March 1, 2008
By Scott Lewis
My wife and I visited the local BWM dealership to check out a 330i they had on special on their web site. It was a 2006 model with only 12K miles on it for a very reasonable $32K. Unfortunately we were a few hours too late as that car was sold, and we got to see the newer owner move his "stuff" from his 350Z to the 330i before driving off.
I told my wife we could look at the used 07 328i cars on the lot. They have 230 hp vs. the 255 the 06 330i came with. So we drove two 328i models, one with virtually no option and one with both the Premium and the Sport packages.
My wife was concerned that getting a car with less horsepower make for a car that was not fast enough. I have long since made the distinction that most cars that run as fast as the 335i with its 300 turbocharged horsepower are rarely driving to use all that power. In fact, I have noticed that I rarely use all the power of my Mini Cooper S. Given today's congested traffic and traffic laws (read tax collection laws) you need a race track to get the most out of a car with 300 horsepower.
So the big question for us was if the 328i with its 230 horsepower would be enough to get us to stop regretting not getting to the dealer sooner for the 255 hp 330i, and if it is enough horsepower to satisfy our appetite for speed that we don't need to spend the extra money for a 335i.
As I describe the cars I will talk about both cars together, rather than one at a time. I am pretty sure the Premium package does not impact the driving experience, but the Sport package surely does.
Both cars felt very powerful. They both had a slight lag off the line as the RPMs built up speed. But once underway speed build very quickly. I was cruising at 80 mph in both cars in to time at all. I expect these cars are good for a 0-60 sprint of 6.5 seconds. Except for this initial lag before the engine speeds build these cars feel quick fast. I would place the slight delay on the automatic transmission. Each car was equipped with one, and we are not in the market for a manual transmission. Once revs start to climb, and you keep your foot into it the transmission lets the RPMs go well into the luscious power band that BMW inline 6 engines are famous for.
Downshifts were quick enough that I didn't notice any unnecessary delays. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the transmission. I am the first to harp on a tranny for hunting for gears or shifting way too early when you have the pedal to the floor. The 328i shifted nicely. I did not get a chance to evaluate the sport vs. normal setting of the transmission.
For a daily driver the 328i has all the power you need and then some. People that think they need more are lying to you and themselves. Sure, you can want more power, we all do, but the 328i is more than up to the task of blowing by almost every car on the road during normal traffic. In fact, I would not buy this car without buying a good radar detector.
The Sport Package impacts ride and handling quite a bit. More than the limits of the car, the driving experience is substantially different. The base car had very light feeling to the steering and braking. It took a few time to get used to the brakes without having everyone in the car lunging forward. My wife thought it was me until she drove it. The brakes are very sensitive. The steering is also very light on the base model. You could wiggle the steering wheel back and forth less than an inch and the car would react NASCAR style. I kind of like it. Razor sharp came to my mind.
Switching to the Sport package was a day and night change. The steering was heavy and the brakes were quite firm. Much more like my Mini Cooper (which also has the Sport package). I was a little disappointed that the steering didn't flick back and forth like it did in the base car. But you could tell the car was gripping better. And the ride is noticeably firmer. It is firm enough that I will consider getting car with just the Premium Package and not the Sport Package.
Granted, the suspension is not choppy, but bumps come though with a sharper impact and more of that impact to the seat of your pants. As a luxury car I would skips the Sport Package. If you are looking for a sporting sedan than the Sport Package is very desirable. Since my wife and I are looking for a family daily driver we will put 100,000 miles on I am leaning toward the base suspension with its light tough and more comfortable ride. Hey, I am getting older too.
The base car comes with "Leatherette." This is snob talk for vinyl. Put another way... it is the leather that comes from plastic cows. I would skip this and go for the real cowhides. This may be against the animal activists ideal, but if I am going pay over $30K for a car that I will sit in for 100+K miles I want leather. The Sport package comes with sport seats. These provide adjustable side bolsters, and inflatable lumbar adjustments. There may be more than than that. The seats are awesome and come with memory (as do the base seats). Great for when two people are sharing a vehicle.
If I was ordering a car new I would order it with the Premium Package and those Sport seats. The Premium package includes a bunch of convenience options and I assume the Harman/Kardon stereo. The Premium equipped car we drove had satellite radio as well. The most important feature in the Premium package (which was not included in the Premium Package of my Mini Cooper) was the built-in garage door opener.
Here's something you won't read in any other review. The directional stalk takes a lot of getting used to, BMW wants its car to be smart than you. It does not work. If you lightly tap the stalk it will blink the turn signal three times and turn off. Simple enough. If you tap the stalk fully then it will stay on until returning from a turn turns it off or you turn it off. The problem was I could not figure out how much was enough to tap it. I found myself tapping it back and forth a few times trying to get it to stop. I felt a little stupid in the process.
I did not spend a lot of time with all the "gadgets" in the cars. I highly recommend the Premium package, and as you have read I reserve the Sport package for people that are looking for a serious sports sedan. Although I have to wonder about the person that wants a serious sport sedan "settling" for a 328i. In my opinion the Sport package is best left to the 335i.
Overall I love these cars. The rear seat room was acceptable to me (I m 5' 10" and weigh a little over 200 lbs). However I would not want to be in the back seat with two other people. This car is mainly a 4 passenger vehicle.
This car is so nice that even we are going to buy one. Just not one of the ones we drove. The BMW dealer, the same dealer I bought my Mini Cooper from gave me the lowest offer of any other dealer. Some resale value. I told them how insulting it was that they were offering so little for my car that they sold to me at sticker price because of great resale value and a waiting list. They didn't come down on the sticker price of their car either. SO they are making $5-6K on the used 328i and are going to put my car out on the lot for $4-5K more than what they are going to pay me for it. It was disgusting. Don't they know we are in the verge of a recession, and we were ready to buy that day. If they had offered $2K ore for my car and taken $2K off they price of theirs we would have bought it on the spot.
Maybe it was a good thing. I have the itch to test drive a 335i and save up so I can keep my payment the same when I trade in my Mini Cooper.
Well, I have to go... and check out Autotrader.