Ah the famed BMW 3 Series, you have had a long and successful life as the enthusiasts go-to family car. You’ve won Car & Driver’s 10 Best award twenty two times since 1992. But now you’re getting on in age, and the rivals that were once in your dust are now right by your side. What went wrong? How could BMW let you down so much? While many believe that the 3 Series has lost it’s way, the truth is the current F30 3 Series is still a brilliant car that balances crisp handling of a sports car with the practicality of a family sedan.
(Disclosure: BMW provided us with this car after our X5 had a run-in with the garage door frame at the BMW service department)
Although the F30 is the size of a 5 Series from ten years ago, the styling definitely hides the car’s size very well. In person it looks compact and low to the ground, like it’s ready to carve up a twisty mountain road. One big complaint is that this car’s MSRP is above 40 thousand dollars, yet it still uses halogens to light the road in front of it. The headlights sorta ruin the design for me, this car looks expensive, but once you come around the front it’s very disappointing to see headlights from a lesser car on a BMW.
A lot of my complaints about the headlights are redeemed by the tail-lights, I think they look awesome. Plus the dual-exhaust pipes look cool, as well as the 18-inch wheels. Painted in Jet Black with these wheels, the car definitely gives off a sporting vibe.
Interiors on BMW’s now are an affair of swoops and swishes, albeit with a little bit more of swoops than swishes. Some of the materials used are of high quality, and everything does fit just right. When I first saw the Sensatec seats I immediately thought it would be like sitting on a plasticky cheap work-van like material. But, it feels a lot like leather with a sense of versatility. This particular car has my favorite wood trim, it’s classy with a taste of modern design.
I do like the more rounded shifter that comes with the Sport-Line on the 328i. It feels better in your hands, and the park button is much bigger than it is on the regular BMW shifter. As for the steering wheel, it is leather wrapped, and the grips at 9 and 3 are great for all types of driving. On the contrary to all of these positive characteristics, there are some not-so-good qualities here. Namely, the materials on the center console are a disappointment, especially when you look at the rest of the interior and marvel at the quality of materials.
Though the 3 Series is famous in the US for it’s creamy naturally aspirated inline-six engines, the times have changed. The 3.0 liter N52 engine in the previous 328i has since been replaced with a twin-scroll turbocharged inline 4. In the 328i it makes 240 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. All of this power is routed through the now ubiquitous ZF 8-Speed automatic transmission. Once you launch, you get pushed back in your seat as the power and torque pushes the car to 60 in about 5.6 seconds. One complaint about the transmission: sometimes the downshifts can be really harsh if your going under 15 mph and quickly accelerate.
It has them, and they stop the car well.
The 3 Series is famed for balanced, tight handling, and communicative steering. However, the latter characteristic I listed is sadly missing from the F30. It’s still precise, and the steering wheel feels amazing, but if I run over a pothole, I won’t feel even the slightest jolt through the wheel. Besides that, it still has that 3 Series magic in it. 50/50 weight distribution gives this car an edge in cornering like no other car I’ve driven. I even took this car on the tightest road I could find, yet it wasn’t flummoxed by it at all.
It has the most basic version of iDrive you can get in a brand new BMW in 2016. While it does have Bluetooth, it can’t make up for the cheap screen, grainy display, and the fact it doesn’t fill up the whole module! Other features include a backup camera (which works very well), heated seats, and parking sensors. Overall, it’s a pretty basic car for the money.
With this car, you’re paying for the badge and performance. While I don’t have a specific as-tested price for this car, I did go on the BMW of North America website, and configured a 328i identical to this. The price I got there was $42,800 so I’m going to go with that as the price. While the new car experience is nice, I’d buy a CPO 328i for a lot less money and with a lot more features than this one.