CAR's already driven the new 2012 BMW 3-series in best-selling 320d diesel form (click here for our 3-series review). But now we've let our columnist Anthony ffrench-Constant loose in the petrol 328i.
Read on for Anthony's off-beat blog review of the new BMW 328i. And for CAR Magazine's comprehensive guide to the new F30 BMW 3-series, click here.
Anthony ffrench-Constant's review of the BMW 328i
Idly watching a fencing demonstration by a quicksilver aspirant to Britain’s Olympic elite at the recent launch of this new F30-era BMW 3-series (cue the new TV ad), I was interrupted by the murmured sidlings of a BMW grand fromage who endeavoured to entice me away with the lure of the company’s latest ConnectedDrive technology…
In other words, shunning the high-quality swashing of buckles, did I wish him to demonstrate the means by which you turn the modern car into a mobile office at the stab of diverse buttons? ‘Er… No thanks.’
He looked more than somewhat startled by my reply, so I explained: a GP all his working life (in the days when doctors actually visited the homes of ailing patients), my father refused to have even so much as a mobile phone on board. And this was because - the inevitable time and motion Horlicks notwithstanding - the privacy inherent in each journey was absolutely sacrosanct.
He could (and did) pick his nose; listen to The Archers; watch the seasons scroll in through the windscreen; spend time alone inside his own head; Heaven forefend, even enjoy the simple pleasures of driving… Anything but have his personal space invaded by the outside world.
It’s a dictat to which I have steadfastly adhered. To this day, all I ask of a car is a good stereo, air-conditioning, occasional sat-nav and, reluctantly, Bluetooth phone connectivity. Any other technology, particularly that which requires me to pull off the road and sip vile services coffee to use it, falls strictly into the not-wanted-on-voyage category.
Now, I do realise that this – allied to absolutely no urge to make loud, self-important mobile phone calls to reluctant recipients whilst on a bus twixt long-term car park and airport terminal at 6.30 in the morning - makes me something of a dinosaur, but, in truth, all I really ask of a car is a good drive.
Right... and back to the 2012 BMW 3-series review!
Happily, both the £29,060 BMW 328i and the £28,080 BMW 320d I sampled constitute very, very good drives indeed. And, in the context of both cars, my lack of interest in superfluous technological frippery would simply save me the cool £12,000 worth of extras appended to each machine…
Even more happily, handsome BMW couture is back. Despite pedestrian impact legislation forcing bonnets ever higher, the nose still gives great groundhog and the front is very elegant indeed. With flanks mercifully free of over-much pressed metal peregrination and the back a simple, generic BMW stern, the whole is handsome indeed.
The new 3-series looks bigger and is bigger, now catching up with extant 5-series dimensions, until the latter inevitably swells too. But, with rear-seat accommodation notably improved, the only real downside to this an enforced revision of my preferred driving position…
Inside the new BMW 328i's cabin
This is the first time I’ve climbed aboard a BMW and not wanted the seat and wheel set as low as possible. I think it’s a measure of just how big the new 3-series has grown that I can’t instinctively find the corners of the car with the seat set as low as I’d like, and have to raise myself quite a bit before I feel in charge rather than merely on board.
That aside, my only gripes are an interior design that still falls short of the car’s exterior in the elegance stakes, a ridiculously recalcitrant sat-nav system, the absence of a turning knob adjustment to the seat back, electric indicator stalk operation, and an absurd real wood trim finish clearly modelled on a supermarket-bought Yule log confectionery.
The BMW 328i and 320d on the road
To drive, however, both machines are largely faultless and utterly peerless. The 328i petrol engine is, sadly, no longer a straight-six but merely a 2.0-litre turbo; its slightly more frenetic efforts at delivering sparkling, 5.9 seconds to 62mph performance the only real giveaway.
Eight-speed (oh, for heaven’s sake) automatic transmission means that the thing is forever shifting cogs, but the changes are smooth enough for this not be intrusive. In manual guise, the new 2012 BMW 320d proves equally efficient, its slower acceleration times belying the in-gear oomph of 280lb ft of torque.
Steering, brakes, ride quality, grip, handling… Every other aspect of the new 3-series constitutes a proper improvement over the saloon’s predecessor, already a highly involving and entertaining drive.
I’d have a new BMW 3-series like a shot. Just don’t ask me to use it as my office, please.