Finally drove 328i and 335i...first impressions
So my wife and I headed out to spend some seat time in the F30 this afternoon.
Some context: We've been thinking about getting a second car that would be a tad more practical than our E46 M3 (6MT). My wife drives to client meetings around NorCal and she's got a bum left knee, so we're thinking this car will probably have to be an AT. We've owned a number of BMWs over the years, all manual: E46 330Ci, E30 325is, E24 M6, and an E85 Z4. Last week, we test drove the X1 28i and 35i M Sport and found them to be fairly enjoyable cars.
We walked into the dealership lot and the first thing we saw was a minor miracle: Estoril Blue 328i M Sport with 6MT. Crazy...I never thought we'd see a general inventory car with 6MT at any Bay Area dealership. Fast forward a few minutes to get our DLs zapped and we were off to spend some alone time with the car. I must say, we both came away hugely impressed with the 328i. The car just feels right. At first, the steering totally freaked me out because it was so light. Then I realized it was in Comfort mode. Sport+ fixed that. I see no reason to ever drive this car in anything but Sport+. Overall, I find the personality of the 328i to be pretty delightful—very eager feeling car, pretty sharp response, and not all that dissimilar to my M3. One very pleasant note: the feel of the 6MT shifter in this car is probably the best I've felt in a BMW. Reminds me of the Mini Cooper S in terms of feel. The throws also felt a tad shorter than my M3's. Clutch pedal also feels very light, although the engagement point is sorta typically vague in a BMW sort of way.
While we would have loved to have a 335i with M Sport to directly compare against, the only free car was one in Luxury Line. We drove that in Sport mode of course. Very nice car, but totally different feel. The dynamics just feel completely different because of the extra weight (we both found this noticeable.) But the extra oomph of the N55's power is very nice. Even so, when that big kick of the power band engages, I just feel like it's pushing a much bigger beast. There are certain situations, like long sweeping left handers, where my wife and I both loved the solid, planted feel that the 335i served up. Overall, it feels very much like a stately, speedy sports sedan. I can totally live with this car, even with the AT (non-sports).
Bottom line: We loved the 328i. My wife was tempted to buy the one we drove and abandon our actual plan to do Euro delivery. This was the most fun we've had on a test drive in a very long time—and that includes all the E9X cars (yes, M3s as well.) We'll probably look for a 335i with M Sport to test drive next, or at least Sport Line. But when it comes to ordering, we're definitely in for M Sport—the car just looks right that way.
Question: Why are the N20 and N55 rated with the same fuel economy numbers? I don't really understand how this could be so.