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2013 BMW 328i - Henny's Real Road Test:

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...the 8-speed automatic transmission reacts so quickly and smoothly that the engine acts like it was stung by a bee when you suddenly push the throttle.

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

MUNICH, Germany, September 19, 2012; By the end of last year, BMW’s latest 3 Series took the media by storm. Not surprisingly so, as the Germans had the nerve to present the sixth generation for driving impressions not only on public roads, but also on a race track. In this case the event was organized in Barcelona, Spain, to miss the bad weather in western and central Europe.

As usual, also this new model looked better in the open air, on the public roads, where the ‘3’ impressed me with its dynamic and sleek appearance. With a history of BMW ever improving new generations, I had great expectations of the F30, an internal code name that is also adapted by BMW fans.

For the first route, I took the 320d, the variant of choice in many European countries, where cars are being taxed depending on their CO2 emission. This powerful diesel engine is very fuel efficient and only produces 119 g of CO2. It is refined and therefore may feel less potent. But the contrary is the case, as you see from the 7.5 seconds it takes the 1.495 kg or nearly 3,300 pounds 320d to move from a standing start to 0-62 mph.

The route through the city and the hills around Barcelona ended at the Catalunya Circuit. We did not have to change cars and off we went. There, the new Bimmer already showed that its suspension is well trimmed for sporty drivers. With the high torque of the diesel motor, driving on the track was great fun.

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The other 3 Series model available was the 328i with the new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, twin-turbocharged engine. This power plant may be downsized, but it with 180 kW/245 hp and 350 Nm/258 pound-feet of torque also a muscular one. You do not need much time on the Spanish race track, to feel the great stability, resulting from the 50 mm/2 inches longer wheel base and wider tracks and the well balanced chassis. Making it feel more mature, while not compromising agility, helped by the fact that it is 40 kg/88 pounds lighter than the former model.

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The electric power steering works very well with good feedback and great precision. The first couple of corners made it clear that the 3 Series is more engaging than ever before. Attractive is the standard DPC Drive Performance Control that offers Comfort, Sport and EcoPro modes.
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With the extra M Sport adaptive damper package, the Sport+ mode feels even more sporty thanks to the stiffer suspension mode that enhances body control and sheds body roll. The laps on the Catalunya track soon proved that the new 328i is absolutely great fun to drive, providing good grip mild breakaway in the rear that enables the experienced driver to take the car into the fast four wheel drift around the corners. After the tyres got hotter, the ‘3’ showed some understeer that could be well controlled with lifting the throttle a bit.

Enough about the track test, as daily life on public roads asks for a different mind set. Meaning behaving like a customer who has picked up his or her new 328i in BMW Welt, adjacent to the Munich headquarters of the automaker.

More than 20 years ago, BMW started to offer American customers ‘European delivery’. Rather than picking up their new car at a local dealership, they can take delivery of their car on a special stage in BMW Welt and drive through Europe before their cars is returned in Munich and shipped to the harbour.

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But this aside. I planned my stop for the night in Gasthof zum Schloss, a lovely inn in the village of Amtzell, in the rolling hills north of Lake Constance.
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This beautiful lake is situated between Germany, Switzerland and Austria and is 39 miles long. In the middle, the water is amazingly deep (827 ft) and 135 ft. higher than on both ends, because of the curvature of the earth.

From Munich on the Autobahn, I kept the speed between 100 and 110 mph, which is normal if you are not in a hurry.

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In the country, the speed limits are between 50 and 60 mph and in the villages it is around 30 mph. Which results in a relaxed drive, with enough time to enjoy the gorgeous landscape, the many apple trees with the fruit nearly ready to be picked and with many pumpkin stalls along the roads.

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For such a tour, the comfort mode is excellent, and EcoPro, that helps you save gas, is also efficient. In Comfort the 3 Series rides serene on bad surfaces and since there are no high bumps at all in this part of the world, it remains so for ever. With the refined suspension and the low noise in the cockpit, the 328i is really a comfortable cruiser. With a big plus: the possibility to safely pass a farmer’s tractor on the two lane roads. The 8-speed automatic transmission is reacting so quickly and smooth that the engine acts like stung by a bee, when you suddenly push the throttle. In just a blink of an eye, the obstacle disappears in the mirrors and you can go back into cruising mode.

I stayed in the area for another day, going back for another night’s sleep to the hospitable Fischer family that runs the Gasthof.

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The 328i in Luxury trim is fitted with saddle brown Dakota leather and lots of technology, such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, surround view camera’s, the iDrive system with a 6.5-inch full color flat screen display and the transcendent full-color HUD (head-up display). It is en exception not to be in a hurry. It added to making the drive in great comfort in such a dynamic car feel like a soothing mini holiday.

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At the pump no surprises either: the 328i used during the nearly 800 miles long trip 7.8 liters/100 km, which is the equivalent of 31 mpg. With a gas price of around 1.70 euro per liter ($ 8.35 per gallon) every little bit of fuel sipping helps!

No wonder the 3 Series is the class leader in US sales and fuel efficiency. It is also BMW’s biggest money maker, with nearly a third of all BMW sales worldwide. In the US, the BMW 328i has a starting price (MSRP) of $ 36,500 for the base trim level.

Engine:	2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo, 245 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph: 	6.1 seconds
Top speed: 	155mph
Economy: 	44.8mpg
CO2: 		147g/km
Wheels/Tyres:	18-inch wheels with 225/50 R18 run flat tyres