BMW 328i (F30) Review

By: Nathan Ponchard

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BMW 328i F30 BMW 328i F30 BMW 328i F30

BMW 3-Series. New three ticks all the boxes, if you tick the right boxes...

BMW 328i (F30) Review
BMW 328i F30

 

BMW 328i (F30)

There are two things about the last two generations of BMW 3-Series that remain clearly etched in my memory.

The first is the brilliance of the 1998-2005 E46's chassis. No matter what variant, what engine, what suspension tune, the E46's dynamics sat head and shoulders above every rival. And at every speed. You only had to turn one corner in town to appreciate the steering's crispness and the chassis' instant poise.

The second relates to the E90 330i - that car's successor. Its magnesium-alloy six, now sadly discontinued, was bliss and likewise its hard-driven handling, but the ride! First time I drove it down Sydney's William Street, it tramlined so badly I couldn't believe it. "What happened to the E46...?"

Clearly the engineering crew at BMW HQ in Munich have been asking themselves similar questions because here we have the all-new F30 3-Series and the bloody thing rides. The E90's annoying brittleness has gone, but then so too has some of the immediacy of its steering and some of its body control. And while there's a Driving Experience Control thingy on the centre console, swapping between Comfort and Sport only changes the throttle mapping and steering weighting, not the damping.

You must order Adaptive M Suspension ($2200) to alter the dampers (then add another $400 for Variable Sport Steering), but why shouldn't every upper-engined 3-Series have the good gear standard? Otherwise, DEC reeks of gimmickry.

Pity, because the new 3-Series is a much-improved car. It looks far more elegant and better-proportioned than before, yet has 15mm more rear legroom, 8mm more headroom, wider tracks (37mm front, 47mm rear), a 480-litre boot (up 20), and a 0.26 drag coefficient. The interior is an inviting, beautifully finished place to soak up the comfort, though the standard wood in the optional Modern line (there's also Sport and Luxury lines available) looks like a Fisher Price Treehouse from the 1970s (ie. not real). Otherwise, the new colours, trims, and visual pizazz added to the F30 3-Series are a welcome improvement.

Engines are all-turbo (318d, 320d, 320i, 328i, 335i), though we only drove the 328i and 335i at launch. The 328i runs an all-new N20 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo four - effectively replacing the old 325i - and it's such a great engine that the six isn't really missed. The carry-over 3.0-litre turbo six continues with 225kW/400Nm, but a new eight-speed auto brings out its best and the exhaust note is even fruitier. You can also option a six-speed manual on all variants, but BMW expects less than 10 percent of buyers to do so.

In the right spec, the Three deserves its driver's-car status. It's terrific. But why can't there be just one you-beaut suspension tune?

 

SPECIFICATIONS

F30 BMW 328i

ENGINE: 1997cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger

POWER: 180kW @ 5000-6500rpm

TORQUE: 350Nm @ 1250-4800rpm

WEIGHT: 1430kg

GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic

0-100km/h: 6.1sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED: 250km/h (limited)

PRICE: $66,900

 

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