2007 BMW 328xi Review


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THE AUTO PAGE
by
JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: BMW 328xi
Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC inline six
Horsepower/Torque: 230 hp @ 6500 rpm/200 lb.-ft. @ 2750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed Steptronic automatic/manual
Wheelbase: 108.7 in.
Length x Width x Height: 178.2 x 71.5 x 55.9 in.
Tires: 225/45R17 run-flat tires
Cargo volume: 12.0 cu. ft.
Economy: 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/24.7 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal.
Price: $43,395 (includes $695 destination charge, $8,400 in options)

The Bottom LineAll-wheel drive adds luster to an already solid premium compact sedan. In addition, the Steptronic automatic/manual transmission offers Interstate ease with back-road sportiness. The BMW 3-Series is surprisingly roomy for its size.

BMW has expanded its top-selling 3-Series line with the addition of the all-wheel drive 328xi (the “i” is standard with BMW, the “x” signifies all-wheel drive). We had the opportunity to drive the 328xi over more than 2,100 miles of varied roads. Our travels took us primarily over Interstates, but we also hit some back-country winding roads where there were stretches where no more than 100 feet were straight. We also spent some time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is noted for being a great driving road, with turns and straights, but with an annoyingly low speed limit. And we also used the AWD in a torrential downpour and felt secure with good traction underneath us.

First, the 3.0-liter inline six in the 328xi is rated at 230 horsepower is more than enough for the compact sedan, even when laden with luggage. We never had concerns about passing big trucks or entering highways off short entry ramps. And we were always confident that we could maintain speeds with anyone.

Our tester was equipped with a 6-speed Steptronic automatic/manual transmission. In automatic mode, it was a silent, smooth gem, kicking down quickly (most of the time) when we wanted to downshift and maintaining a good ratio to keep fuel economy at a steady 24.7 mpg for our trip.

We did have some fuel concerns. We entered the Blue Ridge Parkway without checking the fuel gauge and discovered when we were well along that the “low fuel” light went on and the car beeped to warn us. If you know this highway, there is minimal access and the area it traverses has few towns far between.

We stopped at a visitor center and were told there was a gas station “10 miles away.” Well, 10 miles was more like 20, and the roads were all you could hope for. We drove ultra-conservatively to the station (straight out of Mayberry), but used the manual shifter to enjoy the ride back to the parkway. You manually shift by pushing the gear lever forward (for upshifts)or down, and we snicked through the gears with abandon. I was sad to see the road end (my wife wasn’t) and looked forward to other similar stretches.

On the Interstates, we used cruise control a lot, and here was my one major gripe with the car. The cruise control stalk and the turn signal stalk are almost identical and in close proximity. First, there’s the problem of turning on the turn signal when you want to engage cruise. Then when you want to turn on the turn signal, you turn off cruise. And each stalk has a pushbutton on the end. In cruise, it “resumes.” On the turn signal stalk you enter the information menu and discover your fuel economy.

There’s a similar switch on the right (wiper) stalk that turns on the automatic rain-sensing mode. This was excellent, because there was no other similar stalk on that side.

We drove in 100-plus degree weather most of the time. There’s a “max AC” mode to the HVAC system that cooled the car quickly after it had been sitting out for a while.

The audio was excellent as well, if confusing at times. For most of our entertainment, we used a plug-in XM receiver.

Small storage areas abound. There are bottoms in the door pulls, which are ideal fro cell phones. There’s a nice pocket in the center console. The pop-out cupholders for the front passengers are a good use of space, but they seem awkward. There was a cupholder in the center console that wasn’t deep but was practical for holding other small objects.

We discovered too early that we took too much luggage, but it all fit in the BMW’s trunk. The rear seat backs DON’T fold flat to increase cargo capacity, so we simply laid extra stuff on the rear seats.

The rear seats offered good legroom for two adults, with indents in the backs of the front seats for the knees. There are rear climate controls and a pair of cupholders.

Front seat comfort was excellent with good side support and knee supports that pulled out from the front of the seat bottom. These were exceptionally handy on long runs.

I had a few minor gripes with the BMW328xi, but there wasn’t much I would change with the car. I guess I’d like it to be slightly larger (okay, Heilig, get a 5-Series then), and the turn signal/cruise control stalks need to be changed.

2007 The Auto Page Syndicate

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