The Truth About Cars » bmw 328i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 12 Sep 2014 23:54:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » bmw 328i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Backward http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/3-steps-forward-2-steps-backward/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/3-steps-forward-2-steps-backward/#comments Wed, 03 Jul 2013 16:04:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494077 230 horsepower and 3362 lbs doesn’t sound very impressive on paper. But that’s the last reason anyone buys a BMW 328i. I admit that in my numbers-obsessed adolescence, I was skeptical of the promise of a silky-smooth I6 and the intangible promise of perfect poise and balance. Why not just go straight for the 335i? […]

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230 horsepower and 3362 lbs doesn’t sound very impressive on paper. But that’s the last reason anyone buys a BMW 328i. I admit that in my numbers-obsessed adolescence, I was skeptical of the promise of a silky-smooth I6 and the intangible promise of perfect poise and balance. Why not just go straight for the 335i? And then I drove one.

It turned out that yes, the 328i really did deliver on the much vaunted promise of being one of the finest sports sedans in the world. Since then, I have longed for a naturally aspirated, manual transmission BMW. The 328i has always held a certain appeal, though I wouldn’t turn down the E90 330i, with its juiced-up 3.0L I6.

The introduction of the turbo-four BMWs has added a certain urgency to that desire, and this article by Road & Track isn’t helping matters. The guys at R&T have come to the same conclusion that many of us have over at TTAC. For all its supposed pace and efficiency, the turbo-4 can’t compare to the purity and sophistication of the I6 powertrain and the hydraulic steering system. I’m off to find one on Craigslist, hopefully not in that eggplant color.

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Review: 2012 BMW 328i Luxury Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-328i-luxury-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-328i-luxury-take-two/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2012 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453998   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 […]

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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.)

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

 

 

2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, BMW Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, headlamp, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Exterior, 328i badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Engine, 2.0L TwinPower Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Engine, 2.0L TwinPower Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, shifter and iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, iDrive, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, heads-up display, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i, Interior, heads-up display, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW 328i Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon Coming Here: Will We See A Diesel Stick-Shift? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/2013-bmw-3-series-wagon-coming-here-will-we-see-a-diesel-stick-shift/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/2013-bmw-3-series-wagon-coming-here-will-we-see-a-diesel-stick-shift/#comments Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444117 Even as the wagon Gods smile down upon on this Mother’s Day, BMW’s announcement of an all-new 2013 3-Series Wagon still has us waiting with bated breath with the announcement of not one but two diesel powertrains. We will almost certainly get the 328i, with the controversial turbo 4-cylinder engine, but BMW also announced a 320d […]

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Even as the wagon Gods smile down upon on this Mother’s Day, BMW’s announcement of an all-new 2013 3-Series Wagon still has us waiting with bated breath with the announcement of not one but two diesel powertrains.

We will almost certainly get the 328i, with the controversial turbo 4-cylinder engine, but BMW also announced a 320d and 330d. A 335i is conspicuously absent, but with two torquey oil-burners, who cares? The 320d, with 181 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque returns 52 mpg. A 330d with 250 horsepower and 358 lb-ft of torque will also be offered, but BMW is being coy, stating that American spec models will be announced at a later date.

What will be offered is xDrive all-wheel drive, all the usual overwrought F30 3-Series gadgets, and a power tailgate similar to the 2013 Ford Escape, that can be opened be sweeping your foot underneath the rear bumper. And no, we’re not sure if the diesels will get a stick shift. The 328i will surely get a 6-speed manual as well as the 8-speed T1000 Cyborg Automatic.

133serieswagon01 133serieswagon02 133serieswagon03 133serieswagon04 133serieswagon05 133serieswagon06 133serieswagon07 133serieswagon08 133serieswagon09 133serieswagon10 133serieswagon11 133serieswagon12 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 133serieswagon14 133serieswagon15 133serieswagon16 133serieswagon17 133serieswagon18 133serieswagon19 133serieswagon20 133serieswagon21 133serieswagon22 133serieswagon23 133serieswagon24 133serieswagon25 133serieswagon26 133serieswagon27 133serieswagon28 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. 2013 BMW 3-Series Wagon. Photo courtesy BMW. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: BMW 335i 6MT Sport Line http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-bmw-335i-6mt-sport-line/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-bmw-335i-6mt-sport-line/#comments Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:45:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442004 Last month we reviewed the 2012 BMW 328i and found it less than ultimate as driving machines go. But the reviewed car was a “Luxury Line” sedan with an automatic transmission. For driving enthusiasts, BMW offers the new F30 with different options, among them a larger engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a “Sport Line” trim […]

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Last month we reviewed the 2012 BMW 328i and found it less than ultimate as driving machines go. But the reviewed car was a “Luxury Line” sedan with an automatic transmission. For driving enthusiasts, BMW offers the new F30 with different options, among them a larger engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a “Sport Line” trim level, adaptive dampers, and staggered 19-inch summer tires. Check all of these boxes, and the next M3 might seem superfluous. Or not.

Red paint, blacked-out trim, and larger, five-spoke alloys dependably make a car appear sportier. It is somewhat shocking that 19-inch wheels now seem the appropriate size, aesthetically, for a 3-Series. Shod with them, the new car appears as compact as 3s used to be. The previous generation E90 looked good with mere 18s. The next M3 will likely wear dubs. Ever since reading a reader comment on Sajeev’s design critique, I cannot stop noticing the cut line at the leading edge of the hood. BMW’s previous practice of extending the hood all the way to the grille and headlights yielded a much cleaner nose.

Inside, the Sport Line is available with black, gray, or red seats, aluminum or black trim, and coral (more red) or black accents. Whoever ordered the press car went with the most conservative options, so we have classic black leather (that doesn’t look or feel much different from the standard leatherette) with bright red stitching to lend some visual interest. The aluminum trim on the center console was already knicked in a couple of places, suggesting either that it won’t hold up well or that journalists badly abuse the machinery. The Sport Line includes front bucket seats with bolsters that are both larger and (unlike on the current F10 5-Series) power-adjustable. For anyone who’ll be taking turns at speed, these are a must-have. As in the 328i, both the rear seat and trunk are much roomier than in past 3s. For those willing to forego these for a smaller, lighter, more agile car, it’s time for a four-door 1-Series.

Despite kicking out 60 more horsepower than the 328i’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four, the 335i’s 300-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six does not feel much stronger. BMW’s official test track numbers back up this impression. Pair both engines with a manual transmission, and the six is only 0.3 seconds quicker to sixty, 5.4 vs. 5.7. What gives? Through the mid-range the 50-percent-larger engine is only about 15 percent more powerful, and this is partially offset by an additional 165 pounds of mass. Peak torque is 300 pound-feet with the six, 260 with the four. Only once over 5,000 rpm is the big engine significantly more powerful. Audi’s supercharged “3.0T” feels torquier. It’s time for a new BMW six that’s as power dense as the new four.

The six of course sounds smoother, but its soundtrack is all exhaust (no whirring mechanical bits) and almost generic. BMW has offered sweeter-sounding sixes in the past. When cruising the exhaust drones a bit much. The four’s much more varied repertoire is arguably inappropriate for a $40,000+ car, but is also more interesting.

The EPA ratings suggest that the six isn’t significantly less efficient than the four. Figures for the latter paired with the automatic transmission have been revised downward from 24 city, 36 highway to 23/33. The six with the same transmission? Also 23/33. And the heavier, all-wheel-drive 528i xDrive…would you believe 22/32? Me neither. Something ain’t right. I suspect only one powertrain was retested. You take a hit with the manual transmission. In the 335i it’s rated 20 city, 30 highway. In my driving, the trip computer reported numbers from five to ten miles-per-gallon lower with the 335i 6MT than with the 328i 8AT. While I was able to “Eco Pro” the latter over 40, it proved a challenge to nudge the former over 30. In typical suburban driving, the trip computer reported low-to-mid 20s in the 335i and high 20s to low 30s in the 328i. The harder you are on the gas, the smaller the difference between the two. Count on a sizeable difference on the highway with the manual transmission: it has a shorter top gear (0.85 vs. 0.67) AND a shorter final drive ratio (3.23 vs. 3.15).

Given the manual’s lesser efficiency and equal purchase price, is there a point to it? If you have to ask this question, then no, there isn’t. (I only asked it out of journalistic obligation.) My only issue with the manual other than the fuel economy hit is that second gear can be difficult to find on a quick downshift, a byproduct of locating the lockout-free reverse to the left of first.

With the Sport Line’s sport suspension and the “M Adaptive Suspension” set to “Sport”, the new 3 does feel tighter than the Luxury Line car, but still looser than I’ve come to expect from a BMW. In turns, especially those with imperfect pavement or where you’re being a little too aggressive with the accelerator, the rear end can bobble about a bit. Somehow the car’s line isn’t disturbed, only the driver’s confidence – and not by much. The bond with the F30 isn’t as immediate as with past 3s, but one learns that, when driven with a modicum of sanity, the 335i will go precisely where you want it to go. The misbehavior some people (who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about) refer to as ”snap oversteer”? There’s none of that. Get on the go pedal in a turn and the rear end slides out progressively. Left entirely on, the stability control will cut in too soon. There’s no need to deactivate it; the Sport+ setting puts the threshold about where it ought to be. The electric power steering is no more communicative here than in other recent BMWs. Perhaps BMW reasons that, since the car virtually reads your mind, there’s no need for it to converse. I’m not sure I’d drive the 335i better with more communicative steering, but I would enjoy the experience more. EPS notwithstanding, the 335i becomes enjoyable if you can really push it, the problem being that this is rarely a legal possibility in populated areas. During my week with the 335i I constantly felt like I had to back off just as the fun was starting. I didn’t drive the 328i and 335i with the same suspension, but as best as I can tell, the car feels heavier and less agile with the six, a typical consequence of adding 165 pounds over the front wheels.

One option not on the tested car: the $300 “variable sport steering.” This isn’t the complex active steering offered in the previous 3-Steries. Instead, the steering ratio quickens more rapidly as the wheel is turned. On center, the standard steering is 15:1, the VSS 14.5:1. By the time the wheel has been turned 100 degrees (roughly the amount needed to turn at a typical intersection) the standard steering has quickened to 10.1:1, but the VSS has reduced to an ultra-quick 7.7:1. Intrigued, I dropped by a dealer to sample a car with this option. As the specs suggest, the optional system doesn’t feel much different on-center or in medium-to-large radius curves. Only in tight curves does the steering feel noticeably different, and even then, it’s only really apparent after hopping back into the car without it. The largest difference will be felt in parking lots, where fewer turns are needed to maneuver into a space. Unlike with active steering, the character of the car isn’t dramatically affected. But since VSS is only another $300, I’d opt for it.

The upside of the F30’s less sporty sport suspension? The car rides more smoothly than previous sport-suspension equipped 3ers. I could live with the suspension set to “Sport” all the time, a good thing, as the car can bounce about far too much when set to “Comfort.” (Yes, you’ll need to switch it every time you start the car.) Given the underdamped nature of the default setting, the Sport Line’s standard suspension is probably the way to go. This will also save you $900. To save another $900, stick with the Sport Line’s standard 18-inch wheels. They look and handle about as good and ride significantly better. The 19s don’t ride harshly much of the time, but hit even a small pothole and it sounds like you’ve taken out a wheel. Non-run-flat tires would likely do better, but BMW does not offer them.

Equipped with most but not all options, the tested 335i lists for $55,745. Seem like a lot for a compact sport sedan? As just noted, you can save $1,800 by doing without the 19s and adaptive dampers. If you can live without nav and a head-up display (which would be more useful if it included a tach), then you’ll remove another $2,550. Keep cutting the non-essentials, add the optional steering, and you’ll arrive at a mere $47,195.

Still too steep for a vinyl-upholstered compact sedan? Well, there’s a good way to save another $3,700. The 328i is nearly as quick, is considerably more fuel efficient (despite similar EPA ratings), and handles better. Overall, even with the various sport options the new 3-Series feels a little soft and uninvolving for my taste. BMW focused on providing a very well-rounded car, and clearly left room for a future “is” or “M Sport.” Among the current offerings, the 328i Sport Line is the one to get.

BMW provided the tested car with insurance and a tank of gas. Erhard BMW of Farmington Hills, MI, provided the car with VSS.

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

335i engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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