By on August 1, 2012

 

The 3 series has been the benchmark to which all manner of vehicles are measured. The comparisons go beyond the likes of the A4, C-Class and S60 and include things like M3 vs Camaro, 328i vs Prius. There’s a problem with your largest volume product being put on this kind of pedestal: how do you redesign it? Carefully, mildly, infrequently and only when absolutely required. With increased competition from the Audi A4, a redesigned S60 and Caddy’s new ATS, can BMW afford the same formula again? Michael Karesh got his hands on a 328i back in March, while I spent a week testing the 328i in its natural habitat: the California freeway. (Oh, and we spent some time on Lagua Seca as well.)

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Exterior

If you’re not a BMW fan, you might mistake the 2012 3-Series for its predecessor, or at the least assume this is just a different trim level of the same. Despite practically nothing being shared with the outgoing model, the exterior looks like a simple facelift with new front and rear bumpers. According to BMW, that’s just how the target demographic likes it. Since the sheetmetal is pleasing to the eye, who am I to disagree?  If you compare side profiles, you’ll find the 3-Series’ wheelbase has been extended two inches while the entire car has been stretched by four inches. The cabin-stretching results in a more balanced and elegant look than before. If you’re into BMW trivia, because of the 3-Series’ perpetual growth, the 328i is just one inch shorter than a 1998 5-Series. Aficionados will bemoan the loss of LED turn signal lamps. Why BMW chose to move one step backwards we don’t know, but their loss won’t bother many shoppers.

In an attempt to create multiple personalities for the 3-Series, the same basic sedan can be had in five different style packages: Modern, Luxury, Sport, M-Sport, and the base model. Exterior differences boil down to different bumper covers, wheels, a sport suspension upgrade on the Sport trims and different answers to the eternal question: to chrome or not to chrome?

Interior

I never cared for BMW’s “double-bump” dash look that put the infotainment screen in a binnacle of its own. Apparently it didn’t do anything for the BMW’s engineers either. For 2012, your choice of standard 6.5-inch or 8.8-inch iDrive displays is permanently fixed to the center of the dash, sans “hood.” The look is reminiscent of the last generation of pop-up Volvo Nav system, sans-pop and is far more pleasing to my eye. The new screen and the Jaguar-like volume of real-tree are clues to the baby Bimmer’s refocused mission: luxury and technology.

2012 brings more wood, metal and plastic trim options than ever before. Also on offer are several finishes for the portions of the interior you see above in matte chrome. Base models continue to come with BMW’s “leatherette” seating surfaces in two shades, while real-cow surfaces are offered in 7 shades with available piping and contrasting stitching. The front seats in our “Luxury line” tester were extremely supportive during a 4 hour road trip and selecting the “sport” seats allows a range of seat contour adjustment that is class leading. Thanks to the wheelbase stretching, rear leg room is up by a quoted 3/4 inch but the adjusted seating positions (slightly more upright) and the shape of the front seat-backs makes the rear larger. Trunk space has grown more considerably to 17 cubic feet, notably larger than even the American-sized trunk in the Lincoln MKZ, despite the considerable intrusion from the trunk hinges.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The 2012 3-Series gets the latest generation of BMW’s iDrive. The system builds upon the previous versions in small, but important ways. Keeping up with the times, BMW has swapped the CD button for a “Media” button which makes accessing your USB and iDevices easier than in the past. You’ll also find an additional USB port in the glove compartment enabling you to have two USB/iDevices plugged in at the same time with an additional device plugged into BMW’s “dock” in the center armrest.

BMW has also taken the next logical step and integrated the infotainment system with the optional heads-up display. While some may look at this as an all-new distraction, if you’re going to be browsing your playlist, you might as well do it while looking at the road. The full-color image is projected onto the windshield from an in-dash LCD that makes the electrofluorescent HUDs used by GM and Toyota look like a 1980′s flash back.

 

Our 328i tester had the “BMW Apps” package, a $250 option on-top of the $2,150 navigation system and $650 “enhanced USB” and BMW Assist (both of which are required to “app” yourself.) If you’re not a gadget freak like I am, app integration won’t matter much to you. If you like the idea of being able to download an app to enhance your infotainment system years after you buy your car, then apps are for you. The current app suite allows you to Facebook, Tweet and stream internet radio from your iPhone to the car’s radio. The twist for 2012 is an all-new Wikipedia app (that can be used on previous generation BMW vehicles with the app option as well). While this may sound silly, the Wiki app integrates with your GPS to find Wiki articles about nearby points of interest. Once a POI is selected, iDrive will download the Wiki article and using text-to-speech, it will read it to you as you roll. While Ford MyTouch has vastly superior voice command options, iDrive’s tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration make this the system to beat.

If these gadgets float your boat, they can be combined into one package for $3,100 and includes 4 years of the basic BMW Assist (BMW’s version of OnStar). Before you get too excited by the advertisements however keep in mind you have to pay an extra $199 a year for the “convenience” features of BMW Assist like Google send-to-car and the BMW concierge service.

No new European car would be complete without a bevy of luxury and convenience features, especially not the new 3-Series with its new luxury direction. The extensive list includes: blind spot monitoring, top-view camera, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, lane departure warning, collision warning, radar cruise control, speed limit help, keyless-go, variable steering, adaptive suspension and automatic high-beams. The 328i may start at $36,500, but its easy to option your entry-level 3-Series up to its $57,000 max if you’re nor careful.

Drivetrain

BMW has long been known for their silky-smooth inline sixes, but you won’t find one under the hood of the 328i. Instead, you’ll find the latest fruit of BMW’s direct-injection-turbocharged love affair: the N20. On the surface there is nothing special about BMW’s all-new, all-aluminum 2.0L turbo engine. After all, everyone from Audi to Volvo has a new 2.0L turbo four-banger, so what’s the big deal? Aside from the shock of finding an engine with 33% fewer cylinders under the hood of a 3-Series, not much, and that’s the big deal. Producing 240HP from 5,000 to 6,000RPM and 255 lb-ft of twist from 1,250 to 4,800RPM, this engine is significantly more powerful than the old 3.0L N52 six cylinder, all while being 20% more fuel-efficient and better in just about every way. Due to the nature of a gasoline direct-injection system, the N20 sounds like a quiet diesel at idle. Thankfully, inside the cabin you’d never know since BMW balanced the N20 extremely well and installed so much sound deadening material that you can’t hear the engine in normal driving.

Drive

You may not be able to hear the N20, but you can sure feel it. The Kansas-flat torque curve that drops precipitously after 6,000 RPM is a stark contrast from the old 3.0L engine that loved to sing at high RPMs. While some may miss the power delivery style of the old naturally aspirated six, the N20′s curve is a better match for the ZF 8-speed and average drivers.

The N20 isn’t just 33% shorter than the old N52, it is also 50lbs lighter and sits behind the front axle instead of above it. The effect of the weight reduction and nose-lightening is obvious out on the track where the 328i felt much more nimble than the 335i when driven back to back. The difference was far more pronounced than I had anticipated. In my book, the increased nimbleness is worth the reduction in thrust. While I’m sure my 335i laps were faster, the 328i was more fun. It’s easy to forget how hose heavy the 335i is until you have an identical car with a few pounds removed from the front.

In the 328i’s natural habitat, the urban jungle, you may find the new Start/Stop feature something of a mixed bag. As you would expect, the system turns the engine off while the transmission is in Drive, is stopped and the driver’s foot is on the brake. As you would expect this results in real improvements in city mileage, but there us a problem. The system is far from smooth.

At the heart of the BMW Start/Stop system is a beefier starter and a “glass-mat” 12-volt battery designed to handle the frequent starting. When the engine is warm and the cabin heating/cooling demands are in the right range, stopping at a light will be followed by a less than graceful shudder as the engine turns off. Next, the car turns the HVAC blower down to a gentle breeze to keep the electrical draw low. (Without a hybrid style battery, capacity is fairly low.) The car will automatically start the engine when you release the brake (or when the car decides the engine needs to run for cabin cooling.) Engine restarts are far from seamless with engine cranking, a shudder and a delay to forward progress while the ZF 8-speed’s hydraulics re-pressurize. Passengers used to smooth start/stop cycles in hybrid cars found the start/stop cycles “abrupt” and “jarring.” I found the fuel savings worth the commotion, but if your tastes differ, BMW offers an “off” button. If you live in a hot climate like Phoenix, don’t expect the system to start/stop too often.

After handing the keys for the BMW back something dawned on me. I’d miss the 328i. That’s not a statement I make lightly, or often. Previous 3-Series sedans just didn’t press the right buttons for me, but somehow the this one managed to poke just about all of them. The combination of handsome looks, good fuel economy, nimble handling and gadgets galore is a siren call for gadget geeks in their 30s. The problem? Is the 328i worth the premium? Or should you just buy a Volvo S60 or Audi A4? Unless you’re the kind of shopper willing to put down 5-Series money for a loaded 328i, then the A4 and S60 will deliver 95% of the experience for less and throw in AWD for your troubles. If however you value driving enjoyment, a slick nav and a gorgeous HUD, then the 3-Series is for you. The 3-Series’ benchmark status? Completely safe. For now.

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BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 1.65 Seconds

0-60: 5.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.25 Seconds @ 100.6 MPH

Average fuel economy: 32.8 MPG over 1,124 miles

 

 

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64 Comments on “Review: 2012 BMW 328i Luxury Take Two...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Not really a 3 series fan but if gets it back to where the fans of the car like it, then fine. I am more of a 5/7 type of guy (no I am not an athlete/entertainer/doctor/lawyer) Ok so I am a therapist but thats besides the point. Toping out at 57g for a 3 series that doesnt start with M is not my cup of tea, and before anybody writes you can get it for less. I am aware of that but 37 for something that doesnt have real dead cows is not my cup of “fill in the blank” either.

    Luckily much like Apple vs Android there are options and they are very good as well.

  • avatar
    mjz

    $57,000 option maxed? Yeesh!

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      For a car that’s uglier than its predecessor, does away with the crown jewel of the 3 series, the silky inline 6 (instead offering an admitted in this article 4 banger that sounds like a diesel, except you can’t hear any engine noise from the interior due to sound deadening material – how very un-BMW), and has an asinine stop-start system that is bound to drive anyone batshit crazy.

      Seriously, the world has gone mad. The vaunted 3 series, which was THE original and best semi-affordable true sports sedan is no more, with a crappy motor, syrupy steering, and looks only an East German mother could like.

      I’d rather have a 2005 Honda Accord than this. At least I know that I will have an uber-reliable car that has direct steering, a refined 4 cylinder under the hood, and is pleasing to the eye, while saving me $30,000 to $48,000 in the process.

      Sure, the Honda is used, with 45k to 60k miles on it, but it will still be going strong long after this 2013 fuglytastic pigdog beemer bites the dust.

      • 0 avatar
        oldfatandrich

        Deaweight, you have in a couple of paragraphs hit the nail(s) on their respective heads. What balls BMW has to imagine that this vehicle should command the better part of sixty thousand dollars. Even the editors of Car and Driver—smitten as they are by the sight of the mesmeric roundel—will at some point awake from their slumber. I am a Benz guy, but I love (from experience) the straight sixes from BMW. They are wihout equal and it make me crazy that frigging four pots are under the hoods of the 3 and 5 series sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        Toucan

        DeadWeight

        > the silky inline 6

        2012 BMW 328i
        0-60: 5.72 Seconds
        Average fuel economy: 32.8 MPG over 1,124 miles

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Toucan, what do either of those statistics, as good as they are, have to do with the quality of ‘silkiness?’

        BMW literally built its franchise on its smooth, inline 6 cylinder motors, and unless its new 4 cylinder motors provide the same qualitative feedback to the driver, at least those who ever experienced the benchmark inline 6 will know that it’s not the same.

        I’m sure that BMW can squeeze even more power out of the 4 cylinder its powering the 3 series with in certain trim levels, but that still won’t make it as good as their inline 6 cylinder for some (or many).

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        “BMW literally built its franchise on its smooth, inline 6 cylinder motors”

        No they didn’t. The 2002 – which popularized the “small sport sedan genre” and was BMW’s first breakout model in the USA – was only available with a 2.0 liter four cylinder engine.

      • 0 avatar
        kdilkington

        I test drove the new 328i recently and as an e46 330i owner, I can attest that the BMW engineers have built something special in the new 4-cylinder. It certainly doesn’t growl like the M54 engine at low speeds, but it makes up for it in power and efficiency. The steering, handling and auto transmission were on par with 3-series of the past as well. They made the car more efficient and even more fun and they added more technology and safety options than you could ever want (blind spot warning was pretty neat).

        I’m not sold on the looks yet though (I never liked the 2006-2008 looks of the e90 sedan either), but I’m sure a mid-cycle refresh and an aerokit will fix that.

  • avatar

    OVER $49,000???

    Just give me a SRT8 CHARGER.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    It still looks like it has a really artless lobotomy scar across its forehead. Maybe they’ll get serious about the styling next generation, to distract status seekers from the switch to front wheel drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Given that the competition from Lexus, Infiniti, and Cadillac is RWD (with optional AWD) what makes you think the 3 series is going to be FWD?

      The 1 Series will be FWD due to sharing a platform with the Mini. BMW has no existing front-drive architecture suitable for a 3 series sized car.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        They built the Rover 75, which shared much of its floor-pan with the E46 while being FWD. BMW could put a transverse version of the 328i’s engine in the current car if they were so inclined. They’ve been itching to switch to FWD ever since they started telling people that a majority of European customers for the 1-series already thought they were buying FWD cars. Looking at i-drive, run-flats, flame surfacing, and HPFP cars with turbos; there is nothing BMW loves so much as a stupid idea that can sweep contagiously through their model lines. Wait and see.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Those items you list like turbo engines, i-drive type interfaces and flame surfacing are not unique to BMW. Many others do that now – that doesn’t make it necessarily right.
        I would be surprised if BMW did switch the 3 series to FWD due to the heritage of the car and their motto of being the “ultimate driving machine”. They would encounter a lot of criticism, but they are confident enough (or arrogant maybe) to push through that if they thought it was right.
        At least for the next 6 years this is an academic discussion.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        i-drive and flame surfacing first infected BMW and then the sheep followed. Neither was well received, but most people are easily cowed and have no confidence in their own intellects. BMW wasn’t first in turbos, and in fact they regularly asserted that they were above turbocharging, having learned from their pioneering work with the 2002 Turbo and 745i. BMW said multi-cylinder, larger displacement, better breathing engines were the way to combine durability, sophistication, power, and autobahn economy. Turbos made no sense in a country with high cruising speeds and in cars that weren’t built to poorly written racing rules. They were bodges for car companies that couldn’t develop the M20, the M88, or the M70. BMW didn’t used to be one of those car companies.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t like the scar either—nice description, by the way—but it probably makes collision damage to the hood and grille much cheaper to repair than the E90 and especially the integrated hood/grille on the E46.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Price out one of those super-vulnerable headlight assemblies and you’ll doubt that BMW cares about repair costs. They see it as a profit center and they see their customers as short sighted, just as almost every car company does these days.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Wow, look at that tidy dash. One screen and two narrow rows of radio and HVAC buttons. And that nice tuckunder as the dash tapers underneath it all.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    The F30′s growing on me. I may purchase one in a few years and take European delivery from the BMW Welt in Munich. Make mine a 328i with a 6-speed manual, sport package, and not much else.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    A good car, but too expensive for what it is.
    You can get a comfortable 4 cyl car for considerable less money.
    Or you can get a bigger 240bhp, 332 lb-ft 6 cyl TD with all options(Citroen C5)

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “Or you can get a bigger 240bhp, 332 lb-ft 6 cyl TD with all options(Citroen C5)”

      Not in the US or Canadian markets.

    • 0 avatar
      Toucan

      > Or you can get a bigger 240bhp, 332 lb-ft 6 cyl TD with all
      > options(Citroen C5)

      Which is barely faster, some 30-50% less efficient, worse to drive, less reliable and all the value over the 3-series will be written off due to much worse residuals. It comes with less prestige too.

      Offers more space and ride comfort, though.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    With the Bangle era safely in the rear view mirror, the 3 series returns to its very conservative styling.

    For folks harumphing about the 4-cylinder engine, it’s worth mentioning that the explosion in popularity of the 3 series in the early 1980s, was all based on 4-cylinder powered cars. The BMW 6 was reserved for the larger models.

    The unfavorable comparison with the more powerful 335, which seems to be the same with all of the journos who have reviewed the two versions, illustrates very well the concept of “usable power.” While there’s no doubt that the larger engine is more powerful and has a fatter torque curve (thanks to turbo charging), the incremental increase seems to be one that most drivers never use. While the lighter weight and concentration of mass closer to the center of rotation of the car in the 4 cylinder model seems to provide noticeable benefits even under “ordinary” use. Lower purchase price and fuel consumption are just icing on the cake.

    The complaints about the price of this car, especially optioned up (e.g. “For the same dollars you could buy an X [a bigger car]” assumes that folks buy cars by the cubic inch of passenger and/or luggage volume. But if that were the case, mini vans would be bigger sellers than they are.

    Speaking personally, assuming equal “niceness” in the interior, I don’t think owning a 5-series at the price of a highly optioned 3-series really adds any value to me. Some day, perhaps, we’ll get away from the idea that a bigger car is always nicer. For me, at least, once a car is big enough to carry 2 rear seat passengers in moderate comfort for a moderate time (say, an hour), that’s big enough. I’m sure there are lots of folks like me out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      “But if that were the case, mini vans would be bigger sellers than they are.” If they make a Minivan that handles and rides like a 5/7 series then yes I would get one. I dont think that folks are putting a premium on size per say. I just believe that at a maxed out price of 57k If its got four doors I would personally would want something else. Its up to the individual to decide what is reasonable comfort for them.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I think waaaay too much is being made of that $57K loaded price tag. You will hardly ever see a 328i optioned up like that, and it is nothing new. My ’11 328i wagon could be optioned all the way to $62K, but the $45K mine retailed for is more like it. The standard will inevitably be just like it has been – Premium pkg, cold weather pkg up North, probably fewer with NAV since they all have i-Drive now, but hard to tell on that one. $40-42Kish for a sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      In the US, BMW popularity exploded in the mid-‘80s, not the early ‘80s, and the 325e and 325i were much more popular than the 318i. Nonetheless, I agree with your point that BMW need not be synonymous with straight sixes, especially given the the company’s pre-1980s history and the context of other markets.

      Not being an engineer, I’m somewhat curious as to why no one seems to be pursuing an efficient, smaller six-cylinder for reasons of refinement. Does the savings of eliminating two spark plugs, two connecting rods, etc., outweigh the cost of a forced induction system? I guess I should note that the eta engine got supplanted by BMW’s “normal” sixes relatively quickly and that the Lexus IS 250 and Infiniti G25 don’t seem to be big sellers. And perhaps it’s easier to game fuel economy testing with a turbocharged four than it is with a six cylinder.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Even a low displacement inline six is too long for conventional FWD setups (the Volvo and Daewoo apps did some weird things with the transmission). Thus, they’re only well-suited to longitudinal setups. A V6, on the other hand, can go in either way without much fuss, and most automakers don’t have the budget anymore to design both types.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ bumppy ii – Not to be snarky, but thank you for giving an answer I already knew to a question I didn’t ask. I asked about small-displacement 6′s in general vs turbo I4′s.

        To answer my own question, my guesses would be that
        - manufacturers have done the math and deemed it cheaper to create a forced induction version of an I4 family than to create a smaller-displacement version of a 6 family (though Lexus offers this in the IS).
        - it’s easier to game an economy test by staying out of the boost in a turbo I4 than it is by using cylinder deactivation in a 6.

  • avatar
    Boff

    My wife’s new 328i Sport Line 6MT with navi was CDN$46K…that’s a solid value compared to comparably equipped A4′s and S60′s. We are missing the upgraded stereo but otherwise the car has every feature we could ever want or need. Although my wife despises it, I rather like the stop-start system. I imagine myself in a GT car being dropped off the jacks and blasting out of the pits at Le Mans as I step on the clutch, bang the lever into first, rev, and pop the clutch all in one fluid motion. The car is not quite as sharp as our old 2008 328i, but this in more than made up for by the awesome tech and addictive turbo torque.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Alex – what sort of driving did you get since close to 33mpg over 1124 miles is pretty good. Was it mainly highway?

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      More specifically, did you note your average speed for those 1124 miles?

      Highway vs city driving varies wildly depending on where you live and what means city driving to you. Depending on traffic, the highway may even be worse for fuel economy than alternate routes. Average speed is a better indicator of how much open road is factored into the mix.

      For example, my commute is 45.3 miles, with 9.4 miles not on a freeway. My average speed is typically about 40-42 mph. My combined fuel economy exceeds the EPA highway rating for my car by 1.5-2 mpg; 40 mph avg is actually pretty high.

  • avatar

    Nice review, and while I’m not sure I’d pony up the bucks for a new one I might entertain a CPO off-lease in a couple of years for $15-20 less.

    Oh, and now I’ve got “Raspberry Beret” running in my head. Damn it.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Excellent review Alex! Having an E90 328i as my daily driver for the past two years I am pleased to see the introduction of lighter steering in the F30, a constant complaint from my wife (and me too) when I come back to it after driving other cars. The Bimmerphiles are wailing mightily about the loss of the inline 6, but having owned an E36 318i with a four cylinder engine back in the 90s, I don’t see this as the end of the world. More power, more torque, and vastly better fuel mileage (I average 22 MPG in mixed driving on my E90) is an easy trade off for a little more vibration and engine noise.

    Two things do bother me. I think the infotainment screen looks like it was added on as an afterthought, very poorly integrated into the dash design. Secondly, the price of these cars are starting to reach frightening levels when loaded with even just the basic accoutrements that you would expect in a luxury car. The base might be in the high 30s, but just ticking off a few boxes gets you north of $40K pretty quickly. Alas, a huge number of these cars are leased anyway, so the sticker price is mostly irrelevant to the intended audience.

    PS — Much better on the number of “actuallys” uttered. Thank you!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The schnoz of this thing is just a LITTLE too long; every time I see one, anteaters come to mind. The headlamps flowing into the double-kidney is novel, but busy and unnecessary. In fact, the whole front end is ruined by that cheap disaster of a hood cutline.

    I have no idea why designers thought that was an appropriate place for an enormous seam (it reminds me of when you open a box with a box cutter too deep and whatever’s inside also get’s cut). Perhaps they need to have a look at an 80s Hyundai Excel to see how a front end is done properly.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    For a 40-45 grand admission price, this is a very cramped car. You cannot delete iDrive or any of the electronic gizmost that distract you from driving, and you’re left wondering why you didn’t buy the cheaper, faster G37.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      I love sitting at stoplights so much that I get to the next one as fast as humanly possible.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Actually BMW does quite well with it clean driver focused interiors. Audi and Infiniti are worse offenders when it comes to distracting gizmos.

      I would agree that the G37 is a competitor but it really comes down to priorities – the BMW has better fuel economy, torque delivery, a higher quality interior and superior ergonomics but the G37 offers the more visceral driving experience in S trim(and a lower price tag).

  • avatar
    zznalg

    I bought a 2012 328i sedan Sportline with a manual transmission about a month ago. Equipped with the “basic” luxury goodies (Premium Package, Cold, Xenons, Sport Package -part of the Sportline) this car did run about 43K. And that’s without the new electronic gadgets such as nav and heads-up. But, you get is a really fine and comfortable sport sedan. To me the size is just right as I always preferred the dimensions of the E39 and earlier 5 series. The interior is spacious. I personally really like the new exterior and interior styling (although I agree that the nose line is unfortunate). The N20 motor is terrific. As an old Saab fan, I am really pleased with its pull in 6th gear at high speeds. When floored at 90mph in top gear, the car accelerates strongly and steadily. It is very reminiscent of a mid-2000s 9-3 and much stronger than the VW/Audi 2.0T at high speeds. At all other speeds and conditions, the power is also strong and dependable. With the N20, in my opinion, this car is leagues more refined than the G37 which I cross-shopped. The handling of the 328i, especially with the sport suspension, is phenomenal. The effects of the weight distribution are easily felt. This car just rotates around its vertical center axis. The handling is very fluid and extremely fun. It’s a really nice and well sorted car.

    • 0 avatar
      thesilence

      I saw one the other day without the Xenon package. I never realized these weren’t standard. Apparently, it’s an option on the A4, A5, and 328i sedan, but comes standard on the 328i coupe. Definitely glad I have them – I always enjoy seeing the LEDs reflect off the back of someone’s car when I’m behind them. Must be quite annoying for the other driver…

    • 0 avatar
      dimitris

      What are the engine revs like in 6th at common highway cruising speeds, say 65-75 mph?

      Reading elsewhere I understand that the F30 manual has a wide-ish gap between 3rd and 4th, so that 4th through 6th are more slanted towards economy. I expect that means things are quite civilized when cruising at 6th; can you confirm?

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I’m always curious about engine speed in top gear at cruising speed, especially when thinking about weaker 4 cylinders that need to be worked harder to move (think Focus SE, Cruze, etc). I think it is important if you are going to spend a lot of time on the highway.

        You can figure this out with a little bit of research. You need the following:
        - Tire diameter
        - Gear ratio of the gear you are interested in
        - Differential ratio (final drive)
        - Vehicle speed

        Math is not my strong suite, so I can’t provide the formula for how this comes together. I can however, give you a cool online calculator: http:// www. csgnetwork. com/ rpmcalc.html

        Also, detailed technical specs for the 328i 6-speed are here: https:// www. driverside. com/ specs/bmw-3series-2013-59914-130366-0

        So for the 328i:
        - Tire diameter 25.85″ (derived from 225/50/17 tire size)
        - Sixth gear ratio 0.68
        - Final drive 3.91
        - 75 mph cruising speed
        - RPM should be 2591.94

        Is this about right Alex?

  • avatar
    david42

    A couple questions for Alex:

    How does the steering compare to E90? I’ve heard that it has become lighter and less communicative.

    Does the un-hooded display screen suffer from glare?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The steering is lighter and less communicative than the E90, but honestly that is the direction of the entire market. As a result I would still call it a good-feeling steering setup compared to the competition.

      BMW made the display brighter and seems to have done a good job with the placement and with an anti-glare coating. Even in strong light visibility is good, not as good as the binnacle model, but still very good.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Speaking as an Audi owner and fan, this car is better than the A4 2.0T. The Audi is arguably better looking, although I like the looks of the F30 much more than the E90 which I always thought came off as dowdy and homely. The coupe looked good, but the sedan didn’t. Top Gear described it as “some car” and I think that description was apt. This one is at least stylish.

    Where BMW really has Audi beaten is the interior. Audi interiors used to be really special compared to the drab, all business look of a BMW or Mercedes interior. That just isn’t the case anymore.

    The B8 gen A4 and A5 interiors have just been cost cut to hell. Nearly every touch point looks and feels cheap, particularly the center stack. The very similar Q5 is only marginally better, although the full leather package (unavailable on every other US market Audi short of the A8 for some idiotic reason) helps the Q5 feel like more of a premium product.

    The A4 seats are also just hard and generally unpleasant. The S4 is a much more competitive product with vastly more comfortable seats and way better performance and handling with the rear diff upgrade.

    Audi needs to do better with the next A4 though. The refreshed C-class is every bit as nice inside as the A4, and when could you EVER say that about a C-class before? They dropped the ball.

    I’m curious what Lexus and Infiniti have up their sleeves, as both of their cars are rapidly aging and are due for retirement. Lexus seems to finally want to be taken seriously, and Infiniti has gotten their act together in terms of interior style at least, if not necessarily engine or suspension refinement.

    As it stands right now, the 5 series may no longer be the king of anything, but the 3 series still is.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Alex and Michael must the hardest working auto journalists in the business – the flow of good reviews never seems to stop.

    The fuel economy numbers are really outstanding given how fast this car is. However, I feel a little uneasy with the push for yet more refinement and away from the more visceral driving experience of past models. I am also not a fan of the restricted choice of interior trim depending on what “-line” is chosen. The silly red and black trim choice on the sports line has no business being in a $40K+ car.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Thanks Carguy! It is funny you say you dislike the luxury trend. It seems that BMW’s march towards a mainstream luxury brand has to leave a few people like yourself behind. Strangely enough it is this “BMW is the new Mercedes” drive that makes me like BMWs of today more than last decade. Your mileage will vary.

  • avatar
    marc

    I don’t see how anyone can describe the faux pop-up Nav unit as “pleasing to my eye.” It screams aftermarket add-on. Garmins look less out of place than that. For $57,000 I would expect a little more. (a lot more, actually, but this rant was only supopsed to be about the nav unit.)

    • 0 avatar
      Alwaysinthecar

      A good friend of mine has been selling BMWs for 15 years. This is the first time he’s had a lot customers feel tepid about the new 3 series. One of the biggest complaints is the stick up nav. The fact that it just sits there and looks out of place is apparently a problem for a lot of customers.

      The other issue is the convoluted way of selling the options and trims. The dealership also sells Audi (and Porsche and Mercedes), and the trim choices are more confusing to customers now than Audi’s ever were with the A4. And with the “Modern Line” trim choice, comes a very garish 3-D wood look called “fine-line pure textured” which borders on bizarre. In addition there are now 13 available model versions of the 3 series. He says customers just can’t digest it all.

      He feels it’s going to be a bad year for the 3 series. We’ll have to wait and see. Although the USA July figures for BMW (posted here on TTAC) suggest that he might be correct.

  • avatar
    spyked

    I’ve got a new Luxury Line model with nav, hud, cold weather pack, and satellite radio.

    Press the start button, and before I drive off, press the button above it to turn off the start/stop function. I really can’t believe BMW was satisfied with the implmentation of that “technology” – it’s quite ridiculous. I’d bet money that the 2014, or even a running change for 2013 F30′s have that system updated to be less jarring.

    It’s also dumb that to get a split folding rear seat you MUST purchase a cold weather package. Heated rear seats? Who needs them? I’d trade heated rear seats and heated steering wheels for just heated AND cooled front seats. It’s a RWD sedan – who’s taking a family skiing in the thing? Sheesh!

    • 0 avatar
      Alwaysinthecar

      One unhappy owner started a website about BMW’s poor implementation of stop/start. http://www.bmwautostartstop.com

      Unfortunately it was definitely not very well thought out by BMW. Porsche does it very differently. Once you turn it off, it’s off. It’s more of a “turn on start/stop” button rather than a “turn off start/stop” button. It’s more sensibly implemented on Mercedes, too.

  • avatar
    hbarnwheeler

    From the write-up: “… the 328i was more fun”
    From the video: “… the 335i, which is, of course, 300hp and a lot more fun.”

    Which is it?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Ah, the power of reflection. The video was done on day 4 out of 7, before I had time to get them both on the track. The 335i is faster in a straight line and a hoot and a half to drive, but the 328i feels more precise and nimble. This is a tough call, but in many ways I would say they both have their merits and it depends on what you value more, handling feel or straight line performance.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    In days of yore, many cars had start buttons and the column starter was high-tech for its day. I like seeing people admit these run 40-45k take come price with all the options you’d want anyway. Lust/Hate/Don’t care for the 3 series; they’re still everyone’s target.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    Perhaps they can use the technology from the M5 that pipes synthesized engine sounds through the speakers to make the four sound like a six. That should make all the fan boys happy.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Luxury? You have to be kidding. Luxury is not having your rear end pinched by seats that are harder than park benches. Leather upholstery is for the family room, not the front parlor where you greet honored guests.

    I know they are expensive, and stylish, but luxurious, not a chance. A Camry will take you wherever a Beemer can take you, and you will arrive there just as quickly with less stress from noisy gadgets and uncomfortable seating. And you will be $25,000 to the good.

    Driving a BMW is like wearing an expensive mechanical watch, everybody will know that you have more dollars than sense.

    A RR Phantom is luxurious, and even more so if you have a driver, the BMW is just way too much money for what you get.

    • 0 avatar

      My coworker bought a 2012 Camry and less than 6 months later, her “leather” seats look TERRIBLE. I’ve seen used BMW’s and Benz’s whose interior materials hold up far better. You get what you pay for.

      The word “luxury”, I feel, has shifted towards technology offerings rather than cushiness of interior materials and fine woods.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        Go for the cloth. Leather is a curse. it is for hosting rambunctious children, not cosseting sophisticated adults.

        Technology is boy toys, not luxury. Luxury is comfort, relaxation, and refinement.

        Technology is for the bored. Luxury is for the sybaritic.

    • 0 avatar
      jonnyguitar

      You make a good point. I recently had a 2012 Camry rental for a week, my daily being a BMW. I have to admit I really enjoyed the appliance like feel of the Camry. The drive was very comfortable, and the steering was even surprisingly direct, with a much nicer sense of tracking than I expected. I’d even compare it to a golf cart that happens to go at freeway speeds. You hop in, and later you hop out, with little drama in between. I even briefly entertained the idea of trading in. But I wouldn’t “love” a Camry like I do the BMW, and in the long run that has a lot to do with a cars cost over time. Your more motivated to take care of a car you love.

  • avatar

    Drove an F30 335i and 328i back to back. Daily is an e46 sport package.

    New cars-335i more power, better gadgets, worse steering.
    328i OK power, six is better than four, better gadgets, worse steering.

    A fancy heads up display isn’t going to get me to sign a 50k note, sorry, especially as the cars still feel the same.

    Drove an e90 320d in Germany. I’d put up with a turbo four for the 48 mpg, but there is NO other reason. For 40-50k I want a six.

    All carping aside, still a great, great drive on all levels. The BMW sport seat, e46, e90, or F30, head and shoulders above the “normal seat” A CPO e90 is the deal, though, and you really won’t miss much. I turned off the lane change vibrations shortly-I’ve seen it in the BMW and in an AMG Benz, and it is more annoying than helpful.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Alex – how did you obtain the numbers for the instrumented testing? Was that with your equipment at Laguna Seca, with you driving?

    I’m curious because those numbers are impressive. For some perspective, the usual suspects claim an E39 540 6-speed runs 0-60mph in 5.5s, and the 1/4 mile in 14.0s.

    BMW has basically matched V8 performance with a 4-cylinder, while achieving impressive gas mileage. In addition, every review I have read says the N20 backs up those numbers with real world performance. I’m sure the M62 in the old 5-series sounds better, but keeping that performance in a car closely matched in size while averaging over 30 mpg is good stuff. Also a much lighter nose in the bargain.

    I don’t understand all the hate on this engine. Some seem to buy cars by the cubic inch of passenger space, others focus only on cylinder count.

  • avatar
    lagunadallas

    I see a lot of pricing comments and agree that $57K is insane for a 328i. After owning 9 BMWs and 2 Porsches, both makes that have options lists that will make you dizzy, I’ve learned to custom order cars with only the essentials. You’re wasting money if you pick something off the lot with junk you don’t need. I’ve found the huge benefit to this to be at trade-in time, where the resale value of these options are a fraction of what was paid new. My last 335i convertible had just a 6-speed manual, Sport Package, and upgraded sound. A friend got a similar car loaded up and it was $10,000 more. There were loaded 2007 328i sedans on the lot at the time when I picked it up that were as expensive. Custom order and order carefully. Euro Delivery and the BMWCCA rebate also help…

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Amen. The interesting thing is that US-market BMWs used to have what I assume was the shortest options list in the industry: (1) automatic transmission, (2) leather (cloth, not vinyl being the standard offering at the time), and (3) limited-slip differential. They’ve learned a lot about bilking the consumer in the three decades since then.

  • avatar
    AC

    Do I miss the old days… in 1990 my dad gave me the keys to his 1984 520i (2.0L 6cyl), 5 speed. My first BMW :) (I think this car was never sold in the US), with less than 130hp this car was a blast to drive and you could rev it to redline all days long. Yes it wasn’t the fasted BMW in 1990 but it handled great and you could even cruise on the Autobahn with 100mph for hours.
    I wonder why BMW can not build a small 6cyl turbo engine (2L).
    Now after owning several BMWs (none less than 6cyl) doubt I will ever buy or even consider a 4cyl 328i (so much for what that “28″ used to stand for) for 35k+. What is more amazing the X1 with the same engine is seveval thousands cheaper, go figure.

  • avatar

    woww nice car!!! amazing car this !! perfect example of luxury car . I like this car . Its features are amazing . Its specifications shows that this car is going to a space in motor-word . I will love to ride this car on highways with full speed . Its interior and exterior look is amazing and well designed !!! Thanks for sharing this great information !!


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