2012 BMW 328i
Base price: $34,900
As tested: $43,670
MPG: 23 city/34 highway
- Aggressive styling
- Fuel economy
- Still the “Ultimate Driving Machine”
- Pricey options add up
By Michael Hagerty
The idea of making do with less is a tough one for a lot of us. So imagine what it’s like for BMW, a brand that has built its business in America by offering more — more power, more refinement — and charging more for it.
Auto manufacturers, pressured by new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards requiring fleet averages of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, are making a shift to building smaller cars and smaller engines. V-8s are giving way to 6-cylinder engines in larger cars, and in smaller ones, 6s are vanishing in favor of 4s.
In a lot of cases, that has drivers wondering what they’re giving up in the name of mileage. For BMW, a brand known for perhaps the best, smoothest, silkiest, and most power-packed 6s, that’s a scary question.
That is, until the release of the new 3 Series. Though the car’s 2.0-liter twin-power turbo isn’t a BMW 6-cylinder, it’s much better than anyone else’s 4. It maintains the brand’s classic fun at the wheel and gives drivers a bonus at the gas pump. With an EPA estimated 23 city/34 highway mpg, the 3 Series offers excellent mileage. In fact, the tiny Fiat 500 does only 5 mpg better on the highway.
And everything else in the new 328i is exactly what BMW has always done, with great materials, flawless execution, and exemplary ergonomics. Everything is right where your hand would naturally fall. Nothing (apart from the optional navigation system) requires taking your eyes off the road and your mind off driving.
If you’ve never driven a BMW yourself, prepare for a revelation. The handling is so precise, you’ll swear the steering wheel has established a Bluetooth connection with your brain. Think it and it happens. And that’s just in the standard 3 Series.
Our tester had the Adaptive M Suspension option, which lowers the chassis by 10 millimeters. In this option, sensors monitor each of the four wheels independently, calculating exactly the right shock absorber valving rate for the road, improving both ride and handling. While this feature is cool, it’s also $900. And that’s the biggest drawback with BMWs: pricey options and lots of them.
The 328i isn’t a bargain at its base price of $34,900, but considering the quality, performance, and, now, fuel economy, you can make an argument that it’s a good value. Though, get giddy enough with the goodies (a few costly options include $1,450 for two-tone leather interior, $2,500 for the Sports Line appearance package, and $1,050 for the moonroof), and you’re flirting with a $50,000 price tag.