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1305 2012 Bmw 328i Wrap Up
four seasons long-term tests

2012 BMW 328i - Four Seasons Wrap-Up

A. J. Mueller
SPRING
2012 BMW 3-Series reviews to date

Know why that 3-series driver tears up an on-ramp out of nowhere, swoops across three lanes of traffic right in front of you, then settles into the fast lane for a nanosecond before departing toward the horizon at warp speed? Because he can.

Yes, we must admit that there's a reason the BMW 3-series attracts all the very worst people. The 3-series is capable of so much that you can't help but take advantage of what it has to offer. It's as if you're enveloped in a little bubble of BMW-branded entitlement. Personally, we blame our founder, David E. Davis, Jr., who returned from a mountain-road jaunt in 1968 absolutely transfixed by the newly introduced 2002 and created an identity for BMW with which we've lived ever since.

We'll also admit that the arrival of this 2012 BMW 328i sedan in our corner of Michigan had many of us in a total sweat of our own. The new F30 version of the BMW 3-series (BMW guys love speaking in vehicle codes, don't they?) is a very important one, because it represents the Munich company's concerted effort to address a post -- recession world of limits, in terms of both fuel costs and the very affordability of the automobile itself. For this reason, we were quick to specify a Four Seasons test car with BMW's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, as this match between sophisticated chassis and fuel-sipping powerplant will be duplicated across lots of brands and car categories.

The shape of the new 3-series lived up to our expectations, if not our dreams. Associate web editor Evan McCausland noted, "I love the new snout. The remainder of the car's exterior is evolutionary, but the pinched headlights and the sharp fender creases add flair to an otherwise familiar design." This car isn't exactly high art, but the F30 looks good enough that we all cringed when associate web editor Jake Holmes returned to the parked car after an epic thunderstorm and found it dimpled by hail. (We probably helped finance a semester of college tuition for the offspring of the dent-removal guy.) Meanwhile, copy editor Rusty Blackwell said, "The swoopy interior is very welcoming and attractive, and I especially like the asymmetrical grip on the shift lever." McCausland also gave the iDrive electronics his endorsement, although he noted that you have to snap your iPhone into a specialized cradle in the center console to get full access to BMW ConnectedDrive.

When our test began, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine seemed like it'd be a big concern, yet it quickly became a nonissue in a couple of ways. First, the presence of 240 hp at 5000 rpm and an even more impressive 255 lb-ft of torque at 1250 rpm did not leave us asking questions about any perceived power gap compared with the in-line six-cylinder of the last-generation 3-series. Deputy editor Joe DeMatio said in the car's logbook: "When you're bounding along at 90 mph on the freeway, you're barely aware that you no longer have a BMW in-line six at your disposal."

Even better, the combination of the new turbocharged four and this car's six-speed manual transmission delivers the economy improvement that BMW promises. Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht averaged an indicated 33 mpg on his daily commute, while New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman said, "The trip computer showed that I clocked an absolutely sick 37 mpg on the admittedly fuel-economy-friendly Detroit-Pittsburgh-New York highway run. My calculator says that the mileage was a much lower 33 mpg, but for what is now a pretty large sedan, that's still not bad."

Like so many new-generation cars, this 2012 328i has an automatic stop/start mechanism plus a selectable calibration mode for the engine that promotes fuel efficiency, and we generally were in favor of this mileage consciousness. Associate web editor Ben Timmins said, "I love the BMW's stop/start system because it's precisely the kind of thing that irks smug owners of hybrid cars. Pull up next to a Prius at a stoplight and both cars shut down their engines, wasting not a drop of fuel." Senior web editor Phil Floraday added, "It's weird to see a BMW with so many eco-friendly touches. It makes me feel guilty to commute in this car without calling up Eco Pro mode." For all this, we hated the raspy engine noise and driveline vibration as the four-cylinder engine came to life after a stop/start episode.

When we configured this 2012 BMW 328i for its time with us, we decided to be adults and specify the Luxury model-rather than our usual preference for sport trim-in an effort to avoid complaints about ride quality on broken Michigan pavement, especially since BMW's preference for run-flat tires with their stiff sidewalls amplifies the unpleasantness. We can happily report that the 328i delivered a supple ride in every circumstance, just as we anticipated. Sadly, we also discovered that we are not cut out to be adults.

Almost from the first, this BMW's logbook is filled with disappointment about the car's lack of liveliness. And as we began longing for a car with more sport in its sport-sedan personality, the car's electrically assisted steering, characterless exhaust note, and breathtaking price began to obsess us.

Timmins said the car didn't give him the same buzz that he remembered from his days as a valet while working his way through college, when the 3-series was "confident, thrilling, and straightforward." Floraday added, "It's supposed to be a BMW 3-series, the sort of car that gets better and better with each generation. Today's new 3-series just feels like a small luxury sedan." McCausland said, "When driven hard on a racetrack, flaccid is the flavor du jour...I'm most disappointed in the steering. This used to be the selling point of the 3-series, but now it's numb and lifeless." Road test editor Christopher Nelson said, "I don't love the long throws of the shift linkage, even though they are far less ridiculous than the 74 feet of clutch-pedal travel." Managing editor Amy Skogstrom tried to be an adult, but even she said, "What's with the Germans charging extra for every little thing? $475 for a split-folding back seat is ridiculous. You get that on lots of economy cars for nothing." Finally, when we shredded the luxo-spec, summer touring tires during some track driving (our own fault, really), the wailing just wouldn't stop.

When we had an opportunity to drive this 2012 BMW 328i in Luxury configuration back-to-back with a 2012 BMW 328i in Sport specification, we realized that our attempt at forcing maturity was a mistake. As Floraday said, "The Sport Line car drove the way I remember a 3-series should drive," adding, "Using the Sport+ mode took all the wallow out of the suspension, which really improves driver confidence." The compliant, long-travel suspension that has always been one of the best things about the BMW 3-series can actually unnerve you a little bit when you're driving fast, which is why we prefer more body control from the suspension setup and a more natural increase in effort and a stronger sense of the road surface from the steering wheel.

After a year with the 328i, our experience reminds us that the mission of the BMW 3-series has changed in the more than forty years since DED Jr. drove the blessed little box that was the BMW 2002. This latest iteration is still enormously capable, but as it tries to be more things to more people -- a luxury car, an environmentally responsible car -- those of us who want the kind of sport sedan that the 3-series has historically been need to carefully tick the correct boxes on the order form. Previously, that wasn't so important.

As for us, we're still kids when it comes to the sport sedan. The 2012 BMW 328i proved to be a nice car, but next time we'll choose the 3-series in a configuration of which our parents would not approve. And if we complain afterward, feel free to give us a firm talking to, just like you would any self-important teenager -- like that BMW guy who cut you off on the freeway last week.

OUR TEST RESULTS
0-60 mph6.1 sec
0-100 mph16.2 sec
1/4-mile14.8 sec @ 96 mph
30-70 mph passing7.2 sec
Peak acceleration0.64 g
Speed in gears1) 39; 2) 70; 3) 110; 4) 130; 5) ---; 6) --- mph
Cornering L/R0.89/0.87 g
70-0 mph braking164 ft
Peak braking1.09 g
Running Costs
MILEAGE 28,315
WARRANTY4-yr/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper
4-yr/50,000-mile powertrain
12-yr/unlimited-mile corrosion
4-yr/unlimited-mile roadside assistance
SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE14,393 mi: $0
21,272 mi: $0
WARRANTY REPAIRS15,221 mi: Clear code for low-coolant light
21,272 mi: Update DSC
RECALLS6478 mi: Update software to dim the shifter light and smooth gear shifts
24,349 mi: Update software to reduce risk of transmission overheating
OUT-OF-POCKET10,807 mi: Repair hail damage, $2529.18
11,620 mi: Replace windshield, $979.12
12,002 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance new Goodyear EfficientGrip tires, $943.78
23,091 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance Pirelli Winter 240 Sottozero Serie II tires, $930.88
FUEL CONSUMPTION
EPA city/hwy/combined23/34/27 mpg
Observed27 mpg
COST PER MILE(Fuel, service, tires) $0.21 ($0.82 including depreciation)
2012 BMW 3-Series Specs
  • Overview
  • powertrain
  • chassis
  • measurements
  • equipment
  • options
Body style 4-door sedan
Accomodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unibody
Base price $35,795
Price As Tested $49,870
Trade-in value $32,400
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
Agentmike
My days of BMW ownership are over. My 2008 328i was in the shop more than a 50 year old man with a swollen prostate is in the bathroom. At least 3-4 times in between scheduled maintenance. This is NOT the BMW experience of my youth. When it was running sans idiot lights, it was beautiful. but those days were rare. The hesitation on acceleration was chronic, and well documented by numerous magazines.Sorry but I think BMW has sold out to the bean counters, and their reliability has suffered for it.
magnumforc
Many of the newer vhicles are moving to the 4 cylinder turbo versions for fuel economy, while retaining a respectble power  to weight ratio. We have a new Range Rover Evoque that is an excellent example of yet another car maker who moved their midsized vehicles this route with excellent results, albeit with a Ford designed engine. Incidentally, we moved away from BMW after having 4 of them due to electrical glitches that BMW just couldn't pinpoint. Two new 70K 535 GT series vehicles with less than 10K miles with unending electrical issues that became so problematic they were totally unreliable. Beautiful vehicles that are so over-engineered even the dealers are unable to fix what happens deep under the hood.
mr_president_36117
As a fully entitled F30 Sportline owner, I am glad that you guys have finally admitted the err in your ways.  I was wondering why you guys didn't chose the Sportline, then proceed to complain about how bland the car "felt".  I've had my car for a little over a year now and can assure you that it is not bland at all.  In the speed department, it is only just behind the 335i.  However, I do admit that it doesn't nearly sound as nice until you really step on the gas, that's when the little powerhouse wakes up angry!Best part about the car, even when I cruse along the freeway at 90-95mph (Valentine One in tow), I still average 33 mpg in Sport mode.  The fuel efficiency is a nice touch to go along with how awesome of a car it is.
JFGlass
"For this reason, we were quick to specify a Four Seasons test car with BMW's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, as this match between sophisticated chassis and fuel-sipping powerplant will be duplicated across lots of brands and car categories."Excuse me!  Hasn't Audi (VW) been producing 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines in sports sedans for a number of years now? It would seem the BMW (and Mercedes) are now duplicating Audi and VW as are the Japanese. The GTi and Audi A4 with 2.0-liter turbos have been around for some years now.
mr_president_36117
@Agentmike Unreliable?  I have over 13K miles on my 2012 F30 and it hasn't seen one issue.  Only time in the shop was a minor recall and an oil change.  You can't judge a redesign on an older model.  The last gen of BMWs had a few issues, such as bad turbos and electrical glitches.  They seem to have worked through the computerization of the automobile type issues.  My car has more electronics and sensors than the laptop I'm typing on, but somehow, BMW has figured it all out.  The car is still fun to drive and has all the tech gizmos I could ask for.When I think of unreliable, I think Audi, Land Rover, and Chrysler.
Supergoat
@JFGlass No offense but if anyone is copying, it is the Germans copying the Swedes.  The granddaddy of direct injected turbo charged 4 cylinder luxury cars was Saab.  Unfortunately they were ahead of their time. 

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