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      11-16-2011, 07:38 PM   #1
justinnum1
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Post Motor Trend F30 3 Series (328i) Review

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Review: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/...s_first_drive/

November 16, 2011

Do this bigger BMW's new turbo-four and electric steering compute?

Never have we approached the first drive of a new 3 series with more trepidation. Our beloved sport sedan has experienced another disconcerting growth spurt, adding 3.7 inches in length and 0.4 inch in height to gain 3.5 cubic feet of passenger space and one more cube in the trunk. Its sublime hydraulic power steering assist has been benched for a choice of electric setups, and the entry-level 328i trades its turbine-smooth inline-six for a blown four-banger. This could easily go either way, and if this F30 edition of the breadwinning 3 has been botched, BMW's in for a world of hurt.

There are, of course, mitigating factors. Weight savings due to expanded use of higher strength steels in the body structure, the lighter base engine, and increased use of plastics, composites, and aluminum in the interior and chassis mean that an equivalently equipped 328i scales 88 pounds lighter than its predecessor, maintaining an ideal 50/50 balance. And thanks to the triple threat of direct injection, new faster-acting Valvetronic timing and lift, and a twin-scroll turbo, the new N20 2.0-liter spools out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque--that's 10 more horses and 60 extra lb-ft (delivered 1500 rpm earlier) than in the old I-6. Our beloved N55 turbo-six continues to serve up 300 horses and 300 lb-ft in the 335i. And -- not that 3-series buyers obsess about such things -- but a new eight-speed automatic, improved aerodynamics (0.26 Cd, down from 0.29 for the old 328i), and variable-output coolant and oil pumps combine to boost fuel economy a little in the 335 and a lot in the 328. (The N20 in the 528i earns a 23/34-mpg rating while the old six-cylinder 328i got 18/28.)

Armed with the above info, we boarded a bird for Barcelona, where our first bleary-eyed impressions of Christopher Weil's restyle were positive. The aero-sleek nose is the most striking aspect of the car, bearing a passing resemblance to the Z4's. The kidney grilles and headlamps are widened to the point of touching, in a way that looks like someone power-washed the nose too hard, removing the soft trim that usually separates the lights from the grille. With key in hand, we settle in for a long drive in the Collserola hills surrounding the city. In front and in back, the car feels roomier. The 1.9-inch wheelbase stretch was used to add a half inch of legroom in both rows while lowering the front seats enough to boost headroom by 1.8 inches (rear heads enjoy 0.2 inch more clearance). The clean, new dash looks less massive, thanks to a slim, permanently affixed standard iDrive display, and an available full-color head-up display projects navigation, speed, and speed-limit info right out in the driver's field of view.

To simplify dealer ordering, many former options have been rolled into four comprehensive packages: Modern, Luxury, Sport, and M-Sport (the last arrives in July).They're differentiated by interior and exterior design cues, with chassis upgrades to the latter two that make them the only options worth considering for the MT faithful. Our 328i test cars were all Sport-spec automatics, upholstered in black leather trimmed with red stitching and piping, with a striking combination of brushed silver and red anodized aluminum trim adorning the dash.

Trundling through the endless roundabouts and city traffic, I toggle the Driving Dynamics Control switch to the new Eco Pro setting, which optimizes all systems for maximum efficiency, reducing power sent to heated seats and mirrors, lowering A/C output, etc., and remapping the throttle and shift maps to discourage jack-rabbit driving. The display under the speedometer also provides driving hints, nagging to reduce throttle input if you dig past 70 percent; to slow down if you're above 75 mph (or a lower set speed if you prefer); or to upshift the manual or to take the automatic out of sport shift mode, which disables the new auto start-stop system. The display indicates the amount of driving range your frugality has earned. Ours maxes at about 3 miles, because we spend 95 percent of the drive in the Sport or Sport+ settings, reveling in the 2-liter's Formula-racer snarl and enjoying the eight-speed automatic's crisp upshifts and rev-matched paddle downshifts. BMW claims a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds for the automatic--a full second quicker than the outgoing 328i (the 335i 8-speed is said to shave 0.6 seconds off). The claims seem reasonable.

Once the traffic clears and the road turns twisty, the F30 feels as nimble and agile as the E90. It attacks corners as ardently as ever -- perhaps more so, given its broader stance and 10-percent more rigid structure. The 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001s (225/40 front, 355/35 rear) cling to the smooth, dry tarmac like election-year politicos to dogma, and the (still-optional) adaptive damping system provides noticeably tighter roll control in the Sport versus Comfort settings. Fans of BMW's once legendary steering feel will mourn the passing of the fuel-thirstier hydraulic assist. Our test car had the optional variable-ratio electric-assist rack, which provides a 14.5:1 ratio on-center, quickening to 11.2:1 as the wheel passes about 100 degrees in either direction. The effort and heft feel natural enough, but on these smooth, dry roads it transmits no wiggles or twitches to suggest subtle variation in the grip level of the road surface, and the ratio transition feels unnatural in the tightest corners.

Day two is spent lapping the Circuit de Catalunya, where a daylong deluge reveals that the electric steering does indeed inform the driver when approaching the limits of adhesion -- it's just hard to approach them on dry public roads. Hard summer tires on smooth wet pavement drop those limits to quite pedestrian speeds, allowing the driver to easily hold an understeering line right at the limit, or dial in just enough throttle to point the car toward the exit. There's even a fun iDrive display with gauges showing instantaneous and peak power and torque, which curiously top out at 218 hp and 221 lb-ft during our flogging.

So were our fears unfounded? The numbers certainly work out -- 4 goes into 3 beautifully, as it happens, and the lighter-nose 328 may turn out to be the sweetheart of the lineup. We still don't like the E-steering and we've resented every size increase since the E36. But such inflation is the way of the world, and BMW appears to have done what it must to stay on top of that world.
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      11-16-2011, 08:11 PM   #2
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nice review, but that magnificent steering looks like it's gone
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      11-16-2011, 08:20 PM   #3
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What are you gonna do..Even porsche went to EA-steering....
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      11-16-2011, 08:24 PM   #4
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By the sound of this, it seems that the 328i with a tune will make the 335 completely irrelevant.

Bring on the F30!!!
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      11-16-2011, 08:32 PM   #5
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WOW 355/35 REAR TIRES??? All kidding aside good to hear positive things, but man that electric steering, you'd think they would learn? People dont but these cars to squeeze the most MPGs but the most fun. None the less as long as they dont name the coupe a 4 series all will remain good in the world.
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      11-16-2011, 09:06 PM   #6
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Another good review, the steering is kinda disappointing but I'm sure its the best for the car and the driver. This 3 is turning out to be a hit it seems.
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      11-16-2011, 09:12 PM   #7
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Damn that's awesome
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      11-16-2011, 09:36 PM   #8
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So if I'm reading correctly, the weight and feel of the steering is on par with the E90 but feedback is gone? Noooooooooo....feeling kind of sad. Early reports indicated that there would be little change. If it feels anything like the C-Class, I'm going to be extremely disappointed.
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      11-16-2011, 09:36 PM   #9
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E-steering



Tragic.


I loved everything about the new 5 and passed on it for this very reason. Damn shame it's now infected the sacred 3. I guess the only bastion is the M but to have spend 70k instead of 45-55k might be a deal breaker.

I'm quite aware the turn for softness is to appease the biggest market (aka baby boomers) and it's obviously been a successful recipe, but my fandom/loyalty dies a little bit with every new release.
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      11-16-2011, 09:51 PM   #10
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Ok so now the "legendary" steering/handling/feedback is gone, it's going to be interesting how the 3-Series stacks up to the C-Class and A4. If those aspects are gone, how close is the 3-Series to the competition? Are any of the new features enough to stay with BMW?
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      11-16-2011, 09:52 PM   #11
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wow nice.. the 8 speed rev matches on a downshift.
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      11-16-2011, 10:00 PM   #12
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They seem to like the auto...i was planning on getting 6speed but now will have to seriously consider both
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      11-16-2011, 10:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omg618 View Post

I loved everything about the new 5 and passed on it for this very reason. Damn shame it's now infected the sacred 3. I guess the only bastion is the M but to have spend 70k instead of 45-55k might be a deal breaker.
Hydraulic steering is going same path as the limited slip diff. We'll all keep buying them though cause its still better than the competition.
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      11-16-2011, 10:31 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 宝马.e90 View Post
Ok so now the "legendary" steering/handling/feedback is gone, it's going to be interesting how the 3-Series stacks up to the C-Class and A4. If those aspects are gone, how close is the 3-Series to the competition? Are any of the new features enough to stay with BMW?
I think the chassis will still be superior.

I'm disappointed about the steering too. Guess we'll have to go M car for better steering.
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      11-16-2011, 10:44 PM   #15
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Quote:
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I think the chassis will still be superior.

I'm disappointed about the steering too. Guess we'll have to go M car for better steering.
While that is likely, I think chassis would benefit those that are more than casual drivers. For the rest of us that just like driving around, the overall steering/handling is what keeps us engaged and is something we would actually notice vs. how the chassis behaves.
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      11-16-2011, 11:37 PM   #16
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IMO the E-steering thing is being blown completely out of proportion. Even the new Porsche 911 has one, and I would wait until I actually FEEL it before jumping to such dramatic conclusions.

I'm 100% sure that it's going to be fine, but car journalists have to say something negative otherwise they will sound as BMW fanboys since it seems that everything in the F30 is fantastic.
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      11-17-2011, 02:31 AM   #17
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I always laugh at the official 0-60 figures... reviews always say BMW claims bla bla time for 0-60 yet half of the reviews can't get the same 0-60 figures. I mean if BMW claims certain timings, why the fuck mags or tv reviews can't get the same timing?!

0-60 in 5.4s for 8 speed auto - motortrend
0-60 in 5.9s for 8 speed auto - automobile
both had 328i sportline
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BMW have tapped into this by mirroring typical BMW dynamics and steering communication within the new UKL cars.
You mean massive body roll, a steering system that is not connected to the front wheels, and the engine note played through the speaker system?!?!?!?!
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      11-17-2011, 08:20 AM   #18
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The 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001s (225/40 front, 355/35 rear)

Must be a typo.
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      11-17-2011, 08:21 AM   #19
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Quote:
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wow nice.. the 8 speed rev matches on a downshift.
Yeah, is that true? Maybe only in sport mode (not familiar with auto trans)? Wouldn't that fly in the face of fuel economy?
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      11-17-2011, 09:02 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shicobico View Post
The 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001s (225/40 front, 355/35 rear)

Must be a typo.
They meant 255/35/19.
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      11-17-2011, 09:40 AM   #21
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I'm another potential buyer who's disappointed by the the electromechanical steering.

It's funny that in cars that didn't have great steering feel with hydraulic steering, the switch to electromechanical steering wasn't a big letdown. Audi just adopted it for the refresh of the A4/S4 and from the reviews I've read they say it's very similar to their old Servotronic steering. Reviews of more pedestrian cars like the new Honda CR-V say there's no change at all in steering feel with their switch to electromechanical steering.

However, in Porsches and BMWs, the switch seems to be, if not a deal breaker (because they still have other sporting attributes going for them), then at least one more advantage that they've lost.
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      11-17-2011, 10:00 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alejotrujillo View Post
IMO the E-steering thing is being blown completely out of proportion. Even the new Porsche 911 has one, and I would wait until I actually FEEL it before jumping to such dramatic conclusions.

I'm 100% sure that it's going to be fine, but car journalists have to say something negative otherwise they will sound as BMW fanboys since it seems that everything in the F30 is fantastic.
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