By on April 18, 2013

Last week, Matt Hardigree suggested that new-car intenders consider the 320i ZSP + ZMT, which offers a staggering 180 horsepower and a stick shift for a middling $35,000 or thereabouts. I’m personally very excited by this because I learned how to drive in a BMW with about the same weight, power, and sticker price. On the other hand, it’s a considerable step backwards from the 330i Sport I had from 2001 to 2004, so maybe not.

Since we’re big Jalopnik fans here at TTAC, we’re going to put our money where their mouth is. Plus a little.

I’ve been riding BMX and mountain bikes with my pal “El Jefe” since 1998 or thereabouts. In those years, I’ve driven him all over the Midwest in conveyances ranging from an ’82 Quantum Coupe to a Range Rover 4.0S. It’s time for him to return the favor, so he’s placed an order for the car you see above — a 328i M Sport in Estoril Blue. We’ll be doing all the stuff you aren’t supposed to do in a press car, like bouncing it off the speed limiter and jumping it off curbs and who knows what else. And when all that’s over we’ll give you, the TTAC reader, a chance to buy it.

I wouldn’t do that, were I you.

The order is “locked” but not built yet, so if anybody has a convincing reason why it shouldn’t be specced like you see, speak now or forever hold your peace.

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82 Comments on “Alright, Jalopnik, We’ll See Your 320i and Raise You...”


  • avatar
    bwright1991

    Your friend should have gotten an ATS. Handles better and looks better.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Have you driven them, or are you reiterating what Motor Trend told you? WIth that said, I’m not a fan of either.

      • 0 avatar
        bwright1991

        I have driven both. The Cadillac is nicer to look at, has a nicer interior, handles better while being more comfortable, and is better equipped. The only things the latest 3 series is equal or better at than the ATS is acceleration and badge snobbery and both of those things are meaningless on the street.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I agree with you, with the exception being that—in an ironic twist of roles—I found the ATS’s rear seats to be lacking in space. At 5′ 10″, I was unable to comfortably sit behind someone my own height…

    • 0 avatar
      becauseCAR

      I agree with you completely. Having driven a 328i M Sport (automatic) and an ATS 2.0T (automatic as well), the BMW actually doesn’t have the driving feel that the Cadillac has. Also, the ATS looks good in person.

      The best part about the ATS is that GM got the chassis tuning completely down so I know exactly what the car is doing in the corners. In the BMW, there are so many modes to put the car in (Sport, Sport+) that it simply confuses the driving experience, and the car feels vague through the steering.

  • avatar

    When you are done with it, before you sell it, let me take it on an absurd roadtrip. Like the ALCAN, Copper Canyon in Mexico or some really bad idea, maybe the B&B can imagine something.

  • avatar
    ajla

    New vehicles like the Encore, CLA, Cherokee, and 320i are some of the greatest automobiles of all time and we should all be thankful that we have the privilege to purchase to them.

  • avatar
    jco

    man, I don’t even like BMWs and I like that car. i’d choose white/tan rather than blue, but otherwise it’s a nice looking car. go for it! look forward to the stories.

    and honestly, a turbo 4 putting out what’s probably a conservative 180hp rating, I don’t think it would bother me. slow(ish) car driven fast vs fast car slow, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “El Jefe” is getting the 328i(240hp/260tq) not the 320i(181hp/184tq).

      • 0 avatar
        jco

        oh I had to re-read the article to see that. or I could have clicked on the image which I didn’t.

        so why are we talking about the 320i at $35k when you’re spec’ing out a 328i for $44k? the higher price point puts it in competition with a lot of other possibly more interesting cars.

  • avatar
    James2

    BMW ought to fire its design staff and start from scratch. The car looks heavy and dumpy, especially down low.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    “so if anybody has a convincing reason why it shouldn’t be specced like you see, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

    “Matt Hardigree suggested that new-car intenders consider the 320i ZSP + ZMT”

    I’d never listen to Matt Hardigree.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    I’m sure this car is faster in the real world than 180HP rating suggests. BMW often underrated its engines in the past. They basically give you a discount if you can stomach the 320i badge. Moreover, this probably will be nice car for tuning, specially once warranty period is over. Some folks on BMW forums have already analyzed the differences between this and 328i engine. It’s not much. Only ECU is different and pistons.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “320i ZSP + ZMT, which offers a staggering 180 horsepower and a stick shift for a middling $35,000 or thereabouts”

    Listen to what you’re saying. $35K for a 180hp stripped down turd. Theres a damn good reason they’ll sell none of these.

    No, I will not listen to Matt Hardigree. Instead I will listen to the roar of the Hemi engine in twice the car of the 320i for the same price.

  • avatar
    dude500

    How about buying the 320i instead of the 328i?

  • avatar
    hubcap

    El Jefe’s desires are his and his alone. My money would go to a CPO 335i or maybe even a 2008-2010 M3. But if you want something new, I believe 43k puts you right around BOSS 302 territory.

    • 0 avatar
      Caboose

      …or knocking on the door of SRT8 money.

      …or TWO Toyobaru Furrses/Burrzez.

      …or THREE Fiat 500s.

      …or, um, about SIX late-’90s W210-body E-Class Mercs.

  • avatar
    cartoon

    The car shown on the configurator is $43,000, not $35,000-ish. There is lot’s of competition at this price point.

  • avatar
    ash78

    In the real-world American car buying landscape, I bet these things collect a lot of dust on dealer lots, only to be sold after the next model year is already available (and for $28k or so). YMMV, but I’m also leaning towards a 2-3-year-old 335 model for probably around the same price, with some factory warranty and maybe a CPO extension on it (to protect against Snail Fail or other eventualities).

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Wow. Your friend knows that “returning the favor” will cost him far more than all your roadtrips right? This car will easily be worth 25% less at the end of the first year of him driving it. More power to him if he can burn that amount of cash on a car purchase.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    A few weeks back on auto trader there was a brand new, manual transmission, stripper 328 sedan in red being advertised for 36K here in the bay area. I think I would go with that over the 320 or your m sport, were I so inclined.

  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    I say drop the leather. The fake leather in these is fine and requires much less upkeep.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      The BMW fake leather is not bad (and the BMW real leather is stiff and hard feeling), but it does trap quite a bit of heat. So it’s not good for warm climates.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Or cold climates if you don’t spring for the seat heaters in the cold weather package.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          It drives me nuts to see BMWs (or any luxury car) without the seat heaters, unless they are Texas or Arizona cars or something. Even in SF there are plenty of days where you can make use of them.

          I can’t follow the logic of why someone would pay to buy or even lease a BMW and then question the value of adding seat heaters that probably represent just over 1% of the MSRP.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “Even in SF there are plenty of days where you can make use of them.”

            “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” (not actually said by Mark Twain)

            They’re even useful in LA. It’s one of those options that hurts resale value if you don’t get it (not to imply that you will ever get the money back, just that your car will sell faster and for more money).

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    Im an admitted bmw fanboy. I currently have a 08 135i and a 87 325e, and i love both of them.

    I took my car in for service and got a brand new 328 loaner. I was pretty disappointed in it. The turbo 4 really wasnt bad at all, the car was quick! Interior was nice, no issues there. But the bad things really overshadow the good. Its fat, and the 3 just keeps growing every generation, you can REALLY feel the weight. The runflats were some of the worst tires i have every driven. The electric steering is atrocious in feel. Looks are very subjective so im not going to go there.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    If it was my car, I would at least add heated seats, and xenon lights

    Also there is a ‘free option’: “Increased top speed limiter w/Performance Tires”

    I’m guessing you get summer only tires, and they remove the limiter? I’d choose that just because its ‘free’

    Personal taste would use “Dark Burl Walnut wood trim” vs the aluminum.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    Totally not worth it IMHO. Got my Boss 302 for pretty much the same money, but I got a much better car. I’ll never understand why people pay so much for BMW’s, I simply dont find them impressive in any way.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      I swear I’m not trying to be a troll here – this is an honest question: how is your transmission?

      • 0 avatar
        Pinzgauer

        Great actually. I did install a Barton 2 post to get rid of that cheesy rubber bushing which can cause you to miss 3rd when you’re romping on it. The Boss has a factory short throw shifter and once the trans warms up it shifts really nicely. I was worried slightly after reading all the MT-82 threads out there but I can say mine shifts great. And I came from a Miata, which had one of the best to shift transmissions ever made.

    • 0 avatar
      lowsodium

      No one cross shops a mustang and a bmw. Different cars. The mustang has good HP, but its cheap everywhere else.

      • 0 avatar
        Pinzgauer

        See thats the thing, I have never sat in a BMW and been impressed with it in any way. I’v ridden in and driven my fair share of them, X5′s,3 series, 5 series, 7 series, and each time I just feel that its not worth the cost at all and reaffirm that I would never spend my own money on one. But hey thats just me and I’m sure Im an outlier judging by the number of Beemers parked near my Stang in the parking lot here at work.

        • 0 avatar
          E46M3_333

          BMWs are a better value when bought used. My 2003 M3 convertible was only $23K when I picked it up in 2010 with 36K miles on it.

          I’m less impressed with the newer BMWs. The styling has gone off the rails for one thing.

          • 0 avatar
            hubcap

            “BMWs are a better value when bought used.”

            We have a winnah!.

            Not only are BMW’s a better value used but most expensive luxury cars are especially if you’re not afraid of turning a wrench every now and then.

            I’ve got my feelers out for a 2008-2009 E90 M3 and I’m curious to see what a M6 Gran Coupe and a F-Type will be valued at in three years.

            Anyway dear ones, isn’t it great to have someone else tackle the depreciation beast.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        hasn’t stopped people from asking me why I bought a Mustang GT when I “could have had a couple-year-old 3-series for not much more.”

      • 0 avatar
        mbaruth

        Says somebody who has never driven a Boss 302.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        This “nobody cross shops blah blah” stuff is cliche. Any car guy with 44k to spend is going to consider all his options even if only briefly. Not everyone has a narrowly defined definition of motoring satisfaction that allows only one specific class of car to enter it.

        It helps to know what the products are about, it surprises me someone actually thinks a Boss Mustang is a two door 328 with way more HP. The BMW would be a hard sell to that sort of person. Way different tools for way different jobs, apparently hard to understand for some.

        • 0 avatar
          mbaruth

          The benchmark for the development team at Ford when they were working on the Boss 302 was the M3 coupe, which I think everybody knows at this point.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Not that the Boss equals an M3 in all ways, still a live axle car with a low end interior. I don’t think the Ford guys expect to make the same car for thousands less. They certainly seem to have hit the performance target.

            I’m not advancing any domestic or import agenda like many here, just pointing out they are different products for different uses for different buyers, a point some seem to miss.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Boss 302s are track cars so the live rear axle is a bonus. IRS doesn’t give you much better quality ride on a performance car like the M3 anyway. I hope you’re not driving either at 8+/10ths on pubic streets.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I must be missing something, does it weigh less than 2200 lbs?

    That’s economy car power for premium price

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    I saw that post over at Jalopnik and it did make me think for a bit. Either the 328i is overpriced or the 320i is underpriced. I’m not wading into that debate however.

    But look at the sport package! On the 320i it is $1300 and comes with the M Sport suspension, staggered 18″ wheels, an Anthracite headliner, the M steering wheel and the sport seats. On the 328i, the sport package is $3800 and comes with all of the above, plus an “aerodynamic kit” and the M suspension is “adaptive”.

    Is that worth an extra $2500? If you’re just looking for a fun car to drive I highly doubt it.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      320i sport package is a steal if those numbers are right. I’ve always thought BMW’s sport packages were a great value – something you don’t get to say often about anything BMW.

      Of course they kinda ruined it on the 328i. I’ll pass on the body kit and adaptive suspension at most any price.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    The best BMW going right now is a CPO final model (2011) E90 (the E92 was on average about $3K MSRP more expensive and thus carries a higher used price tag too). It will turn circles around an F30 and still look fresh. You can perform national searches (including specifying a manual transmission) on the bmwusa site too.

    Jack, I see your 328i and I raise you a sweet CPO wagon with 6MT for $28.9K asking! —> bit.ly/15oWsfp

  • avatar
    carguy

    “Since we’re big Jalopnik fans here at TTAC”

    You too could follow their formula of three posts a day: one a lame top ten list, the second a non automotive related story and then maybe something that Autoblog published a few hours earlier. Done. You can go home.

  • avatar
    carguy

    The E30 is a big disappointment. The electric power steering is light and numb like that of a Camry, the DI engine sounds like a diesel, the outsized hood limits visibility and the combination of run flats and a softer suspension deliver a jittery ride with less precise handling. Maybe the best way to respond to Matt Hardigree is to buy a new Mazda6 and save $20K.

  • avatar
    gourami74

    Why not order it via European delivery and pick it up for a trip to the Nurburgring and autobahn.

    The savings of the euro delivery should pay for the air fare and would be a great trip.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Could you just get a much nicer car to begin with? I just really don’t feel any love for this latest generation 3 series. It looks awful and the weight gain is unattractive. Surely you could do better for your money (and without even glancing at the used car market).

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Verano Turbo?

      I say this without driving either a Verano or an F30. But by just about all accounts the F30 is bloated and overweight, with steering that a company with BMW’s history should be embarrassed about. RWD only goes so far. If the car doesn’t drive well and you are left with a small but heavy luxury car, might as well give the Verano a shot and save thousands.

      I’m not sure if the Verano’s interior is as quite as nice, but I haven’t heard any complaints. Everyone agrees it is comfortable and supremely quiet. Most say handling is competent if not exactly sporty. It has a more powerful engine. I don’t see the downside to at least considering it shopping in the small luxury segment.

      If more sport is your thing, save even more with the Focus ST.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I’m driving a loaded non-turbo Verano this week. While it IS nice, it does not have a sporting bone in its body. It is a BUICK in the historical sense. Soft, quiet, wafty, and the steering is terrible. Unless they button down the Turbo one heck of a lot more, it is not in the same universe as even the F30 3-series.

        As for the BMW on order – I would go for the sport line option without the overpriced and ugly M-sport kit. On my E91, I didn’t get the sport package at all, too firm for New England roads and the big bolstered seats do not agree with my ample backside. The F30 NEEDS the sport line option though, I agree the others are too soft. I don’t mind the lighter steering, I think the E9x steering is ludicrously and unnecessarily heavy.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “But by just about all accounts the F30 is bloated and overweight,”

        The 320i is lighter than a Verano.

  • avatar
    sdb8440

    As an owner of a 2007 328xi who has had extended time in the new 320i and 328xi, I think that all three cars have their strengths and weaknesses;

    E90 is more direct, better road feel and has the sweet singing inline 6 that is music to our family’s ears (3 yr old included. Downsides are it is slightly cramped and the ride over our broken Calgary pavement and frost heaves can be jarring with the run flats. We like the car a lot.

    F30 (s) have a usable amount of extra space, but, I think the seats are not as good as the E90 and lord how I detest the computerization of even basic controls via idrive. Drove the 320 first and was impressed with the pep for up to 60km (35 mph, but it tappers form there. A slightly softer ride was appreciated and was still able to precisely throw the car through the corners, though the steering was too light in comparison. The big turn off was the crashing of the rear suspension over potholes and bumps…made me think I was driving my dad’s 2003 Altima. Same sound form the 328, plus the clatter of it’s desiel 4 banger. On the upside it was quick as hell and observed fuel economy was about 15% better.

    Styling is so subjective, just like taste, so no comments either way

    All in all we don’t like the car as much as the one we have now, especially factoring the price, but the ATS is even smaller than our e90 so we are on to something else that has yet to be determined.

  • avatar

    You could buy somewhere between 8 and 9 El Caminos (or similarly awesome driver-grade classics) with that kind of money.

    …ok fine, I’ll be reasonable:
    You could buy 5 El Caminos (or similarly awesome driver-grade classics) and outfit an over-the-top awesome garage and tool collection for that kind of money.

  • avatar
    Boff

    This article really made me reflect on the 3 BMW’s we’ve had…first an E46 325iT wagon 5MT, then an E90 328i 6MT, now an F30 328i 6MT. The E46 was truly like a sports car with a thin veneer of luxury and practicality. It sounded the best and felt the best and it certainly was the most analogue of the bunch. The F30 has lost pretty much all of that sports car vibe, but it is a heck of a lot quicker and has amazing gadgets (which I personally love). It also scores about 30% better fuel economy, at least. The E90 was in between the two in all respects. The worst part of the F30 is the terribly numb steering and also I can’t seem to make friends with the clutch, while the clutch was sublime in the older cars. I personally lament the change in character of the 3 series, but my wife absolutely adores the car (it is her daily driver) even more than she adored the previous ones. She never gave a hoot about driving until we got the E46.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the 1-series and it is more reminiscent of the E46 than either the E90 or F30.

  • avatar
    Ion

    Does it have a leather steering wheel? I was floored to be in a previous gen 3-series coupe that had a plastic wheel. I guess a cheap steering wheel is okay so long as a robot arm hands you your seatbelt.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    I know! Throw away another 15k and get a GS 350 AWD F-Sport. The difference in depreciation is substantial, the car is heavy as all heck like the BMW, and they let me drive one for a 5 day loaner so I’m all happy with them.

    Or get a used GT and add fast with the leftover $.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    BMW’s prices are ridiculous. Do you have a tentative delivery date yet?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Evidently not ridiculous, considering they set sales records every year with them in the US.

      Ultimately BMW, like every car company, is in the business of selling cars and making money. They are only slightly in the business of making enthusiasts happy. They are nice enough to allow you to spec a car that WILL make an enthusiast happy for the most part. Spec’d correctly, an F30 is still very much a fine driving machine. Spec’s like most of the 328i’s on dealer lots, and I agree they are a verging on being a very expensive Camry. And also, you still have to also look at the competition too – while the F30 is no 2002, it is also leagues more involving than a C250 or an A4. The ATS is not really in the same class, IMHO. The Volvo S60 and the Lexi and Infiniti aren’t either.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Jack – would love to read capsule reviews of the cars you have owned. You mention them in many of your stories, but the 733i is the only review I can think of. Just coordinate with Doug in case your car history overlaps.

  • avatar
    Power6

    I’d spring $900 for the HID lighting, a good driver’s car should have decent headlights.

    Funny 44k gets you an otherwise stripped m-sport, don’t expect any toys like heated seats or a sunroof.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      HIDs are just a stupid fashion fad. Seriously. I can’t believe some people think that driver’s car has to have them. People with the HIDs are the most annoying drivers on the road. I never had issues with seeing the road with the normal bulbs. I do have the issue with being blinded on a narrow road by an on coming car. What is this stupid blue light? Oh! Another POS Civic, Corolla or 15 years old SUV with these upgraded stupid lights. Nothing scream more of a bad taste than having those lights.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Get a different color. There’s a reason that one is called “no sale blue” on the used lot down at the luxury car store. And given that the 3-series is a chick car, or that a chick will probably have to approve the purchase of said vee-hickle, you’d better get the seat heaters.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Estoril Blue is EXCLUSIVE to the M-Sport, and will be a much easier sell than any of the other (few) colors offered with the M-sport package. People who are looking for an M-Sport car will be looking for it to be blue.

      I too would (and did) get the cold weather package, what’s another $900 or so on a $44K car.

  • avatar

    Ya know, I’m getting sick of hearing BMW fanboyz harping on about how their cars are “totally underrated brah, it’s got like 50 more hp than they say it does”. We heard the same shit from the Muscle Car bros, and they were wrong too.

    More likely is that they are simply NOT exaggerating their ratings like everyone else always has.

  • avatar
    Peter S.

    My new 320i, factory-ordered, with sport package, picked up 15 May 2013, now has over 300 miles on the odo and I think it’s a terrific car for the money, and a worthy replacement for my 2003 E46 sport package, with 150,000 miles on it. I went basic, with the sport package (and metallic paint) as my only options. Within sport package, I went with the staggered wheels/summer performance tire option. The sport seats are better than my Ricaro’s of the past, the M steering wheel is superb, and the short M-shifter is the best shifting car I’ve ever owned. So far, I’ve only driven it with the auto-stop feature turned off, with Sport mode on, and with DSC turned off, while staying within the 1200-miles breaking-in limits of no more than 4500 rpm. A wonderful car!

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      This sounds like a great car for a value conscious buyer who wants to have a genuine BMW experience without loading a car with many expensive options. I am seriously considering this for my next purchase two. I am thinking red color, 6MT, Sport Package, and maybe.. maybe the Navi. The cool thing about this car is that it’s effectively a de-tuned 328. There was a lot of discussion about this. It turns out that 320 is pretty much the same car as 328, same parts, only electronics and cylinder heads are different. 320i is running only 8psi pressure. This means that the 320i can be pretty much safely tuned to 328i level with a simple chip. Not that I advise getting the chip now, but down the road once the car is out of warranty, this will be a the mother of all upgrades.


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