Test Drive: BMW 328i xDrive Sport Line M Performance image

This is quite a long name to give to a car that only needs two adjectives: sport and style.

Yes, the 328i is currently not the most powerful petrol fueled 3 Series, so we won’t be really talking about road rage. Still, with its pack of accessories and stylish new generation design, you are sure to be the crowd pleaser of the night… or day, or morning – never mind, this car screams “Look at me”. And we do, all of us. Really, there’s no shame in acknowledging this little guilty pleasure.

This is the F30 BMW 3 Series, the sixth generation of the compact executive sedan (in the US)/ medium executive sedan (in Europe), the first one to mark a new letter in the internal moniker. You could consider this a small and unimportant detail, but we urge you to reconsider – we are talking about a German brand, where such tiny details mean the world. So, you can imagine this generation is something special.

Well, if you only take into account the design, you could say this new 3 Series is rather underwhelming – there’s an evolutionary design, not a radical departure from the beloved E90. Actually, BMW integrated a lot of new lines into a seemingly evolving model – changes were particularly important to the front fascia, with a new design for the headlights and to the back, with also a new design to the taillights. I tend to agree on the latter and not so much on the former.

I’ll explain: the headlights now fuse to the kidney grill, something I can live with, but now the double rings are flat on top and bottom – something I really dislike. On the other hand, I always considered the design of the taillights of the E90 too bland and rather Korean so the return to the L-shaped design is utterly loved and impressive. This is my opinion only, so feel free to love or hate the new 3 Series – it really doesn’t matter too much, as it will really sell well, as always!

Thankfully, all things come to an end when you take into account the M Performance accessories – these are the best things that came from them since they introduced the Lines on the 1 Series. These accessories really transform your car and you can fit all or just some, however you consider – and apart from the two black lines, everything on this car is where it’s supposed to be. BMW simply delivered a devious but genius blow to the tuners – the M Performance accessories really are so good. And this goes not just for the 3 Series, but for the 5 Series as well, trust me on that.

Interior and gadgets
Featuring the Sport Line and the M accessories, this 328i really went up on the stylish ladder when going inside the cockpit – we have a true blend of sport and executive allure, which makes this car utterly German – a trait we could all see more in the new models today. I mean, after those strips talked about a boy owning the car, inside you will see that it’s all a disguise, something that would divert people’s attention from who’s inside. There, everything is strict, effective and efficient – a true power machine should always be like that.

You shouldn’t dismiss me as a fan boy right now – I do have complaints about the interior, as I did about the exterior, so let’s see them: The drive position, although very easy to modify in various directions is not that low as it should be in a performance model – in the E90 it felt (at least) a bit lower to the ground. Then there’s that devilishly beautiful M Sport steering wheel – why is it so big? Are we all Hulks? Man, sport steering wheels are small – I mean Peugeot got that in their 208 hatchback and BMW doesn’t? It almost took all the fun away.

Fortunately, there are also good things – the design of the dashboard is as always in typical BMW fashion, but somehow they managed to give it individuality from the 1 Series (they started this open LCD trend there). I’m really curious to see it developed in the bigger 5 and 7 Series, next.

The front seats are great, as always, although to go full electric in the many directions it can you need to pay that extra buck – once you do it, lateral support will never be an issue again. And, thanks to the overall dimensional increase, finally the back seats are adult usable – even three of them will have space, although it’s still fairly limited.

As far as technology is considered, well, I could talk about what BMW gives you in its cars all day and probably still find new things – everything is there, from full smartphone connectivity, to maps with 3D rendering, apps to use in the car, or assisted driving technology – all you need to do if you want all that is a large bank account, to afford all the extras. And, BMW’s iDrive keeps getting smarter by the day, although, somehow the Germans also find ways to make it easier to use – or maybe it’s just me who really got used to it.

Engine, transmission, fuel consumption
Aside from the 335i with its road hungry 6-in line engine, all the options on the petrol side are now 4 cylinders, and the 328i makes the most of its 2 liters – 245 hp/ 5000-6500 rpm and 350 Nm at 1250-4800 rpm. Oh, almost gone are the days of the BMW 6-in line engine – and this 28i is at the fore-front of the change. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the smaller, double turbo charged 4 cylinder, except for the fact that if you know your stuff you’ll miss the sound of the old engine. Aside from that, the new one is more efficient and matches its performances (it was a 3 liter engine, if I recall correct).

The 328i gives you great performance, and if you go for the xDrive, you’ll be safe all year round – especially if you also cash in for the 8 speed automatic transmission. The match is made in heaven – you won’t get any drifts from this machine, but also cut corners faster and safer. This machine tells you that drifting is not its game anymore, but rather taking on any mountain road or pass and delivering the thrill you always wanted – in a safer and more grippy way. The xDrive would also be great if it weren’t for the front lip of the spoiler, which seats only a hair away from the road – you want great design, you still need to compromise.

With 5.8 seconds to 100 km/h and 250 km/h top speed you can’t say the 328i is not fast, and you’ll be more impressed when you see the fuel consumption: 8,7 city / 5,5 highway and 6,7 average (liters/100 km). OK, everyone knows these numbers could be achieved only downhill, but still, the car delivers great in terms of fuel consumption. With a side note – this is still a petrol engine, so if you take a long trip with the family and all the bags (possible, but dull) the average fuel will be very good – remember you have 8 speeds. But if you go alone, on a curvy mountain road with little to no traffic (highly possible and highly recommended) you should plan ahead your refueling stops, because you’ll burn through asphalt, rubber and fuel like a mad man.

Handling, safety
As always, BMW grants the driver the power of a little “God” when it comes to the chassis of its car and how it handles the road. The magic happens from two buttons and a myriad of electronic components, never seen by the owner of the car. As usual, the range comes in four flavors – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+.

Even on a rather more dedicated performance machine like the 328i we have the very environmental and fuel friendly Eco Pro setup, with tips and tricks to ensure the driver will be rewarded if he feather touches the accelerator pedal. If we weren’t talking about a German efficiency obsessed company we could have taken this as marketing gimmick, but the setup really works – especially if we take into account the Stop/Start system that comes as a standard. I’ll spare you of the technicalities, but it’s suffice to say that in this mode you feel like you drive a less powered car – of course, it all changes at a very intense pedal push.

Than there’s the Comfort mode – which actually does a pretty decent job of not hurting your kidneys when you encounter a bump, although the ridiculously (but beautiful looking) large rims and the equally small heel of the tyres stand in its way all the time.

Then, we have the Sport and Sport+ setups, which are for when you want to travel very fast and for when you want to travel insanely fast (but with a measure of safety assistance still on).

The last two would be best used on the road or on twisted mountain roads, while the Comfort and Eco Pro are useful in the city and on long journeys. And that goes well actually for every BMW that is equipped with the system.

The 328i is very good at changing itself to suit the particular travel conditions or the mood of the driver, as the electronic aids constantly monitor what happens – even if you’re in Eco Pro and you need to overtake, the full power will be back at your disposal, along with the chassis setup that would be normally used in Sport – software programs really do wonders today…

As far as safety is concerned, you should remember that any given electronic aid or chassis has some limitations – the ones that Mother Nature imposed on all of us – though in this case, with xDrive and all, they really are very far. For reassurance, we even had the M Performance braking system on the car, not that we (thankfully) ever needed its full cooperation.


The M Performance accessories are the best tuning pack for a BMW. Period. The interior is bigger than before, the chassis is at its best and it even has a good fuel economy.

The engine sound is not what we have come to love in a 6-in line configuration.