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BY Angie Fisher | autoweek.com
Summary: We put the 2012 BMW 328i sedan to the test as a sport sedan and family hauler.
What is it?
Enthusiasts consider the BMW 3-series the benchmark for sport sedans — it is fun and engaging every time you climb behind the wheel, and still delivers a practical package you can live with.
For 2012, the BMW 3-series was redesigned, growing in size and now incorporating a turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the base model.
The 3-series can be configured in sedan, coupe or convertible body styles, and in four-cylinder 328i form, the more powerful six-cylinder 335i or the all-new hybrid 3-series. If all those body-style and model-number designations aren’t enough, for the first time, the 3-series will be categorized by content packages too: Sport Line, Modern Line and Luxury Line configurations are differentiated by look and basic content, with unique 18-inch wheels, grille treatments and trim pieces separating them. Sport models are highlighted with high-gloss black inside and out, while Luxury Lines get chrome features and Modern ones get brushed aluminum. Confused yet?
We tested a 328i Sport sedan with the turbocharged I4 engine, sport-tuned suspension and leatherette-clad sport seats with red stitching (Modern and Luxury Line models get standard leather seating).
Our tester was equipped with extra features like the Premium and Technology packages as well as an adaptive M sport suspension, taking our base 328i sedan from $35,795 to $50,120 — quite the price jump, particularly considering the car still has just four cylinders and leatherette seating.
What’s it like to live with?
Ask any enthusiast if the BMW 3-series is worth the high sticker price and wait for the resounding “yes.” As one Autoweek editor wrote: “A red car with leather seats, a turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual — that’s a formula for fun driving.”
And it really is true what they say about German engineering — from steering to shifting to acceleration, everything about the sedan was just right for enthusiastic driving.
We understand though that we aren’t all fanatical driving enthusiasts. A $50,000 vehicle should provide more than fun driving dynamics, and to our delight the 328i as equipped was a treat for daily commuting, too. It is loaded with safety features, fuel-efficient technology and proved plenty spacious for passengers and cargo.
The new turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a smooth performer, and is just as powerful (and more efficient) than a comparable nonturbo six-cylinder engine. Acceleration was strong, and we love how the sport-tuned suspension hugged roads.
The new BMW 3-series models also feature a Driving Experience Control, so drivers can choose from comfort, sport and sport + settings, along with a fuel-efficient Eco Pro mode. The difference in driving modes is apparent as soon as the button is switched.
Comfort mode is the best for commuting, supplying enough power for expressway traffic while softening up the ride for passengers. Sport mode is best for when you have a little space in which to have fun — as soon as Sport is called up, the steering wheel stiffens and the throttle becomes a little more liberal. The sport + mode turns off traction control, so it is best for closed-course events that put the Bimmer to the test. Eco Pro mode decreases acceleration and uses the auto stop/start engine function, which turns the engine off when the car is at a stop. We found the auto stop/start to be irritating in stop-and-go traffic, and the lackluster acceleration dull enough to only use this mode when in a serious fuel crunch.
As we mentioned, the 3-series was redesigned for 2012, and it has grown moderately in size compared to its predecessor. Back seat passengers will appreciate a noticeable increase in leg- and headroom, thanks to the larger dimensions. The cargo area is also generous, and with the optional split-folding rear seats will fit most families’ needs. The interior is nicely appointed with premium materials and in-car technology. But before you start shopping, bring out your calculator:
The 2012 BMW 328i starts at $34,900. We added the aforementioned Sport Line ($2,500) for interior upgrades like a darker headliner, sport seats and a leather steering wheel, which felt more sporty than comfortable. The Premium package ($3,600) added a moonroof and convenience features such as power front seats with lumbar support and auto-dimming mirrors. We also added Premium sound ($950), the Technology package with navigation and head-up display ($2,550), a split fold-down-rear seat ($475), heated front seats ($500), parking assistance ($750) and xenon headlights ($900). (See the full package breakdowns below.)
Some of these features are extra, but a lot of them, such as heated seats and a navigation system, are things we would expect on a BMW. The bottom line is, if shopping for a 3-series, base prices are just a starting point and you should expect the luxury extras to add up.
Who should consider this car?
Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the status of owning a Bimmer, and the solid driving dynamics. Enthusiasts may also be willing to skip some of the luxury features in order to keep this sports sedan affordable — just don’t expect to find a stripped-down model on your BMW dealer’s lot.
Families who are shopping small luxury sedans will also appreciate features like BMW’s advanced-safety system and the iDrive system with 6.5-inch full-color flat-screen display.
What other cars should I consider?
For another sporty option, check out the Acura TL, which you can buy similarly equipped for about $4,000 less. The Audi A4 is also a worthy 3-series competitor, and will provide exceptional style and luxury; as with the BMW, though, Audi options add significantly to the car’s base price.
Base price: $35,795
As tested: $50,120
Safety Rating: 5 stars/”Good” (NHTSA/IIHS), seven airbags
EPA (city/highway/combined): 23/34/27 mpg
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged DOHC I4
Horsepower: 240 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 255 lb-ft @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
Drivetrain: RWD, six-speed manual transmission
Passenger room: 96 cubic ft.
Cargo room: 13 cubic ft.
Towing/payload capacity: not rated
Curb weight: 3,406 lbs.
Options: Premium package with universal garage-door opener, Comfort Access keyless entry, moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power front seats, lumbar support ($3,600); Technology package with navigation system, head-up display ($2,550); Sports line with sports leather steering wheel, 18-inch light alloy wheels, door mirror caps in black, sport seats, brushed aluminum trim, highlight trim finishers in coral, Anthracite headliner ($2,500); premium sound package with Harman/Kardon surround sound, satellite radio with one-year subscription ($950); adaptive M suspension ($900); xenon headlights ($900); park distance control ($750); BMW Assist with enhanced Bluetooth and USB ($650); Melbourne red metallic exterior paint ($550); heated front seats ($500); split fold-down rear seat ($475).
Disclaimer: It should be noted that no financial compensation is exchanged in the content partnership between becarchic.com and autoweek.com. The autoweek.com content is published here as part of that partnership, and the opinions expressed within that content are strictly those of the autoweek.com editors.
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