Our test BMW 328i sedan was equipped with performance rubber, which made it pretty much worthless in the snow. We ran our Four Seasons BMW 330i sedan with Dunlop Winter Sport M3 winter tires and the car performed flawlessly in the white stuff.
Speaking of the 330i, the 328i basically has a detuned version of its 3.0-liter, 255-hp engine. It’s a sweetheart of a powerplant but the 328i version does feel like it’s breathing through a restrictor. It doesn’t quite have the lovely pull or sparkly personality of the now-departed 330i. Still, it’s a great package and I love normally aspirated engines.
I really like this BMW, and it’s one I would consider buying with my own money. But the price is a bit high if you want something less than poverty spec. For $34,425, you do without power seats, Xenon headlights, 17-inch wheels, folding rear seats, leather, or lumbar adjustment. If you want lumbar adjustment, you need to spend $3350 for the premium package. That’s just plain crazy. BMW should at least give us a simple manual adjustment as standard. Speaking of manual adjustments, the standard seats are like a Rubik’s Cube to figure out. I’m not anti manual seats, but the BMW seats are very complicated to adjust. The $995 power front seats option is money well spent.
I still find BMW’s sport suspension a bit too aggressive in regards to the rebound setting on the dampers, but the 3-series still is the best driving car in the class. The rest of the segment just doesn’t offer the communicative steering and wonderful chassis balance of the 3.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
I thought I was smart enough to be first in line to drive the 328i once it arrived here, but then Mother Nature dumped four inches of snow on my lap – and the car wouldn’t launch, stop, or corner worth a darn. Curious, I stepped outside and looked at the rubber.
“Potenza,” read the sidewalls.
“High-performance summer tires,” said Bridgestone’s Web site.
“You’re screwed,” I said to myself.
And, for the most part, I was – one hundred pounds of kitty litter over the rear axle did nothing to help traction, nor did BMW‘s traction control system – because, if the tires have no grip whatsoever, cutting the throttle back until they do hook up won’t work because – well, you’re simply waiting for the impossible to happen.
I could go on, but I’d simply be kvetching about the poor (no, awful) choice in rolling stock – so I won’t. I will note that I wasn’t all that impressed with BMW’s stability program. I understand driving enthusiasts like a system that doesn’t take reign of the controls in a HAL 9000 manner, but BMW offers the “dynamic traction control” setting for that kind of driving. In the basic “on” setting, the 328i still slid quite a bit before the computers played with the brakes to straighten the car.
When the roads were plowed and their surfaces dried, it was clear that the 328i is the driver’s car it’s made out to be – well balanced, engaging, etc. Its ergonomics are great, though I miss the angled IP of the last-generation 3-series, and my passengers often wondered why my Frozen Coke sat between their left knee and the dashboard in the cup holder that pops out of the dash. I didn’t have a good answer for that, though I’ll note that our Four Seasons 135i coupe has room for cupholders in the center console…
As for the power? I’ve never driven a 330i, but the 328i does lack the oomph of the 335i. That said, the 128i is fun because it forces you to make good use of the gearbox, and it’s the same case here (thanks to the weather, I was mostly rowing it from reverse to second and back again…), though the 3’s added heft does dog the I-6 a bit more.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Germans love to complain about lazy Americans who can’t be bothered to put proper winter tires on their cars, and here we have a German sport sedan running around in the Detroit press fleet in January with high-performance summer tires, which after a fresh, five-inch snowfall felt like racing slicks that had been greased with lard.
Still, I thought, maybe I can nurse this thing to the office, as it’s only a couple miles through Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out of the parking lot before the BMW‘s inability to steer or go made me hang up that crazy notion. I called Phil Floraday and he gave me a lift in his Chevy Colorado 4×4.
The next day I had to return the BMW to the airport, and a day-long light snow had left the freeway slushy and slick. It was a slow, white-knuckle ride across I-94, getting passed right and left, but I made it there without incident and finally skated into a parking spot an hour after leaving Ann Arbor-which is twice as long as usual.
I will say that when you’re on hyper alert for the first sign of lost traction, there’s probably no car that better communicates what’s going on than the 3-series. But, as Marc Noordeloos notes, there are plenty of high-performance winter tires available, and if your 3-series is equipped with the sport package, and its staggered, high-performance tires, do yourself a favor and get some.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
2009 BMW 328i
Base Price (with destination): $34,425
Price as tested (estimated): $36,875
Sport Package – $2,050
– 17-inch Wheels
– Staggered Performance Tires
– Sport Leather Steering Wheel
– Sport Seats
– Sport Suspension
– Shadowline Trim
-iPod and USB Adapter – $400
Fuel Economy: 18 / 28 / 22 (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 3.0L Inline 6
HP: 230 HP @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 200 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm
Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5):
Frontal Crash Driver: N/A
Frontal Crash Passenger: N/A
Side Crash Front Seat: N/A
Side Crash Rear Seat: N/A
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Weight: 3,340 lbs
– 17″ Alloy Wheels(size)
– Summer Performance Tires