2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Introduction

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Introduction

There are, in this uncertain life, a few certainties. Among them is the fact the BMW 3-Series is the sport sedan by which all others will be measured. Virtually inventing the concept back in the 1960’s with the 1962 BMW 1500 (the forerunner to today’s 3 Series cars)

Combining a unit body four-door sedan with a fully independent suspension system (featuring MacPherson struts and semi-trailing arms), front disc brakes, a peppy four-cylinder engine, and rear wheel drive, created a sports car that would comfortably seat four people. So exactly right was the combination, the basic formula of that car survives to this day. BMW has enjoyed the leadership position in the category ever since.

In the ensuing years, many other manufacturers have tried unsuccessfully to replicate the pathos of the BMW 3-Series. And frankly, if we are to be completely honest here, a number of them have gotten quite close.

But close don’t win no races.

In comparison after comparison, after comparison, none has ever bested BMW’s entry-level luxury-sports sedan. In fact, the BMW 3 Series routinely crowns every list of the best sports sedans, year after year after year.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Models and Prices

Completely redesigned in 2012, for this generation of the 2013 3-Series, BMW is offering four iterations of the car. Labeled Sport Line, Luxury Line, Modern Line, and M Sport, each of the packages emphasizes a specific aspect of the car’s personality through its equipment and décor.

As you might imagine, the $2,500 Sport Line carries sport seats and a more aggressive-looking interior, featuring gloss black trim where the other models employ wood. Outside the car, all of what would usually be chrome trim, save the exhaust tips, is also finished in gloss black.

The $2,100 Luxury Line trim package, while still offering strong performance, emphasizes the graceful beauty of the car in a more classic sense. High gloss wood-trim accents the interior décor along with chrome.

The $2,100 Modern Line package features satin aluminum trim, a lighter colored dash top and a dark oyster colored steering wheel. Rather than contrasting heavily as in the other trim lines, the interior colors of the Modern Line blend organically.

Building on the Sport Line, the $3,850 M Sport trim adds an M aero body kit, an M Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, M Sport wheels and a slightly lowered suspension system, M doorsills, chrome exhaust tips, and sport seats.

Additionally, each of the trim lines has a specific treatment for its key.

Base pricing for the 2013 BMW328i starts at $36,850.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Design

Sleek and distinctive, the 2013 BMW 328i’s design, while wholly different from its predecessor, looks remarkably like it as well. Remarkably, even though the new car is larger in every dimension, you almost have to see the two cars side by side to determine which is the newer model.

Further, today’s BMW lineup practically requires you to walk along the back of the cars and read their badging to tell if you’re looking at the 3 Series, 5 Series, or even the flagship 7 Series. While the sweeping hood, short front overhang, long wheelbase, and set-back greenhouse typical of BMW has always been strongly evident, at least during the Chris Bangle era of BMW design, each model had its own look.

Not any more.

It’s as if all of the imagination is gone out of the BMW styling department.

Yes, Bangle’s days were rife with critical barbs, but at least the cars all had distinct personalities. Now, the pendulum has swung way too far in the opposite direction —toward “safe”. Please understand; we do like the way the current cars look. Quite handsome, they convey gravitas in large measure. But that whole “make each model look like a progressively smaller version of the 7 Series” thing they got going now is a step too far in our estimation.

Yes, an automaker’s cars absolutely should have a familial resemblance, however they should also be able to stand own their own as individuals. The cars in the current BMW lineup simply look too much alike.

Of course, people theoretically buy a BMW to drive it, not to look at it. After all, the public has demonstrated it will buy pretty much anything with the BMW roundel on it, regardless of the way it looks.

If only GM had thought to put a BMW logo on the Pontiac Aztek.

Oh wait, BMW did it for them — the X6.

Seriously though — esthetic considerations aside — the new 3 Series design is good looking and it works well. The 2013 3218i is also both lighter and stronger than the car it replaces.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Comfort And Cargo

Of course, BMWs sell because of the way they drive — right?

With that said, the configuration of the interior may well carry more credence than the design of the exterior. And here, BMW does not fail the buyer by any measure. Specifically geared toward the act of driving, its primary controls — just as they have been in every BMW model since the 1972 5 Series — are canted toward the driver.

The 2013 BMW 328i’s seating position, control accessibility, and outward visibility are all wholly reflective of the consciousness of people who consider driving a passion, rather than a chore. With this newest 3-Series car, the company has elevated that attitude to newer heights with more performance, more luxury, more personal tech, and a more thoroughly satisfying experience overall.

Further, the 328i offers a very generous trunk for a car of its size, and if you get the optional Comfort Access feature, you can open it by waving your foot underneath the rear bumper — without touching the car. The trunk can be augmented by an optional 40:20:40 folding rear seat to extend cargo capacity inside the car. The low trunk sill makes loading items more convenient as well.

Further, where most sports sedans treat the back seat like an afterthought, the new 3 Series offers remarkable accommodation for the “other” two passengers. The planning team took full advantage of the fact the wheelbase of the new 3 Series BMW is both longer and wider than that of the original 5 Series.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Features And Controls

In addition to more comfort, there’s a higher level of standard equipment too. This includes a 6.5-inch video monitor in the center stack, as well as iDrive, Bluetooth connectivity for phones and audio, an interface for USB audio sources and iPods, an eight-speed automatic transmission, automatic start/stop, BMW’s Dynamic Driving Control with the fuel saving ECO PRO Mode, and Brake Energy Regeneration.

Intuitively placed, all of the controls are situated pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be. Our only complaint is the location of the door lock button. Positioned as it is in the center of the dash, it can be tough to access quickly if you’re standing outside the car. This would not be an issue had it been placed on the driver’s door (which is where pretty much everybody else situates that button).

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Safety And Ratings

Safety features include daytime running lights, Adaptive Headlights with variable light distribution and anti-dazzle High-Beam Assistant, dynamic brake lights, a rear view camera, Lane Departure Warning, Collision Warning, Lane Change Warning, and Speed Limit Info.

The 3 Series also incorporates pedestrian protection systems. An impact absorber is located between the bumper supports and bumper trim to reduce leg injuries, while the hood’s integrated deformation elements absorb impact energy.

Naturally, antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, front knee airbags, and side curtain airbags are standard equipment.

The National Highway Traffics safety Administration (NHTSA) grades the 3 Series sedan five out of five stars for overall crash protection. The BMW earned four stars for frontal protection and five for side protection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) scored the 3 Series “Good” in frontal-offset, side, and roof strength tests (the IIHS’s highest possible score). However, the BMW sedan was ranked as “Marginal” in the IIHS small overlap front crash test. Here, it is relevant to note few cars have been subjected to this test. Of those, the majority received a similar rating — or worse.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Engine/Fuel Economy

One of the key ingredients of any BMW automobile is the silken responsiveness of its engine. Of course, when you rely primarily upon inline six-cylinder engines, smoothness is guaranteed. In fact, the only engine capable of operating as smoothly as an inline-six is a V12, which is basically two inline sixes mated. That is, until the engineers at BMW decided to fit an inline four-cylinder engine to its cars once again.

Thanks to the miracles of direct injection, variable valve timing, and turbocharging, the 2.0-liter four fitted to the new 328i makes 240 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. Maximum torque output is achieved at 1,250 RPM. It should be noted the second generation BMW M3 sold in the US (designated E36 in BMW’s internal nomenclature) also made 240 horsepower—from a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine.

Taking advantage of the efficiencies of BMW’s TwinPower turbocharging system, the 2.0-liter four delivers power like a significantly larger engine with no discernable turbo lag whatsoever. Two separate paths (one for each pair of cylinders) feed the twin scroll turbocharger from the engine’s exhaust system. Splitting it reduces backpressure at low speeds, enabling the gases to flow more freely into the turbocharger. This improves its responsiveness tremendously, so when a demand for large amounts of output arises, pulling power from the engine is near instantaneous.

Helping achieve even greater efficiencies is BMW’s new eight-speed automatic transmission. Fast shifting and exceptionally smooth, its range of ratios is broad enough to endow relaxed cruising, high fuel efficiency, and strong response. Yet, they are also spaced rather closely so the ideal gear you need for the task at hand is readily accessible. Additionally, the eight-speed automatic transmission permits manual shifting so you can engage the road on your own terms. If you’re the sort who prefers an even more sporty character, there’s a sport version of the eight-speed fitted to 3-Series cars with Sport Line and M Sport packages. Naturally, a six-speed manual transmission is available as well.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Driving Impressions

Having settled behind the wheel without looking at the badge on the rear of the car, we actually had to be told the car we were driving was fitted with the two-liter four. In addition to its satisfying power output, somehow the magicians in Munich made the four sound like an inline six.

BMW quotes a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds, which, remarkably is just a tenth of a second slower than that E36 M3. Of course, if that isn’t enough for you, the 3.0-liter inline six is again available with TwinPower turbocharging as well. Offered as the 335i, the engine accelerates the car to 60 in 5.4 seconds.

Meanwhile the agility, responsiveness and smoothness expected of a BMW are well represented. More than anything else, what sets a BMW apart from all other cars is the fluidly smooth manner in which it accomplishes the task of driving. The sophistication of the dynamics of a BMW makes most other cars feel positively crude by comparison.

You’re going to like the way this car feels going down the road.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Final Thoughts

Absolutely nothing else feels like a BMW on the move.

For years, this was attributable primarily to the fact BMW stuck with the creamy smooth inline six, while everyone else went to V6 powerplants. With this new turbocharged, direct injected, variable valve timing four-cylinder engine, BMW has demonstrated smoothness is simply inherent to its nature.

That the company can achieve the performance and smoothness of its vaunted six-cylinder engines with the fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine is a remarkable feat. For 2013, they’re taking it a step farther with an even smaller displacement four in the 320i sedan. Additionally, a wagon and a high-roof GT model are coming on line as well. These developments add versatility to the already long list of virtues surrounding BMW’s 3 Series product line.

2013 BMW 328i Road Test And Review: Pros And Cons

Pros:

• Delightful performance

• Strong cachet

• Strong feature set

• Good fuel economy

Cons:

• Price ratchets up quickly if you start in on the options list

• Inconvenient positioning of door-lock button

• Interior storage could be a bit more generous

By Lyndon Bell