Sunday, June 26, 2016

Miscellany: 2013 BMW 328i review - Drei-er Lint

The sixth generation BMW 3-series has met with mixed reviews. It's still the "default" entry-level compact luxury sedan, but the current F30 chassis just isn't as sharp as previous models, and the competition is better than ever. Has the mighty 3-series fallen to second-best? Here are my impressions after 3,000 miles:


Engine - Ironically, the big change that people were worried about back in 2011 - moving from a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder to a turbo four - turned out to be one of the car's biggest strengths. The N20 is an excellent engine, making (at least) 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, but returning an honest 27ish miles per gallon in mixed city/highway driving. On long road trips, I got 30+ mpg, while still having enough pull at 80 mph to pass anything on the highway.

Transmission - This 328i has an eight-speed automatic (the 6-speed manual is a no-cost option, I think). Shifts are quick and smooth, and you can adjust the shift points by putting the car in one of three modes - "Comfort," "Sport," or "EcoPro." The modes make a big difference in the driving experience: EcoPro yields a dull throttleless journey, while Sport mode lets you sacrifice plenty of premium gas in the name of higher revs.

Interior - Though not as plush as say, a C300, the cabin is still pretty comfy. The materials are partly determined by your trim level, but even without any added options, there are soft-touch plastics and leather worked in throughout. And while the latest generation is almost as big as a 5-series from yesteryear, that also means there's room for four American-size adults (five if people are willing to skoosh each other).


Steering - BMW went to electric steering in the F30, and the reception has been almost universally negative. The steering is precise, sure, but it's also strangely light and dead-feeling. It works fine for the daily commute, but people who took the old 3-series on backroads to play will be disappointed.

Suspension - The default suspension is soft - more like an Acura or a Lexus than a traditional BMW. Again, great for riding over bumps on the highway (my rear passengers had no trouble sleeping on a 2-hour trip to the Everglades), but bad for performance.

Value - For a car that probably cost 35 grand to the original owner, it's missing a lot of basic stuff people take for granted, like a backup camera and a spare tire.


Your opinion of the current 3-series probably depends on how you are using it. If you want something that will handle 50-odd miles of commuting every day, hauling kids and groceries, and still being nice enough to take a client around in, this is a fine, fast car. But clearly something has been lost in the handling department that'll take another round of Bavarian engineering to fix.


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