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1211 2012 Bmw 328i October Update
four seasons long-term tests

2012 BMW 328i - Same Issues, Different City

Miles to date: 21,927

Patrick M Hoey
#BMW, #328i
2012 BMW 3-Series reviews to date
I've taken to calling it The Penultimate Driving Machine.

It's fall in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that the wind is picking up and the leaves are changing. Our opinions of the BMW 328i? Not so much.

The BMW began its month still on the East Coast, with senior editor Joe Lorio and New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman, both of whom admitted that they like the car's luxurious, soft ride but find the lack of sportiness (in our Luxury Line model) a little disconcerting in a car we've long referred to as "The Ultimate Driving Machine."

Kitman, like many of us, recognized that the car is perfectly comfortable on long stretches of highway, but its performance on the crowded, hectic streets of New York City left him a bit cold. "Sometimes theengine and the gearbox hook up with the chassis just right, but other times it just feels clunky to me," he wrote, "so I've taken to calling it The Penultimate Driving Machine." Senior editor Joe Lorio took issue with the clutch's high engagement point, which requires a lot of practice and can actually force the driver to change his/her seating position. "I struggled with the clutch take-up in the 328i -- which is odd, because I had no problem at all in the 335i," he wrote.

That 335i in question was a red Sport Line example, one of the twenty-eight cars we brought to our annual Automobile of the Year testing in western Michigan. There was little question whether the more powerful, sportier 335i Sport Line would outshine the 328i Luxury -- it did -- but what surprised many was how much more we preferred the old 3-series, as represented by a 2013 BMW X1. The X1, you'll recall, sits atop the last-generation 3-series platform, but adds the 2.0-liter turbo four from the current 328i and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Crucially, all-wheel-drive versions like our xDrive28i use the old 3-series' hydraulic steering rack, and that's what got associate web editor Donny Nordlicht's attention.

"In the X1, the steering is delightfully weighted on-center, and builds off-center in a natural manner -- it almost feels like a part of the driver," he said. "In the 328i the electric power steering system distances the driver from the road. Pavement imperfections aren't transmitted as clearly (if at all), the weight feels artificial, and the physical steering wheel is too thin and too big." Even so, the 3-series continues to rack up the miles...comfortably. "It's far from thrilling, no doubt, but this car is luxurious," wrote road test editor Chris Nelson after driving the BMW from New York back to Ann Arbor.

Nelson's ride back to Michigan was mostly uneventful, but along the way he encountered a now-familiar electrical gremlin with the cooling system. For months now, we've noticed that the car intermittently complains of having low coolant (via a message on the infotainment screen), even though the reservoir is adequately filled. We first checked with BMW of Ann Arbor about the issue back at the end of July (at 15,221 miles) and were told that there were no issues with the cooling system. During the 328i's second visit to the dealer (for scheduled maintenance, at the end of October), the service technicians simply topped off the fluids and proclaimed it good to go, saying that the techs couldn't replicate the issue (no road tests were performed during either visit)."The low coolant light was supposedly due to low coolant, but I ain't buying it," said Nelson. It's an issue that has us considering a new coolant level sensor...and a new BMW service center. "This is the dealership that marked our tire condition as 'good' on a multi-point inspection sheet...after our track-day adventures took chunks out of them," Nelson added.

On the plus side, however, the scheduled maintenance (lube/oil/filter, tire rotation, fluids check) was complimentary (a part of BMW's free scheduled maintenance scheme). But we'd like to get this coolant level warning situation figured out once and for all.

2012 BMW 3-Series Specs
  • Overview
  • powertrain
  • chassis
  • measurements
  • equipment
  • options
Body style 4-door sedan
Accomodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unibody
Engine Turbocharged 16-valve DOHC I-4
Displacement 2.0 liters (122 cu in)
Power 240 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque 255 lb-ft @ 1250 rpm
Transmission type 6-speed manual
Drive Rear-wheel
EPA Fuel Economy 23/34/27 (city/hwy/combined)
Steering Electrically-assisted rack and pinion
Lock-to-lock 2.7 turns
Turning circle 37.1 ft
Suspension, front Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, rear Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R Vented discs
Wheels 18-inch aluminum alloy
Tires Goodyear EfficientGrip runflat tires
Tire Size 225/45VR-18
Headroom f/r 40.3/37.7 in
Legroom f/r 42.0/35.1 in
Shoulder room f/r 55.1/55.1 in
Wheelbase 110.6 in
Track f/r 60.3/61.9 in
L x W x H 182.5 x 71.3 x 56.3 in
Passenger capacity 84.2 cu ft
Cargo capacity 17.0 cu ft
Weight 3406 lb
Weight dist. f/r 49.5/50.5%
Fuel capacity 15.8 gal
Est. fuel range 355 miles
Fuel grade 91 octane (premium unleaded)
Standard Equipment
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • Driving Dynamics control w/ECO, PRO, Comfort, and Sport settings
  • Stability and traction control
  • Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC)
  • Brake fade compensation and brake drying
  • Tire pressure monitoring system
  • Start-off assistance
  • Halogen headlights and fog lights
  • 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel
  • Bluetooth
  • iDrive system w/6.5-inch color display
  • Automatic climate control
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Automatic headlights
  • AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system w/HD radio
  • iPod and USB adapter
  • Adaptive brake lights
  • 17-inch aluminum wheels w/all-season tires
Packages & Options
  • Luxury line
  • $2,100
  • Sports leather steering wheel 18-inch aluminum wheels Anthracite wood trim Pearl highlight trim finishers
  • Premium Package
  • $3,600
  • Universal garage-door opener Keyless entry Moonroof Auto-dimming mirrors Power front seats w/lumbar support
  • Technology package
  • $2,550
  • Navigation system Head-up display
  • Parking Package
  • $1,550
  • Rear-view camera Parking distance control Side- and top-view cameras
  • Premium Sound Package
  • $950
  • Satellite radio w/1-year subscription Harman/Kardon surround sound system
  • Xenon headlights
  • $900
  • Heated front seats
  • $550
  • Split folding rear seat
  • $475
  • Black Sapphire metallic paint
  • $550
  • BMW Assist w/enhanced BT and USB
  • $650
  • BMW Apps
  • $250
I have a 2013 335i Msport with the ZF AT.  It too suffers from electronic gremlins.The first was the HVAC system that would not give any heat the first time I ever tried and needed to use it.  I set the temp to around 76F, it was about 50F outside.  The engine was fully warmed.  The vents started to flow some warm air and then back to cool/cold air.  Hmmm?  I then set it to maximum heat, as in my 135i when I set the temp to maximum it would blow hot air continuously as opposed to changing air temp as the cabin would heat and warm. Still, not heat.  Took it to the dealer after I fiddled for a few days.   I noticed that if I set warmer temp to get warm air to flow when I first start the car in the morning, it would blow warm air.  But if I was already driving and hadn't used heat, as soon as I wanted some it would blow cold air.  I explained this to the service writer.  I suspected either electronic/computer issues or a faulty valve.  The car came back to me and I was told all is well.  I asked what they found, the service writer said the tech found it worked normally just fine.  So, NOTHING was done.  I got in the car at the dealership, started it up, it was warm already, I drove about 2 blocks, turned the heat on, and.......COLD air.  Went right back, got the service writer and had him sit in my new 335i as it was blowing cold air while the temp was set to maximum and no AC on.  Finally, he understood.  After another round of tech's guessing...errrr working on the problem, they had to reset some things on the ECU, and finally the system started working as it should.Next electrical gremlin turns up on "auto" headlights.  Set to the "auto" setting, the system will turn the headlights off and on as needed.  I have experience with cars that are over 5-7yrs old with this feature and it works perfectly.  Bright out?  Lights off.  Cloudy or dark?  Lights on.  On the 335i my headlights come on even on a bright sunny morning.  On gray cloudy days with or without rain, when the headlights should be on the 335i leaves them OFF.  So, when it's bright and sunny but the sun is low the lights come on, but when it's cloudy, dim, and raining and you need your headlights the system leaves them off.A day or so ago, I get into my 335i to go to work and turn the satellite radio on.  It shows "acquiring" and it kept "acquiring" all the way to work about 17 miles and about 25 minutes.  It would only play the previous station is was set to the night before, but I couldn't change to anything as it was "acquiring".  After work I get in to go home, start the car and the audio and all is well again.  This gremlin is rare.Last weekend I went out for a spirited drive wanting to use the AT's sport and manual modes.  I was driving with the trans in "sport/DS" mode.  In this mode it holds gear longer for quicker acceleration and more control on turns, works VERY well.  Then I switch to manual mode where the driver selects gears with either the + or - paddles or the trans lever.  This trans and engine has "rev matching" capability so that if you're at a higher speed and you select a lower gear, that will drive the engine RPM high, it will match engine revs to execute a smooth downshift without lurching or bogging.   It was doing it just fine in full auto mode, but in manual mode I went from 6th to 4th smoothly, but the from 4th to 3rd it shifted harshly with my head and body lurching forward, and then WHOOPS the car lurches forward hard.  I shift to 2nd and the same things happens, but lurch of the car forward.   If I had not been covering the brakes I would have lurched into the car in front of me only because I was slowing down and downshifting.  Instead of the ECU controlling the engine rpm to keep things smooth and controlled, like I would do with a manual trans, it would shift hard and then lurch hard forward.  I then went into a department store to pick some things up, got back into the car, selected manual mode and magically it worked much more smoothly.  That is a buggy and potentially dangerous gremlin.BMW does like to be at the front of newest technology inclusion, but with way too many things now controlled by computers with main and sub systems, they need computer geeks even more so than they need great mechanical engineers.   However, it seems they don't have enough geeks yet.  I know this is pretty much a first year model, but come on.  It's not like BMW didn't have time to test, test, and retest before selling to the public.I really love my 335i Msport.  When in "sport" drivers mode the steering effort firms up nicely, throttle response is sharp, and my M adaptive suspension firms up as well.  This should be the DEFAULT mode for a BMW SPORT SEDAN.  Instead it's default is the too soft "comfort" mode.  Still, even in sport mode this 335i sport sedan is a bit too soft even equipped with the M adaptive sport suspension.  BMW could easily up the front and rear spring rates to get this sport sedan to a better firmer "sport" level, by about 25-30% front and 30-40% rear.  That would take care of about 75% of the "softness" a lot of people feel.  Then, work on the electric steering.  In sport mode it needs to be at least 25-30% firmer.  Road "feel" is a harder thing.  Not feeling pavement grooves and pebbles is not a bad thing, as I wouldn't want to feel everything on the road I'm on.  But, it can use more steering feel where the tires are transferring some information about what angle they are at, and how well the tires are sticking to the road.  It's not there.  It's precise in actual steering and easy to control, but it simply doesn't give the driver that tactile sense we expect in a true BMW sport sedan, which was present in the E46 and E90, and is clearly there in my former 135i.  I don't know that electric assisted steering is the culprit here, as it's been successfully applied in the Honda S2000 and NSX, as well as in the new Cadillac ATS, and the Subyota twins, all which have been praised for their steering feel and precision.  Its in this league where BMW 3 series used to play in.  The F30 steering feel has been sent back to the minors.  It's now still a very good player, but it's not a great one, and that's a shame.  This is a new younger player, so it can't be blamed on being an aging former star.
I dumped a year old 2011 535xi GT simply because of all the electrical gremlins that BMW could not address. Overheating, car would not start if shut off, failed differential, etc, etc. None of which actually proved to be true, but all exacted time off the road only to be told dealer could not find a problem except maybe the car was not being driven enough. Dealer's only explanation was the voltage was low and one occasion was after an 800 mile round trip. This was not expected on a 70K luxury car. Over engineered and unable to solve problems that will soon leave owners in the lurch. Sadly, I lost 10K on the dumping of this beast. We have had 4 BMW's, each more costly than the last and now have one left. No more teutonic wonders. Strangely the American Car we replaced this with has had zero issues in the past year. Wonder if we now have learned that simpler is better?

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