My personal story is similar.
This is our (my wife and I) first BMW. It's great for what it is. (That being, a comfortable and practical yet still fun-to-drive work-commute/road-trip/passenger-hauling car.)
I find it superior to the 2011 328i I test drove. (Used, non-sport.) I also find it superior to the other cars we test drove. A4, S60, TL, IS...
Even the engine is superior, compared to the E90. An inline six, on its own, has no significance for me. (I did like the V6 engine in the IS350, but other aspects of the car were a disappointment.)
To answer some of tturedraider's questions:
Yep, we knew about the four-cylinder N20. In fact, that and the ZF 8spd are the primary reasons we test drove the F30 after the disappointment of the E90. Prior to the E90, I had never driven a BMW before. I liked the A4 engine and transmission when I drove it, but didn't care for the steering and overall "feel" of the Audi.
We had no concerns about the number of cylinders per dollar of vehicle cost.
We were quite aware of BMW's propensity for inline sixes. A number of friends and autocross acquaintances have or still own BMWs, and I recall the controversy when BMW introduced a V8 E46 M3 for racing when no street-going, available-for-public-sale M3 had such an engine. I've never heard an M3 I liked the exhaust sound of, FWIW. Very raspy.
RWD was a definite selling point for us. I test drove a VW GTI which was actually quite fun except for the FWD-ness. I don't think I can ever own a FWD car again.
We are probably not "average" BMW customers, however.
Last edited by elistan; 11-28-2012 at 11:08 AM.