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Old 4th June 2012, 02:04   #1
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Default First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

First impressions: BMW 328i (F30)

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-f30-1-small.jpg

I’ll be honest - I’ve always had a thing for BMWs. Not that I’ve owned one, but there’s always been something about (most of) them that makes me want them. Badly. So if you’re planning on signing the dotted line, shelling out the 30-odd lakhs that the F30 commands based on what you see here - I wouldn’t recommend it; there’s a fair possibility I’m biased. This however, (I hope) will serve as a half-decent summary of my first impressions of the all new F30 328i.

With that out of the way, on to the write up.

The F30 (much like the F10) represents a change in BMW's design philosophy and subsequently their product orientation. Taking a firm stride into maturity, the F30 is no longer the rouge, brash 3-series we’ve all grown to love.

This is understandable. If BMW wants to surge forward into the next decade they need to cater to a whole new breed of customers. Customers in emerging markets like China and India, who prefer the comfort of well contoured back-seats over corner carving prowess.

Being BMWs entry level sedan it is also incredibly important that they get the F30 right. For many, the 3-series will serve as an introduction to the BMW experience, hopefully impressing them enough to become returning customers. Simply put: there’s a lot riding on the F30s shoulders.

Design

The first thing that strikes you when you see the F30 (especially if you’ve hung around the E90) is that it looks large. Very large. You’ve probably read this everywhere but I’ll say it again: it looks like a somewhat smaller 5-series (F10).

While the new scowling front-end has raised a number of eyebrows and a general hate-it-or love-it opinion, I assure you it looks better in person. Meeting this trademark, angry, BMW nose is a refreshingly substantial bonnet. Viewed in profile the F30 has a rear-bias, for that subtle, “muscle car” feel.

I say subtle because unlike the previous generation, everything about the F30 (for lack of a better word) feels rounded. Yes you will find the occasional edge, but when viewed holistically, the F30 feels softer. Somewhat round. Put it beside an E60 5-series and it almost looks cuddly!


Clearly the 3-series is evolving. In a bid to not lose that hardcore, ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ image that BMW have built over the last 90-odd years, they made the rear look chunky, bold and well, just like the E90. All said and done, the rear is my favourite view of the car.

The exterior design is very evolutionary - and unless you saw the front, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that this was an E90. Adapting a why-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broken policy is fine, but I’m not sure if it’s enough. I at least, wanted more.


Step inside however, and you’re in for a treat.


The cabin is beautiful. Very aesthetically pleasing. The materials feel airy; they breath. That heavy, serious atmosphere that German cars of the yesteryears used to carry is gone. The quality remains but there’s more warmth now. The dials are minimalist. Classy.

All the buttons, knobs and levers feel tactile and built-to-last. The doors are as lovely as doors get and yes, they shut with a very dignified thud. Grab the steering wheel and you’ll find that it is of just the right diameter and thickness. It lends the driver a sense of control and purpose, like any steering wheel should.

The seats are bolstered to perfection (Volvo rivalling seats, these!). With very good under-thigh support, long drives should be a painless affair. The pedal-wheel-stick setup is brilliant, and within moments of being seated my pursuit of ergonomic perfection was met. An added bonus is the ever-so-slightly, driver centric dash. Nothing is more than a lazy arms reach away.

Perched on top of the dash is the optional (must have IMO, though) ‘Professional’ iDrive setup. The screen (roughly the size of half an iPad) is simply gorgeous. The resolution is stunning, probably up there with the retina display. As much as your first instincts tell you that touching the screen is a good idea - you can’t. The system is operated by the now accepted, iDrive knob. It is simple and intuitive to use.


Growing up has given the F30 a lot more room inside. Settle down in the back seat and you’ll find that rear legroom is no longer something you have to negotiate with the passengers up front about. Obviously this is no Skoda Superb, but the back is now a much more pleasing habitat to relax in.

Drive

Downsizing is the flavour of the season, even at BMW. And so the 328i comes kitted with a brand new, 2-litre twin-turbo inline four. While purists aren’t pleased (are they ever?), a fuel efficient engine that manages to eke out an impressive count of stallions makes economic sense. And economic sense is a priority. At least for a vast majority of car buyers.

The 328i puts out 245 PS of power with max torque (350 Nm) kicking in at as low as 1250 rpm. The standing ton comes up in about 5.9 seconds, as per BMW. Not bad at all for an entry level executive saloon. In fact, with figures like these the 328i can give some lower end sports cars a run for their money!

When driving the 328i, however, I never really felt any of the madness that I had hoped the car would deliver on. Everything feels clinical and well thought out. A clear case of controlled aggression. The engine itself, feels very linear. Power is on tap throughout the rev-range and unless you genuinely want to, you’ll never be out of the power band. Dab the throttle and the 328i surges forward strongly, without any drama or theatre. Play nice, and you’re rewarded with some very respectable fuel economy.

Excellent sound insulation ensures the cabin stays quiet. Wind and tyre noise are kept to a bare minimum. The engine itself is not very audible. Stomp hard on the pedal and the engine responds with a decent (though somewhat raspy) scream. An aftermarket exhaust system would work nicely here. (I’ve lost some respect for BMW engine notes though, ever since I found out about this: 2012 M5 Uses BMW Active Sound Design To Enhance Cabin Sound - M5POST - BMW M5 Forum)

Handling has always been a BMW hallmark and the F30 doesn’t disappoint. The classic electric vs hydraulic steering debate, does draw strong opinions, but in my opinion the F30 is a very satisfying car to carve corners with. Especially in sport + mode. The steering wheel feels sufficiently weighted and you always know exactly what the front wheels are up to. Though larger, the 328i feels very planted through bends and quite eager to change directions when prodded. Nimble. Very dynamic. The brakes are brilliant and come with some serious stopping power - a blessing keeping the power at hand, in mind.

The six-speed manual is by de facto the enthusiasts choice. The box is short-shifting and would be a real joy to use if not for the notchiness. The gates feel well defined, but still the shift quality just wasn’t up there. This could be attributed to the fact that the car was new - perhaps the box hadn’t settled in yet. Giving BMW the benefit of the doubt here as all other reviews say the box is brilliant!

The 8-speed gearbox is in a word, lovely. With a gear for every occasion, and then some, the box offers silky smooth shifts and a very relaxed driving experience. Accelerate hard and the box drops down a gear (or three) effortlessly.

Summary

The 3-series has always been a driving centric car. Any enthusiasts choice by default. The F30 does step away from this a little, but it offers something for everyone - it now appeals to a whole new strata of customers.

A one-size-fits-all approach is understandable - it makes logical, rational sense for BMW. After all, they need to sell to survive. But sometimes I wish that they’d just stick to their roots and made the F30 the most awesome to drive entry-level sports sedan, ever.

Don’t get me wrong - the 328i is a very competent package. If you held me at gunpoint and forced me to list three major flaws, I’d struggle. The F30 is brilliant. It’s just that I was expecting something else.

(Perhaps spending an extended amount of time with a 335i can win me over completely )


Photos

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-f30-2-small.jpg
My favourite angle.

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-f30-3-small.jpg
Very nice looking alloys on the Sport Line.

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-2f30-1-small.jpg
Luxury Line. Very elegant.

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-2f30-2-small.jpg
Imperial Blue happens to be my favourite colour.

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-2f30-3-small.jpg
Rear reminds one of the E90, no?

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-2f30-4-small.jpg
My favourite part about the new F30 - the interiors.

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-2f30-5-small.jpg
The display.

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-f30-4-small.jpg
The key (to the Sport Line).

First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden-2f30-6-small.jpg
Random shot of the gear selector.

PS: To those of you to whom I had promised that this write up would be up in June - sincere apologies. Was off on the annual India trip, having good fun driving around a two decade old M800!

Last edited by anekho : 12th August 2012 at 14:25.
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Old 13th August 2012, 13:25   #2
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Initial Ownership Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th August 2012, 13:43   #3
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Let me be the first one to congratulate (on team-bhp) you for your new ride. BMW 3 series have lot to offer to indian market too. This beast has awesome driving dynamics and brilliant interiors. I think after looking at pictures many of us would have already added this car to our wishlist (in case its not there already).Wish you million miles on this car. Ride Safe, ride hard.
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Old 13th August 2012, 16:02   #4
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Hey Anekho superb write-up as usual! Congrats and beautiful pics there. So did you buy it or just a test drive? I thought you were more inclined towards the Volvo S60 from your licencing days?

I did not like the key from the new BMW. It does not have that Identify in the parking or switch on H/L's feature. Accepted the parking lights do come on, but don't stay long enough. I don't know if the setting can be changed.

OT: By the way, when are you planning to finish your driving licence(thread)? According to us, you are still stranded with some more classes to go before you complete your test. Make it fast, we are waiting!

Aha! I am now into 555 mode(no.of posts).

Last edited by AlphaKilo : 13th August 2012 at 16:08.
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Old 13th August 2012, 17:03   #5
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

That was a nice summary Anekho. The Sport-Line alloys are fantastic. Assuming that this was a test drive, when are you buying this? Can you please provide a comparison of BMW with Volvo?
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Old 13th August 2012, 17:07   #6
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Thank you guys - this was just a test drive - not buying the car (yet ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaKilo View Post
OT: By the way, when are you planning to finish your driving licence(thread)? According to us, you are still stranded with some more classes to go before you complete your test. Make it fast, we are waiting!
The thread has been moved into the Assembly Line. I promise you I'll finish it - just not sure when
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Old 14th August 2012, 21:38   #7
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Didn't see this post earlier (maybe it wasn't approved then)!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PranavDesai View Post
That was a nice summary Anekho. The Sport-Line alloys are fantastic. Assuming that this was a test drive, when are you buying this? Can you please provide a comparison of BMW with Volvo?
Thank you! While I've had my hand with a fair few Volvo's I haven't driven the new S60 yet. From what I gather it should be a fairly close call between the BMW 328i and the Volvo S60 T6.

Modern day Volvo's have German-car-rivaling quality. I'm also a huge fan of their interiors - minimalist, airy, modern and most importantly *very* ergonomic. Volvo have been a pioneer in car safety but nowadays most cars (in that price range) come with very similar safety-kit.

Performance wise the BMW 328i should better the S60 T6, even though the latter comes with ~60 more horses and a grippy AWD system. Spec sheets reveal that the S60 T6 takes 6.1 seconds to 100 (as opposed to the 328i's 5.9 seconds). Handling on the BMW should also be sharper.

Would make for a fun comparison, driving these two back to back!
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Old 15th August 2012, 01:04   #8
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Nice report Anekho.Red+Sportsline=Yum.Sexy german in Volvo-land.

I wonder when this thing hits the road,from behind at a distance,it would be so easy to mistake the 3 for 5!And even the 7.

That slick iDrive and the swoop design of the dash is beautiful.Personally i think design wise BMW has played remarkably safe with this car,and if you put an E90 and F30 together,the side profile looks uncannily same.Love that drooped down nose,touches of Z4 there.

Did you get to testdrive the diesel as well?

And like any self respecting Teambhpian,i must ask(So that i can rant)what is the cost of a 328i there?
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Old 15th August 2012, 13:49   #9
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Default Re: First Impressions: BMW 328i (F30) from Gothenburg, Sweden

Quote:
Originally Posted by avishar View Post
Did you get to testdrive the diesel as well?

And like any self respecting Teambhpian,i must ask(So that i can rant)what is the cost of a 328i there?
Thanks Avishar!

The original plan was to also drive the diesel - they didn't have any cars available though.

A 328i with a decent amount of kit would cost you ~ 400,000 SEK (equates to about 33L with today's exchange rate). Not too different from the pricing in India.
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