"It's an unacceptable fault in a near-$50k car."
The BMW 328i Luxury's logbook had finally cooled down after a disappointing trip to the local road course when something else happened: the weather heated up. Between surviving one choice mishap and dealing with sweltering temperatures, our BMW has had a rough month.
The month of June started with the BMW sitting on injured tires. The BMW's stock tires are Goodyear EfficientGrip RunOnFlats, a special tire chosen by BMW to increase fuel economy (they're low rolling resistance) and support the car even in the event of a puncture. While we don't mind the EfficientGrip's stiff sidewalls -- the car's Luxury Line suspension more than makes up for it -- its rock-hard tread compound would prove to be an issue.
By the time we took the BMW to GingerMan Raceway the Goodyears had only been on the car for two months (we put winter tires on the car between mid-February and late April) but they were badly worn from a day of spirited driving at GingerMan. Small chunks were missing where the sidewall meets the tread, and the resulting rough ride and noise annoyed associate web editor Donny Nordlicht. "The cabin is no longer quiet thanks to these tires," he wrote. Tire Rack sent us a new set of Goodyear EfficientGrips for a quick fix, but the special order, eco-friendly, run-flat tires cost $1170.98, including mounting and balancing. The tire wear was our fault -- we did, after all, track a car with mpg-minded tires -- but the damaged windshield wasn't: managing editor Amy Skogstrom parked the 3-series in her driveway one evening and came out the next morning to find a sizable crater near the top of the glass, blaming it on an errant ball from the nearby golf course. Ann Arbor Auto Glass charged us $979.12 for a full glass replacement. That's a hefty sum for a new sheet of glass, but our BMW is equipped with a head-up display, which requires a windshield with thin reflective foil embedded in the section above the dashboard.
A new windshield and set of tires wasn't necessarily enough to sway staffers -- many of whom continued to grouse about the car's soft handling and long-travel clutch pedal -- but the 3-series did impress some people: passengers. "Every single passenger I take for a ride in the 328i is impressed," wrote road test editor Chris Nelson. "They like the comfortable suspension, the beautiful exterior, and the even more gorgeous interior. They also think the start/stop system is cool."
For many staffers, however, the wow factor of the start/stop system faded when the temperatures rose. The combination of a black paintjob, 100-degree temperatures, and an engine that shuts itself off at stoplights made for some warm passengers as the HVAC system struggled to cool the cabin using only battery power. "I wonder what BMW buyers in Texas and Florida do," mused creative director Kelly Ryan Murphy. "Do they just drive with the system off all the time?" (Drivers can disable the system by pushing a button above the engine start/stop button) Kinda defeats the purpose of putting such a system in the car in the first place, doesn't it?
The 100-degree highs took another toll on the car: the driver's side dashboard endcap -- the piece of hard black plastic between the dashboard and the driver's door cutout -- warped and pulled away from the dashboard. "I wouldn't say that it's broken," wrote associate web editor Jake Holmes, "but that's an unacceptable fault in an almost $50k car that is only six months old."
Despite all of our nitpicking, we're getting along with the BMW in this long and hot summer. We're sure the car will end up wowing friends and relatives at barbecues, coddling us on many trips to the beach, and thrilling us on some choice back roads. It's summertime -- let's hope living with the 328i is easy.