The best of both worlds
I drive a lot of cars and trucks each year and, truthfully, very few of them deliver the promised fuel economy despite my eco-driving efforts. It’s true, NRCan’s fuel consumption test procedures are outdated and should become stricter in a few years.
However, the Germans seem to be closest to those optimistic Canadian fuel economy ratings. And the new-for-2012 BMW 3 Series Sedan is a perfect example: Powerful and fuel efficient, the 328i should be the inspiration for many manufacturers who market their vehicles as being “eco-friendly.”
The previous-generation 3 Series had few shortcomings, and the new model addresses pretty much all of them. This may well be the best compact luxury sedan on the market -- still.
Muscle and green-ness join hands
The 2012 BMW 328i Sedan gets a new (at least for the US and Canada) turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that develops 241 hp as well as 258 lb-ft of torque that peaks from 1,250 rpm all the way to 4,800. In short, plenty of muscle pretty much all the time.
Equipped with the new 8-speed automatic, the 328i blasts to 100 km/h in just over 6 seconds. Only a few years ago, you needed to get the top-shelf 335i for that level of performance.
And with so much torque, you don’t need to rev the hell out of the 4-banger for highway merging and passing. As a result, lower engine revolution means lower fuel consumption, and together with a standard start/stop system and an ECO PRO driving mode, we managed an excellent average of 6.8L/100km during the test week with the 2012 BMW 328i. Those are subcompact-hatchback consumption numbers, boys and girls.
I do have two concerns, though: First, when the start/stop system fires the engine back up, the whole car shakes making the process feel somewhat rough and unrefined. And second, I question the number of BMW fans who aren’t pleased with the fact that the silky-smooth 6-cylinder was replaced with a turbo four in base trims of the 2012 BMW 328i, even if the new motor is more powerful and 22% more fuel efficient.
Handling wise, the 2012 3 Series Sedan has matured a bit, and you feel that the suspension has been slightly softened. On the other hand, the 328i remains a great back-road brawler, with sharp steering turn-in, superb reflexes, and a suspension setup that rewards the driver every time he or she is in the mood for spirited driving.
Not sure about the colour
Our test 2012 BMW 328i arrived in our parking lot flaunting its $800 Havanna Metallic paint colour -- or if you prefer, light brown. Inside, we were treated to a beige coloured cockpit; nice and elegant, but not exactly to my personal taste.
Buyers of the new 328i and 335i must opt for one of three trim levels: Luxury, Modern and Sport. Our car was decked out in the Modern trim line, and was perhaps the most plain among the three. And that “Modern” badge on the front fender looks cheesy; I’d take it off.
We feel the Sport trim is more fitting for a BMW, but that’s just us. At least now you have more choice. One thing’s for sure: Fit and finish in the 2012 BMW 328i are a step up from the previous-gen 3 Series.
Oh, there’s more rear-seat legroom as well which was one of the old car’s shortcomings. There’s also a bigger trunk, now rated at 480 litres.
Priced to go
The 2012 BMW 328i starts at $43,600 and comes well equipped with a power sunroof, an intelligent key, heated and power-adjustable front seats with driver-side memory, xenon headlights, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, iDrive, and a nine-speaker stereo with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port.
Our test car included a bunch of option packages that added navigation, a rear view camera, a Harman/Kardon stereo, BMW Apps and Park Distance Control, totalling $51,100.
Competitors are numerous: Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti G37, and Volvo S60 to name a few.
Better than ever, the new 2012 3 Series remains one of our favourite luxury sport sedans, and raises the bar with more powerful engines that are also more fuel-efficient. Performance and low fuel consumption: that’s what we call the best of both worlds.
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