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F30 / F31 / F32 / F33 (2012 - current)
The sixth generation 3 series, chassis code F30. 2013 model year 328i and 335i sedans now in production. Read the F30 frequently asked question thread for all your basic question and dive into all the details in the ultimate F30 information thread.

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Old 11-16-2011, 03:16 PM
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TJPark01 TJPark01 is offline
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Motor Trend First Drive: 2012 BMW 3 Series

First Drive: 2012 BMW 3 Series


Do this bigger BMW's new turbo-four and electric steering compute?

Never have we approached the first drive of a new 3 series with more trepidation. Our beloved sport sedan has experienced another disconcerting growth spurt, adding 3.7 inches in length and 0.4 inch in height to gain 3.5 cubic feet of passenger space and one more cube in the trunk. Its sublime hydraulic power steering assist has been benched for a choice of electric setups, and the entry-level 328i trades its turbine-smooth inline-six for a blown four-banger. This could easily go either way, and if this F30 edition of the breadwinning 3 has been botched, BMW's in for a world of hurt.

There are, of course, mitigating factors. Weight savings due to expanded use of higher strength steels in the body structure, the lighter base engine, and increased use of plastics, composites, and aluminum in the interior and chassis mean that an equivalently equipped 328i scales 88 pounds lighter than its predecessor, maintaining an ideal 50/50 balance. And thanks to the triple threat of direct injection, new faster-acting Valvetronic timing and lift, and a twin-scroll turbo, the new N20 2.0-liter spools out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque--that's 10 more horses and 60 extra lb-ft (delivered 1500 rpm earlier) than in the old I-6. Our beloved N55 turbo-six continues to serve up 300 horses and 300 lb-ft in the 335i. And -- not that 3-series buyers obsess about such things -- but a new eight-speed automatic, improved aerodynamics (0.26 Cd, down from 0.29 for the old 328i), and variable-output coolant and oil pumps combine to boost fuel economy a little in the 335 and a lot in the 328. (The N20 in the 528i earns a 23/34-mpg rating while the old six-cylinder 328i got 18/28.)

Armed with the above info, we boarded a bird for Barcelona, where our first bleary-eyed impressions of Christopher Weil's restyle were positive. The aero-sleek nose is the most striking aspect of the car, bearing a passing resemblance to the Z4's. The kidney grilles and headlamps are widened to the point of touching, in a way that looks like someone power-washed the nose too hard, removing the soft trim that usually separates the lights from the grille. With key in hand, we settle in for a long drive in the Collserola hills surrounding the city. In front and in back, the car feels roomier. The 1.9-inch wheelbase stretch was used to add a half inch of legroom in both rows while lowering the front seats enough to boost headroom by 1.8 inches (rear heads enjoy 0.2 inch more clearance). The clean, new dash looks less massive, thanks to a slim, permanently affixed standard iDrive display, and an available full-color head-up display projects navigation, speed, and speed-limit info right out in the driver's field of view.

To simplify dealer ordering, many former options have been rolled into four comprehensive packages: Modern, Luxury, Sport, and M-Sport (the last arrives in July).They're differentiated by interior and exterior design cues, with chassis upgrades to the latter two that make them the only options worth considering for the MT faithful. Our 328i test cars were all Sport-spec automatics, upholstered in black leather trimmed with red stitching and piping, with a striking combination of brushed silver and red anodized aluminum trim adorning the dash.

Trundling through the endless roundabouts and city traffic, I toggle the Driving Dynamics Control switch to the new Eco Pro setting, which optimizes all systems for maximum efficiency, reducing power sent to heated seats and mirrors, lowering A/C output, etc., and remapping the throttle and shift maps to discourage jack-rabbit driving. The display under the speedometer also provides driving hints, nagging to reduce throttle input if you dig past 70 percent; to slow down if you're above 75 mph (or a lower set speed if you prefer); or to upshift the manual or to take the automatic out of sport shift mode, which disables the new auto start-stop system. The display indicates the amount of driving range your frugality has earned. Ours maxes at about 3 miles, because we spend 95 percent of the drive in the Sport or Sport+ settings, reveling in the 2-liter's Formula-racer snarl and enjoying the eight-speed automatic's crisp upshifts and rev-matched paddle downshifts. BMW claims a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds for the automatic--a full second quicker than the outgoing 328i (the 335i 8-speed is said to shave 0.6 seconds off). The claims seem reasonable.

Once the traffic clears and the road turns twisty, the F30 feels as nimble and agile as the E90. It attacks corners as ardently as ever -- perhaps more so, given its broader stance and 10-percent more rigid structure. The 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza S001s (225/40 front, 355/35 rear) cling to the smooth, dry tarmac like election-year politicos to dogma, and the (still-optional) adaptive damping system provides noticeably tighter roll control in the Sport versus Comfort settings. Fans of BMW's once legendary steering feel will mourn the passing of the fuel-thirstier hydraulic assist. Our test car had the optional variable-ratio electric-assist rack, which provides a 14.5:1 ratio on-center, quickening to 11.2:1 as the wheel passes about 100 degrees in either direction. The effort and heft feel natural enough, but on these smooth, dry roads it transmits no wiggles or twitches to suggest subtle variation in the grip level of the road surface, and the ratio transition feels unnatural in the tightest corners.

Day two is spent lapping the Circuit de Catalunya, where a daylong deluge reveals that the electric steering does indeed inform the driver when approaching the limits of adhesion -- it's just hard to approach them on dry public roads. Hard summer tires on smooth wet pavement drop those limits to quite pedestrian speeds, allowing the driver to easily hold an understeering line right at the limit, or dial in just enough throttle to point the car toward the exit. There's even a fun iDrive display with gauges showing instantaneous and peak power and torque, which curiously top out at 218 hp and 221 lb-ft during our flogging.

So were our fears unfounded? The numbers certainly work out -- 4 goes into 3 beautifully, as it happens, and the lighter-nose 328 may turn out to be the sweetheart of the lineup. We still don't like the E-steering and we've resented every size increase since the E36. But such inflation is the way of the world, and BMW appears to have done what it must to stay on top of that world.

Coming 3ttractions

July 2012: M-Sport edition adds sportiness with more aggressive fascias, side skirts, Alcantara sport seats, lowered M-suspension, and 18- or 19-inch M wheels. Available with the automatic, it tides us over until the M3 arrives in a year or more.

Fall 2012: ActiveHybrid 3 slides a 55-hp electric motor in where the torque converter used to go in ZF's 8HP automatic and stows a lithium-ion battery under the trunk floor. Teamed with the turbo six, combined output peaks at 335 hp/330 lb-ft to provide 335i-plus performance with 328i fuel efficiency.

Fall 2012: X-drive all-wheel-drive arrives on 328i or 335i, along with (hopefully) a 335d diesel sedan.

Mid 2013: Station wagon returns, followed later by the coupe, convertible, and M3.

Which Diesel?

No plans have been confirmed as yet to bring back a diesel (it has accounted for 10 percent of sales), so it's an open question as to which one might come. If the point is to save fuel and boost CAFE ratings, maybe the 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes more sense. There were a brace of 320d variants on hand at the launch, so we sampled one on a brief half-hour drive. This is not the diesel for us. Compared to the 265-hp six-cylinder torque-turbine 335d we cherished for a year in our long-term fleet, this 184-hp four feels crude and slow (it's rated at 7.6 seconds to 60, versus our long termer's 5.8). It never hides its dieselness, sounding and feeling a bit rough at idle. The car shakes when the engine starts and when it shuts off (at every stoplight unless you disable auto start-stop), and the throttle response of this variable-nozzle single-scroll turbo is nowhere near as linear and predictable as that of the N20 gas turbo engine in the 328i (or the 335d, for that matter). The surge of boost sometimes unsettles the chassis and the car is heavy enough to require selective catalytic reduction after-treatment, so the emissions-control cost won't be much less than the 335's. It's hard to imagine the BMW faithful in North America going for this car. On the other hand, if gas prices go crazy, the 320d could prove compelling. On the Euro combined cycle it earns a rating of 52 mpg, as compared with the 2011 335d six-speed's 35-mpg Euro rating (its EPA city/hwy rating is 23/36), and that may be enough reason to put up with some shake, clatter, and slower rolling.

Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/...#ixzz1dufxk2Zb
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Last edited by TJPark01; 11-16-2011 at 03:17 PM.
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  #2  
Old 11-16-2011, 03:29 PM
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TJPark01 TJPark01 is offline
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Mein Auto: E92 335i
More from Automobile Magazine:

First Drive: 2012 BMW 328i
Initial impressions are reassuring.


Car and Driver here
The ultimate sports sedan reaches out to the More Generation.
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