Dubai-based magazine GulfNews pits the new 2012 BMW 328i against its counterpart from the Mercedes family: C300. Without any further ado, here are some of their findings:
Dejan’s BMW 328i
When I initially drove the 328i at the Dubai Autodrome I said that it’s brilliant. I said the chassis is marvellous, and I was right, and I couldn’t stop lauding that engine either. I also said I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was right on that point too. Here’s what I mean…
At the limit the car becomes hesitant. The tyres just don’t match that awesome chassis. These 225/45 R18 Goodyears are pliable and quiet runflats, but unfortunately they’re also economical low-rolling-resistance tyres. They have a remarkable tendency to, well, roll, and the 328i thus isn’t very effective at engine-braking. You can pretty much just coast to work.
But why bother about limits? The 3 Series boasts a sublimely engineered chassis that’s talented in all situations, be it cosseting the passengers with a sturdy ride — the car doesn’t bob on its suspension, it sinks as a whole and absorbs bumps and rough road surfaces like one solid mass instead of a collection of thousands of parts — or attacking corners with vicious grip. There is no danger, ever, of losing the back end. 245bhp would ensure a wild ride not that long ago, but this generation 3er shrugs that off like it’s busy doing a parking job. I maintain: the tyres, the electronics, and the solitary flat-spot in the rev band are its only flaws.
The good bits are far superior in numbers though. We genuinely experienced fuel economy of 7.0 litres-per-100km, thanks in part to the slippery new body (Cd of just 0.26 also ensures an eerily quiet cabin) and an auto start-stop function which is standard kit with the silky eight-speed ZF. Plus you can squeal off a 0-100kph run in less than six seconds. In a four-pot saloon!
Sony’s Mercedes C30
Despite its reputation for solid build quality and bullet-proof mechanicals, image has rarely been Mercedes-Benz’s forte. Although there have been noble exceptions over the brand’s illustrious 125-year life, it remains a fact that not many men below the age of 35 would picture themselves behind the wheel of a Tristar. That puts the C300, which is a car aimed specifically at this category of buyers, at a clear disadvantage right at the onset. However, it must be said that the W204 C-Class, with its chiselled lines and crisp creases, looks slightly better than the previous version, which looked a lot barer. And it also helps that the new 3 Series with its drooping eyelids, looks like it’s half asleep. It’s a similar story inside, with good-quality material and practicality taking the front seat, giving it an altogether austere feel in comparison to the BMW’s cheerful cabin.
However, you tend to get over all the preconceptions once the door closes with a reassuring thump and the new direct-injected 3.5-litre V6 comes alive. I remember saying this has to be the smoothest naturally aspirated V6 lump around when I drove the C350 a few months back. It’s the same engine here but with 54 horses less.