BMWBLOG’s Road Test Editor Shawn Molnar reported for us live from Barcelona to bring us a review of BMW’s new F30 3 series. The model driven was the new 4 cylinder 328i sedan, and it impressed both on road and track.
Shawn has also written a piece for AutoGuide.com, taking a broader look at the car and its appeal to the greater population. The partial review is found below, for the full review at AutoGuide please hit the jump.
The 5th generation that this new 3 Series replaces was a fine car in every respect. It drove well, proved reliable, and wasn’t too thirsty at the pumps. In fact – even several years after its initial launch, the “E90” 3 series (internal code name) was still winning comparison tests with the best the competition had to offer. So what could BMW have possibly improved upon to render the all-new 3 Series a better car?
5-WAY DRIVE MODE SELECTOR
Many things, apparently, as we learned from the 3 Series’ global launch in Barcelona, Spain. To start off, BMW has implemented a new vehicle behavior switch that allows the driver to chose between five unique drive modes. The ‘game changer’ among these modes is called “Eco Pro” mode, and it introduces a slew of features that result in better economy. To start off, the gas pedal becomes stiffer and harder to press – which ultimately results in you pressing it less. A new gauge on the instrument display shows a blue bar that grows longer as you depress the gas pedal. The challenge is to keep the blue bar as short as possible – and if do you so, the car rewards you with ‘bonus’ miles you’ve gained from the current tank of gas, shown in blue under the efficiency bar. This may seem rudimentary, but it works – in fact BMW claims up to a 20% improvement in efficiency based on the system’s ability to improve driver habits.
|1. 328i models trade a straight-six for a turbocharged 4-cylinder with 240-hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 10 hp and 60 lb-ft.
2. The 335i model retains its turbocharged straight-six with 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, enabling a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds.
3. Pricing for the all-new model starts at $35,795 for the 328i and $43,295 for the 335i including a $895 destination fee.
Eco Pro mode also introduces mechanical changes to the car when selected. The smooth and fast-shifting 8-speed automatic (optional, a 6-speed manual comes standard) is programmed to shift early and move onto the next gear as soon as possible. The transmission logic is hesitant to downshift and generally keeps the engine below 2000 rpm, thus saving fuel. The engine management is also altered for efficiency. For example, the turbo’s waste gate is less likely to dump boost pressure, thus conserving as much energy from the turbo as possible.
BMW’s Eco Pro mode represents a great execution of a fuel saving technology. We were surprised how drivable the car remained even in this fuel sipping mode; it never feels weak or feeble from behind the wheel, but constantly reminds you of its intelligent approach to fuel conservation. As a daily driver, we would leave the car in Eco Pro mode for the vast majority of our driving, and celebrate our fuel savings at the end of each trip.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is “Sport +” mode. Sport Plus wakes up the 3 Series dynamically, and earns the car its birthright in the lineup. With sharpened throttle response, tighter suspension settings, heavier weighted and more communicative steering, as well as more aggressive transmission shift logic, the 3 Series transforms itself into a proper sports sedan. The transformation is black and white; from behind the wheel it feels like you’re driving two separate cars. BMW has long been advocating their “two cars in one” design approach – at least on their performance based M branded cars. It seems that this philosophy has now made its way into their regular lineup.
In between Eco Pro mode and Sport Plus mode are Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. These three modes slice up the difference from each end of the spectrum and can be used to fine-tune the car to the road you’re on or the mood you’re in.