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E90/E91/E92/E93 (2006 - 2013)
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  #1  
Old 09-17-2012, 02:11 PM
dawgcatching dawgcatching is offline
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E90 328i manual tranny; improvement over the Steptronic?

For those who have driven both or know about both, how does the Steptronic compare to the manual on this car? Both are 2011 328i models.

Still collecting info here, looking at a late model E90 series 328i most likely (also considering the 335ix if the right one was available). Mostly focusing on the 328i at this point, though, looks like it may suit my needs better, and I can get one of several with sub 10k miles out of a loaner fleet.

Anyways, I did locate a dealer around 350 miles away who has a 2011 328i with a manual transmission available. They are hard to find! I checked at 5 dealerships, found one.... Having only been able to drive a 328xi and with the Steptronic transmission locally, I was wondering how the driving experience compares? In the past, we have always owned manual transmissions whenever possible, but most auto trannies on those cars/trucks always were slugs. Not sure how a "sporty" auto tranny like a Steptronic compares to the MT. Thoughts?

Also, why not more MT's available on this model? I figured it being a sports sedan, it would be relatively popular. Maybe the auto tranny is just that good?
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  #2  
Old 09-17-2012, 03:05 PM
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Orient330iNYC Orient330iNYC is offline
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the 328i steptronic is a fairly slow shifting GM tranny.
its not the same as the steptronic in the 335i, which is a ZF which has very fast shifts and a torque converter thats locked up most of the time.
most people buy an auto. i had a 6MT 335i, had to custom order it.
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  #3  
Old 09-17-2012, 03:19 PM
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I've had the opportunity to drive an array of 328i service loaners and I didn't like them. I think AT cars are not particularly connecting and not particularly responsive. I've had 335i and 535i loaners -- and my objection applies to them, too. Admittedly, they were fast, but they were much less fun for me to drive than my wagon.

The new F31 wagon is AT only in the US. I won't be buying one.

As to why the majority BMW buyers buy a sports sedan (or wagon) from the company that invented the sports sedan and then pick the model that lacks it's most sporty feature -- I can't answer that.
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  #4  
Old 09-17-2012, 03:50 PM
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Auto is auto, doesn't matter how fast it shifts, nothing "sporty " about them. Depend what you like. Most common explaination for having auto is traffic. Some have a weekend car with manual.
I prefer MT-much more fun.
Majicthis42, I still hope that after a year or two they will offer MT in F31, maybe with diesel. It is strange that 3 series variation is coming with auto only, I think even in Europe no MT for a wagon.
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Majikthese42 View Post
I've had the opportunity to drive an array of 328i service loaners and I didn't like them. I think AT cars are not particularly connecting and not particularly responsive. I've had 335i and 535i loaners -- and my objection applies to them, too. Admittedly, they were fast, but they were much less fun for me to drive than my wagon.

The new F31 wagon is AT only in the US. I won't be buying one.

As to why the majority BMW buyers buy a sports sedan (or wagon) from the company that invented the sports sedan and then pick the model that lacks it's most sporty feature -- I can't answer that.
BMW did not invent the sports sedan. The 1600 and 2002 may have had a role in popularizing the concept in the US but companies like Jaguar and Alfa Romeo and Triumph among others, were building sports sedans long before the BMW 1600 was introduced.

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  #6  
Old 09-17-2012, 06:19 PM
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I'd also debate the argument that the MT is BMW's "most sporty feature." If anything, i'd say the BMW MT is somewhat MEH and not particularly sporty. Compare it to the MT in the first gen Acura TSX, for example.
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Old 09-17-2012, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by captainaudio View Post
BMW did not invent the sports sedan. The 1600 and 2002 may have had a role in popularizing the concept in the US but companies like Jaguar and Alfa Romeo and Triumph among others, were building sports sedans long before the BMW 1600 was introduced.

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Old 09-17-2012, 06:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgcatching View Post
For those who have driven both or know about both, how does the Steptronic compare to the manual on this car? Both are 2011 328i models.

Still collecting info here, looking at a late model E90 series 328i most likely (also considering the 335ix if the right one was available). Mostly focusing on the 328i at this point, though, looks like it may suit my needs better, and I can get one of several with sub 10k miles out of a loaner fleet.

Anyways, I did locate a dealer around 350 miles away who has a 2011 328i with a manual transmission available. They are hard to find! I checked at 5 dealerships, found one.... Having only been able to drive a 328xi and with the Steptronic transmission locally, I was wondering how the driving experience compares? In the past, we have always owned manual transmissions whenever possible, but most auto trannies on those cars/trucks always were slugs. Not sure how a "sporty" auto tranny like a Steptronic compares to the MT. Thoughts?

Also, why not more MT's available on this model? I figured it being a sports sedan, it would be relatively popular. Maybe the auto tranny is just that good?
Had an 11 E90 MT, and an 07 E91 AT, also driven many service loaner E90 ATs.

Your expectation is accurate.

By no stretch is an AT a good alternative to "sport" driving on an E90 328. Driving in DS is annoying and jerky, as the engine revs higher and holds on to downshifts.
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Old 09-17-2012, 07:46 PM
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It is very hard to compare apples to oranges. Like others here, I've had AT 328i loaners, AT 335i loaners, and had the opportunity to put about 400 miles over the course of one weekend on a 328xi AT. I absolutely hated the 328i AT in full auto mode. In fact, at one point I thought I was going to get us killed. In DS mode it was better but still did not afford the same refinement in terms of finding the power band as quickly or conversely controlling it with compression (AKA Engine Braking) as the 328i MT affords. It's all a matter of perception though. If you have never driven an MT and have no comprehension of the dynamics, the difference may be lost on you. I love the MT in my 328i. With the MT, once you wrap your head around the fact that these cars love higher revs, you find the gearboxes sweet spot and then the transmission is your slave. Anything you want, you can pretty much get it within the limitations of safety, good sense and Sir Isaac Newton.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:57 PM
dawgcatching dawgcatching is offline
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Thanks for the responses. Guess I should get ready to make the long trip for a test drive? MT's have always been more fun for me to drive, even in my little Subaru Legacy. Just something about automatics that leave me bored stiff. I was hearing they had come a long way, but sounds like that is a different beast than what the 328 is equipped with.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:35 PM
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I say that yes the MT is an improvement over the 328i auto, because the extra control you gain really helps. Too bad you can't get the same one that's in the 335i, that one (or is the ECU that is tuned) is more likely to downshift for acceleration or braking.

I think the MTs in Audi and BMW are awesome, but the way, if you get the MT, find a shop or do a DIY to mod the clutch delay valve and your 1-to-2 shifts will be much smoother.

Last edited by Gig103; 09-18-2012 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 09-18-2012, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dawgcatching View Post
For those who have driven both or know about both, how does the Steptronic compare to the manual on this car? Both are 2011 328i models.

Still collecting info here, looking at a late model E90 series 328i most likely (also considering the 335ix if the right one was available). Mostly focusing on the 328i at this point, though, looks like it may suit my needs better, and I can get one of several with sub 10k miles out of a loaner fleet.

Anyways, I did locate a dealer around 350 miles away who has a 2011 328i with a manual transmission available. They are hard to find! I checked at 5 dealerships, found one.... Having only been able to drive a 328xi and with the Steptronic transmission locally, I was wondering how the driving experience compares? In the past, we have always owned manual transmissions whenever possible, but most auto trannies on those cars/trucks always were slugs. Not sure how a "sporty" auto tranny like a Steptronic compares to the MT. Thoughts?

Also, why not more MT's available on this model? I figured it being a sports sedan, it would be relatively popular. Maybe the auto tranny is just that good?
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  #13  
Old 09-18-2012, 09:33 PM
Michael Schott Michael Schott is offline
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My responses are similar to those of Kat. I've had 2 E90 328i's, both with MT but have had 328 AT loaners. The loaners were disappointing mainly that they are so slow to respond from a dead start. Press the gas and there is a delay. I don't blame this on the GM tranny which are uniformly robust and solid shifting but on BMW's software. The MT on the other hand is a hoot. Positive shifts, terrific clutch and great gearing. A 328i with the MT is a blast to drive.

By the way sporty shifting and light shifting are not exclusive traits. This is in response to Kilgore. Honda MT's are fabulous and light but then again they are designed to work with high revving 4 cylinder engines that are 2.0 liter and smaller. I certainly find the BMW MT plenty sporty.
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Old 09-19-2012, 05:58 AM
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Having both AT and MT cars, and alternating between them often, I find that driving the MT cars I am almost never thinking about shifting, or what gear I am in, or conversely, bored when driving the AT. Since the small, reptilian part of your brain is what is used for driving an MT, shifting is an automatic, subconscious response, especially after 30+ years of shifting. I am NEVER driving along thinking "oh boy, now I get to shift to 3rd", and then "now I get to shift to 4th" and then "oh no, slowing down, better shift into 3rd, or maybe 2nd". If we were driving along in traffic or in town, and you asked what gear we were in, it would take me a few seconds to think about it and tell you. Regardless of the situation, I've found that with good driving skills, you are not limited to "having fun" with just MT cars.

Further, as mentioned elsewhere numerous times, the AT in BMW's learns your driving style. Hopping in a rental or loaner for a few hours or days is not a fair comparison, as it takes several weeks (IMHO) for the AT to learn your driving style. Even more so if the car has been driven by lots of different people with different driving styles.

In the end, auto manufacturers make both types of transmission, so everyone can choose what they want. However, as someone who has both, I find it amusing that these type of threads always bring out the "MT is the best, AT sucks" posters...
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Old 09-19-2012, 06:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DougN View Post
In the end, auto manufacturers make both types of transmission, so everyone can choose what they want. However, as someone who has both, I find it amusing that these type of threads always bring out the "MT is the best, AT sucks" posters...
MT or AT it is just question of preference, but that statement of your is not true.
The choice is very, very limited, especially on more expensive models, or models with bigger motors.
Maybe they make them, but they don't sell it here. That is what sucks, not ATs.
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Old 09-19-2012, 06:20 AM
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captainaudio captainaudio is offline
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Originally Posted by DougN View Post
Having both AT and MT cars, and alternating between them often, I find that driving the MT cars I am almost never thinking about shifting, or what gear I am in, or conversely, bored when driving the AT. Since the small, reptilian part of your brain is what is used for driving an MT, shifting is an automatic, subconscious response, especially after 30+ years of shifting. I am NEVER driving along thinking "oh boy, now I get to shift to 3rd", and then "now I get to shift to 4th" and then "oh no, slowing down, better shift into 3rd, or maybe 2nd". If we were driving along in traffic or in town, and you asked what gear we were in, it would take me a few seconds to think about it and tell you. Regardless of the situation, I've found that with good driving skills, you are not limited to "having fun" with just MT cars.

Further, as mentioned elsewhere numerous times, the AT in BMW's learns your driving style. Hopping in a rental or loaner for a few hours or days is not a fair comparison, as it takes several weeks (IMHO) for the AT to learn your driving style. Even more so if the car has been driven by lots of different people with different driving styles.

In the end, auto manufacturers make both types of transmission, so everyone can choose what they want. However, as someone who has both, I find it amusing that these type of threads always bring out the "MT is the best, AT sucks" posters...
I totally agree.

After years of driving an MT shifting becomes totally automatic and almost subconcious. I don't understand the "I need an MT to concentrate on driving" posts. Most of these MT vs. AT threads evolve into instruction manuals for bad driving techniques.

As I have stated in the past the level of insistence of the superiority of manual transmissions tends to be inversely proportional to the skill of driving one.

I understand that some people enjoy driving MTs (and I am one of them) but with modern MTs and DCTs there is really no advantage to an MT other than personal preference.



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  #17  
Old 09-19-2012, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DougN View Post
I am NEVER driving along thinking "oh boy, now I get to shift to 3rd", and then "now I get to shift to 4th" and then "oh no, slowing down, better shift into 3rd, or maybe 2nd". If we were driving along in traffic or in town, and you asked what gear we were in, it would take me a few seconds to think about it and tell you.
You might be onto something here and thanks for pointing it out. In previous exchanges on the same subject Captain suggested to me to stop driving when I mentioned that I lose focus when driving AT. Well, I actually DO pay attention when changing gears - at least 80% of time when driving. I usually DO know what gear I'm in without touching the shifter or glancing at it. There's that sweetest spot (different for everybody) depending on your rate of acceleration when Universe just rebalances itself when you upshift properly and with perfect timing. Just a pure bliss. This also explains my utter frustration with driving in US (I'm writing this from Italy right now) even in my VW TDI with meager 105 hp, let alone my E92. Here, in Italy, when green light is lit people just run - not exactly the start of an F1 race, but they do react immediately and accelerate fast. Slugs in US almost always prevent me from revving the engine to that perfect spot for upshift because I would rear-end them if I did it even with 105 hp car because they need 1/2 mile to get to 35 mph speed limit. And then promptly break it. Since I'm paying attention and am actually trying to achieve something, that can get very frustrating. No such thing when driving AT, mind wanders and utter boredom sweeps in. So, no, I don't think I use reptilian part of my brain and shift without being aware of it and that might explain why

- I enjoy it so much
- I hate AT
- I lose focus when driving AT

Let's not even open the chapter about driving through twisties with no traffic and nailing perfect double-clutched rev-matched downshift before hitting the corner. With windows open. In a car with N55 engine. With PPK stage 1 added. My God!

No, I don't care about lap times. No, I don't care to drive fastes possible through a corner. I only care to drive at maximum speed that provides maximum fun - after a certain treshold, the law of diminuishing returns kicks in and going faster gets unfun REALLY quickly. As Jackie Stewart said "Those who say they love Nuerburgring are either driving slow or are lying."
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