during the “stop” phase means a lot more wear on the engine due to the hugely increased volume “start” cycles, and 2) just think about the complex array of sensors and related things to start going wrong — including intermittently and so hard to diagnose — once the vehicle is out of warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      There’s likely no appreciable wear once the engine and oil is fully warmed up for idle start-stop, since a protective oil film remains on the engine surfaces. Idle start-stop probably doesn’t function until the drive train is fully warmed too.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      The current EPA test does not give any gain from stop-start systems

  • avatar
    vbofw

    wait – did they really drop two cylinders and also raise the price???

    When MB recently added the turbo 4 C-Class, they definitely knocked off a thousand or three

  • avatar
    needsdecaf

    Wow, don’t agree with this review for about 90% of it (agree on the stop-start thing). This car is so much better than the E90 it replaced, it’s not even funny.

    The E90 was never a great 3 series. It is ugly, looks and feels extremely cheap inside, has unnecessarily heavy steering and a ride that’s punishing without much benefit. The new F30 is so much better in every respect. The steering has swung too far in the other direction, however, but it’s a step above the F10 and F01 so there’s hope yet.

    Driving this car, I am reminded of E46′s and E39′s of yore, two of the most celebrated BMW’s in history.

    As for the styling, call it derivative, but I’ll call it distinctive and modern. To say it looks just like the predecessor is pretty short sighted, IMO.

    As for the 4, I agree, the DI (or whatever) makes it sound very much like a diesel at idle. And I will also agree that for a supposed torque peak of 1,250 RPM, it seems pretty soft under 3,000 RPM. But at no times would 95% of the driving public would want for more power. The outgoing N52 naturally aspirated I-6 was similarly weak on torque and not as grunty as the N20. Sure, it did sound better, which is good since you had to rev the nuts off it to make any power. Or was that just the horrible GM-6 automatic transmission sapping 30% of the power through it’s awful torque converter? Hard to tell.

    Sorry, I won’t rue the demise of the E90 one bit.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I can’t even imagine how there would be any humor involved in it being only a little better than the E90, if that were the case.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      As an E46 owner, I agree with you about the E90s (loaner cars from the dealer I’ve experienced more than once).

      - Interior felt cheaper
      - unnecessarily heavy steering
      - a ride that’s punishing without much benefit
      - An automatic transmission/engine mapping/whatever that made the car feel lifeless from a standstill.

      Frankly, I felt no need to “upgrade” to an E90.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxseven

      I agree. Unless fitted with M-Sport appearance package, the E90 is very effeminate looking and that makes it ugly.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Meh.

    I wonder how hard it would be to shoehorn a Pentastar into one of these?

  • avatar
    david42

    Wow. From this review, I get the feeling that the 3er has been Passat-ized (well, a little bit).

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Disgusting. This car sounds like a $35k turd, and mentioning a Prius in the same review as a 3-series tells me how bad this car is, and that’s an insult to the Prius.

    The excuses for this 4-cylinder (‘hey, it gets great fuel economy’) sound just like those made for the 1974 Mustang II 4-cylinder at the time – hollow.

    Jack’s recent glowing review of the Mazda CX-5 was enough to make me consider a car I might never have, and this review just reinforces my disdain for the BMW Kool-Aid.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxseven

      More like a $49K turd, if you get all the options… and one MUST get these options to make the car stand up to the competition: Premium, Technology, Parking, Premium Sound, Cold Weather. Add some taxation and your over $50K. It’s priced a tad high in my opinion, should be more in the $43-44K range. As Karesh mentioned in the article, the G37 is way cheaper, and has ~325hp to boot. G37 is the perfect baseline comparison for this car, and the F30 is over-priced. True, the G37′s looks are incredibly boring compared to the BMW, but are the Bimmer’s looks worth that much more?

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    “I remember my first drive in the BMW E90. I instantly bonded with that car, and had a blast every minute in the seat. In comparison, many aspects of the F30 328i impressed me—most notably the rear seat and the fuel economy—but the driving experience just isn’t quite the same. BMW seems so confident of its handling superiority that it has sought to only hold the line (or even yield a little) in this area, and concentrate on improving the car elsewhere. Like the buttoned-down bureaucrat who decides to cut loose one night after work, the result in incomplete and unconvincing”

    I find your perspective here interesting MK. When I was test driving bimmers, I had the exact same reaction, except substitute e90 for f30 and e46 for e90 and you have my experience. With the exception of the 335, the e90′s (all sport package equipped stick shifts) felt way too refined, sanitized, and softened, as though any hints it was a machine made and operated by parts that were dirty and greasy was kept hidden away so as not to offend the sorority girl set. The car wasn’t bad, and the BMW virtues were there (buried under a layer of fluff) but there wasn’t a visceral connection. The sonorous straight six was so muffled that I couldn’t hear it unless I revved the snot out of it. Had I been going the newer car route, the Infiniti G felt much more like a “real” car and a machine, and was very tempting.

    Then, I drove the e46 and it was a different story altogether. I felt at once connected with the car, the gearbox, the lively talkative steering, and that snarling engine, and that was even on the non zhp models. That I was fortunate enough to end up with a ZHP spec 330i only makes me that much more confident in my decision, and I can truly say that despite their extra hp, I don’t envy any of the e90 owners out there (save for an M3). This new inline 4 has roughly the same hp, more torque, and far better fuel economy than my cars 3.0 six but it will never rev as smoothly and quickly nor snarl growl and wail like mine. I’ll gladly give up the 5-10 mpg for that silken power and song any day.

    In BMW’s defense, I will say I much prefer the styling of the new sedan over the e90, which I never really liked the look of (as opposed to the e90 coupe which was and is gorgeous). Then again, as I’m sure is apparent, I’m a traditional old fashioned ( at 28 years old) Bimmer fan who thinks that BMW should have stopped new car development permanently and continued building the e46, e38, and e39 forever.

    Here’s to hoping that they don’t screw up the sport model. I’ve criticized BMW’s choices on their new cars plenty before, so they better be careful or my next car will have a vq-v6 under the hood.

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      We went from an E46 325i to an E90 328i, and I agree with your impressions. The E90 had a lot more content, more room, and significantly better fuel economy. Thus it worked well as my wife’s daily driver but I, personally, liked and admired the E90 more than loved it. We are waiting for a manual shift 328i to arrive to test drive it…should be interesting.

    • 0 avatar

      One thing I’ve noticed with the E46, E90, F30, and pretty much every BMW I’ve driven is they all feel much better if you drive the snot out of them–and this is the mode in which I spent nearly my entire initial drive in the E90. Conversely, they all tend to feel much more distant in casual driving.

      I happen to be driving a G37 6MT this weekend. I don’t trust it nearly as much as a BMW when driven hard, as its chassis is more prone to deal out surprises, but in casual driving it does feel like a much firmer, more direct car.

      My favorite recent BMW sedan design is actually the much-reviled E60 (with the Sport Package wheels, though not the body kit that attends them with recent 550s), so I’ll grant that my aesthetic tastes among BMWs are not with the majority.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        I agree that the e36 (my dad has one), e46, and e90s all feel and drive better the harder they are pushed. I had a hard getting a feel for the gearbox on mine and heal and toeing when I first got it, but I took it to a racetrack within a week or two of purchasing it and never messed up a shift. The car very much came into its home being flogged there. The cars grow on you. Now after 4-5 months the car feels much more alive even in basic driving, although I admit the extra suspension tuning, short throw shifter, shorter rear axle ration, and snarly sport exhaust that are a part of the zhp package all help there.

        I def agree with you on the G37, and even moreso on the older G35. Both of those cars feel much more alive and visceral, but also a lot more scary and intimidating, even with a LSD (which the BMW’s aren’t available with OEM). My first g37 experience was a rental g37x, and even with the awd, I could get the car to power oversteer. I can online imagine how twitchy and tail happy the rwd cars can be when really pushed (which I didn’t do too much of on test drives). It’s almost as though the BMW encourages you to drive harder by being a willing and able partner, whereas the G taunts and dares you to push it. On the street, both are fun just in different ways. On a track or a twisty road, I think the likes of his Baruthness or his Stigness might be quicker in the G, but I think someone like me would be quicker with the confidence inspiring nature of the BMW and certainly far more consistent. I’m no partisan in the 3 vs g debate. Both are great cars with pluses and minuses and I couldn’t really fault someone for going either way. I’m almost glad I ruled out the 335s and g37s based on price/value cause that would have been a much tougher choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Charlie84

      And I, in turn, will echo your sentiment –except I’d substitute E90 with E46, and E46 with E36.

      Having spent about 10K miles in an E46 ZHP and 20K miles in an E36 M3 is a highly instructive comparison.

      The E46 ZHP is similar on paper to the North American E36 M3 and in real life it is objectively better.

      Subjectively however, it’s isolated and numb in comparison. It never begged to be driven harder, as my E36 does.

      I still have the E36 M3.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        MK, I agree that the e36 (my dad has a 328i), e46, and e90s all feel and drive better the harder they are pushed. I had a hard getting a feel for the gearbox on mine and heal and toeing when I first got it, but I took it to a racetrack within a week or two of purchasing it and never messed up a shift. The car very much came into its home being flogged there. The cars grow on you. Now after 4-5 months the car feels much more alive even in basic driving, although I admit the extra suspension tuning, short throw shifter, shorter rear axle ration, and snarly sport exhaust that are a part of the zhp package all help there.

        I def agree with you on the G37, and even moreso on the older G35. Both of those cars feel much more alive and visceral, but also a lot more scary and intimidating, even with a LSD (which the BMW’s aren’t available with OEM). My first g37 experience was a rental g37x, and even with the awd, I could get the car to power oversteer. I can online imagine how twitchy and tail happy the rwd cars can be when really pushed (which I didn’t do too much of on test drives). It’s almost as though the BMW encourages you to drive harder by being a willing and able partner, whereas the G taunts and dares you to push it. On the street, both are fun just in different ways. On a track or a twisty road, I think the likes of his Baruthness or his Stigness might be quicker in the G, but I think someone like me would be quicker with the confidence inspiring nature of the BMW and certainly far more consistent. I’m no partisan in the 3 vs g debate. Both are great cars with pluses and minuses and I couldn’t really fault someone for going either way. I’m almost glad I ruled out the 335s and g37s based on price/value cause that would have been a much tougher choice.

        Charlie, I intentionally excluded M3′s from this equation cause I think they tend to make everything look bad haha. The only M3 I’ve driven was the e46 and that car made the G37 seem like a Cadillac in comparison, so no e46 (happy to change that if you’re offering a chance :-P), but I’d say the ZHP compares favorably with my Dad’s sport package e36 328 for driver involvement. This has been, though, BMW’s direction. I’m sure any e30 owners, especially those with the M3, think we’re all a bunch of pussies (market prices for the various M3 models would seem to agree with him).

        On the subject of the e30, I should add I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of a 4 cylinder BMW. Arguably the brand’s two most vaunted sports sedans, the 2002 and aforementioned e30 M3 had inline 4s. I like what the poster below said about putting the engine in a car specifically designed to take advantage of the smaller, lighter, more compact specs of the engines (i.e. something smaller lighter and more in line with a Scion FR-S). Similarly, BMW could follow the Ford route and offer two similarly spec’d engines (the 3.0 NA 6 and the 2.0 turbo 4) that have different efficiency, and either sell for the same $ (a la hybrid MKZ) or charge slightly more the more efficient one (as with the ecoboost Edge, Explorer, and F150). Hell do like Mercedes does with the E63 wagon and make it a special order only option that’s not normally stocked. If there’s enough hard core BMW purists to justify offering a stick shift M5 in the US only, I have to imagine the same goes for 3 series buyers on the I6 vs I4 engine. I realize this is only dreaming though and is not going to happen.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    We went to the big auto show today. Climbed into what I guess would of been a “sport” model. The interior was such a mess. Lines and angles everywhere, and that screen up on top of the dash. At first we thought it retracted, but nope, it just sits there.

    Over in the GM section Cadillac had their new ATS on display (but no touching). From 5ft away, the interior looks far more pleasing, and the outside far less bland.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I think it was a given that the 4-cylinder wouldn’t have the same sound or smoothness as BMW’s previous naturally aspirated I6s, so it is almost an unfair comparison. How does the engine compare to other turbo fours, such as in the A4 and C250?

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    Does the front end have to be so mean and aggressive? This is in such a poor taste. All cars nowadays look excessively aggressive but this is taking it way too far.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      They did testing. On average, people preferred aggressive front ends to fascias that were friendly, cute, happy, or otherwise. I can’t find the test in a quick search, but I remember reading about it a year or so ago.

      Personally, I’m sick of front-ends that look like cartoon faces, no matter what the emotion, but I seem to be losing.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    This car is totally wrong. I don´t care if it gets a little better mpg (in theory). A BMW should have an inline 6 and a manual trans.

  • avatar
    WriterParty.com

    Personally, I’ve always disliked the look of the e90 and I think that the F30 cleans the look up very well. I confess to having not yet driven either one, though, but the E46 is the first BMW I ever drove, and it made me fall in love with the brand. It had a way of feeling like it was reading my mind.

  • avatar
    boxelder

    BMW reviews used to excite me, but it does seem like the Ultimate Driving Machine has become the Ultimate Compromise, sacrificing that famous “something special” on the altar of fuel economy. Too bad. Let’s just hope they sling that 4-pot Diesel our way, eh? If we’re looking for MPGs, this is the better compromise IMO.

  • avatar
    Charlie84

    I’m a little surprised, Michael, to hear you praising the E90 as a car with which you can “instantly bond”…I’ve long considered even the E46 to be the beginning of the end for the 3-series as a true driver’s car. The E90 seems positively Buick-like to me.

    Sounds like the F30 is yet another step in this direction.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    “The basis of action is lack of imagination. It is the last resource of those who know not how to dream.”

    Who knew Oscar Wilde was an automotive prophet and would be predicting the 6th generation 3 Series?

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Please forgive me if I am wrong since I have never seen this model in the flesh. But I have seen alot of trunks in my day and that one just doesnt look like its 17 cubic feet. It really looks more like 13 to be honest. Anyone know how they measure it and what the old model was listed at. Thanks.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    BMW competes for customers with Mercedes, Lexus and Audi.
    Most BMW owners in North America buy BMW because of name, in reality Mercedes and Lexus fit them more!
    This is a great opportunity for new 2013 Infinity G37 to take 1. position in driver’s car list.

  • avatar
    mmisk

    First of all, i will come right out and say that I just ordered one of these. I test drove 8 cars and this was the best. With that being said:

    Why all of the complaints about the 4 banger?? It’s got more power than the 6 it replaced while getting better fuel economy and you complain that it doesn’t sound as good? If you want a 6, you can still buy the 335. What’s wrong with having a choice?

    Also, the 8 speed auto is a great transmission. I love the term “slushbox” but manual transmissions are disappearing (not even available in the C250/300/350). I was impressed enough with this tranny to make it my first automatic daily driver (and i’m 40).

    As far as looks, the front looks much more aggressive and the interior is vastly improved. I also love how the i-drive screen is mounted high so that you aren’t looking down.

    Of all the cars that I test drove, it wasn’t really the best in any category (maybe economy) but was 2nd best in most of them and that is far better then anything else on the market.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      It takes more than power and mileage numbers to make a sweet engine.

      Many posters bemoan the loss of the I6 as if BMW replaced it as part of a cruel cost-cutting joke. Regulations and market forces demanded something with noticeably improved economy while still delivering the power expected in the segment. It sounds like BMW did an excellent job with the turbo 4, but it is still a turbo 4. BMW’s NA I6 set the bar extremely high, and will be missed. Especially by people daring to own one out of warranty.

  • avatar
    lungchin

    yes – im late to the party here – but just drove a fully loaded M spec 328 – manual 6spd
    wow – what a disappointment – drive train wise… that engine is pretty lackluster –
    my 07 a3 is a more engaging drive- the audi 2.0t feels more eager , quicker – is this just me or is this new
    bmw engine a dud?


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