2013 328i (F30) - One month of ownership
A month ago I picked up my 2013 F30 328i. It's got a few add-ons but nothing major - Sportline, 6MT, PDC/Camera, Everest leather, seat heaters, sunshades, aluminum trim, Melbourne Red paint. It's a lease because I tend to change cars every two years.
* 6 MT - ah feels like home. Familiar long BMW throws and vague shifter action but I know this feeling so well that even a mediocre manual feels better than the 3 years of automatic purgatory I endured.
* RWD - again, just feels right.
* BMW seats - once again, they just feel right.
* BMW controls/switches - everything falls to hand nicely and feels good. The interior's a step up from the e90 but still a downgrade from the e46.
* PDC/Camera - nice to have when you're driving a car with this much size and such vague steering.
* Trunk - tons of nooks and crannies, lots of hooks and overall a nice trunk.
* N20 engine's got a nice bit of power but the narrow powerband's getting on my nerves. Owned many turbo cars and while this is better than my N54, it's still not an exhilarating engine. Lacking in a sharp torque curve or any drama it's a workman-like engine.
* Auto Start-stop - the whole car shakes like a broken washing machine when it starts up at a light. Yikes, who allowed this into production? My mother-in-law's Kenmore-esque Toyota Prius has this feature too; only it's with 1/10th the drama.
* Steering - no matter that setting, BMW's apparently clueless about how to do EPS. In terms of feedback and control this even makes my Cooper S (on Sport), seem like a genius implementation.
* Leather - each generation BMW seems to get a cheaper quality leather. At this point this leather is one step above pleather.
* Size: great googly-moogly, was this thing built for typical Americans? Seems so given the plus size dimensions.
After a month, I'm happy to be out of my last car and once again in a manual, RWD BMW. There are smells and sensations that work. The driver position and ergonomics offer a big jump over the flat-wide e90s I've owned. The rear seat is perfect for my 3 year old; he loves the rear HVAC. when my next kid is born in December the shades will be handy for her. For the driver the seats grab on, the shifter's close at hand and it all works as I'd expect from a BMW. Heel-toe's still an option with pedal placement, though the narrow powerband of the clattery N20 means it's not something you can play with much. Still hit a corner right and the RWD/chassis will just motor you through with that re-assuring smoothness BMW' probably patented.
Because the car's grown so much over previous 3s it looks and feels like a midsize family sedan. There's a slight sporting edge but overall the car just gives a sense of a sturdy, solid boat. It never shrinks around the driver and although the numbers obviously indicate it's a sharp handler, it never really feels ready to slice nimbly through the curves. It will dance on some tight roads but the over-boosted, extremely artificial steering and the car's extreme size mean it always feels like a trick of electronics, not a reflection of supreme chassis tuning or driver involvement. Given the lack of quality in this area for all competitors BMW still reigns supreme but I've heard the ATS may finally supplant it...
The new suspension and Gen 3 RFTs provide a more relaxed level of passenger comfort My wife loves it. I find the suspension spongy and tuned far too much to luxury. Tried the active suspension on a bad road in the sticks before buying and even at the tightest setting that too gave too much of a Buick impression. For comparison sake, my ZHP always struck me a little marshmallowy, so this is positively 5 series-like. Again, family likes it; I can live with it.
Approaching the car, I'm still in the shrug phase with the exterior. The e90s never appealed to me visually. This car presents better, with a finished look but nothing about it has the chiseled, sinewy appeal of the e46 or the tight lines of the e30. Probably the second least appealing 3 series to look at after the e90. You know it's a BMW when you approach it; just it's one of the newer ones with less character or style. If I grow to love the car's abilities, I'm sure I'll draw a tight association to the exterior being special. For now it's a touch over anonymous but nothing that would turn my head on a freeway like an e36 M3.
The engine... well it powers the car. It hasn't done anything untoward yet, so that's a big plus compared to my last 3 series! The clatter doesn't bug me. The lack of engine note does bug me a touch but given how all turbos I've owned lack character, this appears to be the default. BMW's turbos (haven't heard a new M5 yet) thus far all remind me of old diesels, lacking the much sexier exhaust note of any of the NA engines BMW used to sell. The narrow rev range with the manual does get under my skin but I had the same issue with my 335i. Just miss making an engine sing to redline - and feeling that overwhelming sense of delight as power increased through the car. The turbo's supposedly more efficient (24 MPG mostly freeway makes me wonder about that - 2 MPG more than my 335i but with less city driving) and faster than my NA cars but it's not invigorating.
This will do as a family hauler for the next few years. For the wife and kids, they like it and for me it can be a bit playful. I don't park it and look back. When I step into the garage it's an obstacle, not a point of reverence. Rumors abound that the 1 series sedan will be made to combat the new Audi A3 sedan. It's probably too much to hope for an NA engine in an M model 1 sedan in 2016. One can always pray and send emails to BMW. Really the new 3's just capable enough that I wouldn't trade it back in for my old car.