The 2012 BMW 3 Series test drive coverage continues with a new report from Automobile Magazine. Here is an excerpt from the article which points out some the positive aspects of the new 3er, as well as some of its faults.
“Our first drive took us through some stop-and-go suburban driving before we got out into the countryside, where a long series of two-lane switchbacks delivered us to Montserrat, and then on to our hotel. The 2.0-liter four doesn’t have quite the sophisticated thrum of a straight six at start up, but the engine boasts a trick flywheel and two counter rotating balance shafts that help make it quite smooth at idle. Run it up the tach and it emits a satisfying growl.
With an additional 60 pound-feet of torque compared to the old six, it also moves the 328i with verve. The car zips from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds (factory figures), which is a full second quicker than the previous 328i with its six-speed automatic. Paired with the manual, the turbo four is even quicker, reaching 60 mph in 5.7 seconds (0.6 second quicker than before). With peak torque coming in at a low, 1250 rpm, the car is energetic right off the line, and the boost is beautifully integrated.
We have no such reservations about the suspension, which exhibits all the athleticism we’ve come to expect here. That was particularly in evidence over five rainy laps of the Circuit de Catalunya, where the new 3 really came into its own. The steering, which we had been thinking was a bit less communicative than the delightfully informative system in the previous car, here conveyed plenty of info about the front tires’ tenuous relationship with the wet tarmac. The chassis balance (weight distribution is 50:50) was also evident, helping us on the slick circuit to keep the car in the narrow band between front-end push and power oversteer. The dynamic stability control permits generous drift angles before pulling in the reins. It also can be switched off completely by holding down the DTC button; as ever, the 3-series lets go in a controlled manner and is easy to gather up. Even on the track, however, we could not discern much of a difference in firmness between the adaptive suspension in Comfort mode and in Sport. It may be that the changes in damping rates are only evident over bad pavement, and we didn’t encounter much of that in Spain. Nothing that we did find suggested that Sport mode would be unduly harsh, but the roads back home will be a better test of that.