Is there room for a sub-328i model in the 3 Series lineup? BMW apparently thinks so, as it’s introducing the new 2013 320i here in Detroit at the 2013 North American International Auto Show.
Mechanically, there’s almost no real difference between this car and a comparable 328i. Power still comes courtesy of the same N20 engine as our Four Seasons 2012 328i sedan, which is a 2.0-liter direct-injection, turbocharged I-4. There does seem to be one noticeable difference: power. The 328i is rated at 240 hp at 5000 rpm and 255 lb-ft of torque between 1250-4800 rpm. The new 2013 320i, however, is rated at only 180 hp at 5000 rpm, and 200 lb-ft of torque between 1250-4500 rpm.
That drop in power doesn’t necessarily equate to a giant jump in fuel economy. BMW says the 2013 320i, mated with the standard six-speed manual transmission, should be rated at 23 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway – identical, we should note, to the EPA’s rating for the 2012 328i with the same transmission. Opting for the eight-speed automatic results in identical figures as a 328i with that very transmission – 23/33 mpg, respectively. All-wheel drive 320i xDrive models – which are only available with the eight-speed automatic – are rated at 22/33 mpg, again on par with that of the 328i xDrive sedan.
So, why would you sacrifice nearly 60 hp and buy a 320i instead of a 328i? The answer lies with cost. BMW says a 320i with manual transmission will start at $33,445, including $895 in destination. Seeing as a base 2012 328i is priced from $37,745, a 320i is expected to undercut the 328i by a sizable $4300. We can’t also help but notice the 2013 320i also manages to undercut the base 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.5 by at least $550 and the Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport by about $2780.
Will that price break appeal to true, traditional Bimmer enthusiasts? Probably not, but it may be enough to sway first-time buyers shopping for an entry-level luxury sedan, who are looking primarily to buy into the BMW brand image at the lowest price possible.
But you tell us: would you give up 60 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque all to save $4300 on your new 3 Series? Sound off in the comments section below.