With most test drives you get from the dealerships and showroom, all the sales guys would probably let you do is bring you along a pre-approved route around the dealership just to let you have a feel about a certain car. To me, my experience with the BMW F30 328i is on a whole different level.
Why is it that I am different in terms of the experience when it comes to a test drive? I think me and 19 other participants can attest to that. In one of my previous posts, I mentioned I attended the BMW Advanced Driver Training. And just this weekend, I finally completed the BMW Intensive Driver Training. All 2 days in a BMW F30 328i (sports version and non M-Sport). Yes, that is right, I took the car through hell, drifting it, driving through slalom challenges, as well as driving the car on the track at the Sepang International Circuit for two days and more.
After going through two days of really intense driving, I have a new-found respect for the BMW F30 328i. Why is that so?
- The car went through quite a lot abuse from the many participants who participated in the BMW Advanced Driver Trainings and now here I was using it again at the BMW Intensive Driver Training. The car still felt as good as when I first used it back in June 2013. Yes, there were some bits and pieces falling off the car such as the rear lights dangling out but in terms of a driving feel, it still feels sharp.
- During the training session, we went through 30 laps of continuous lap driving at Sepang at fast speeds (averaging around 3 minutes per lap which included slowing down on the straights before turn 15 and after turn 15 to swap car positions) and the car still could manage it. And we did it over two days. Those of you who are familiar with track days and especially driving VW cars, the VW cars tend to overheat after prolonged laps on the circuit.
- The brakes held out fine throughout the track sessions only to see some brake fade after around 10-12 laps depending on how the brakes were used. Of course with the M-performance brakes, it could last even longer and brake even harder.
What I like about the car
- I got really addicted to the power. Being able to deliver out more than 200 horses on the track was amazing.
- The ride and suspension were comfortable. Note that I mentioned comfortable. The electric steering did add to the comfort. Why I mention this is because a lot of purist like to have a hydraulic steering for a better feel but frankly, I am using it now and the added weight of the steering doesn’t help with the overall comfort when driving a car. Having the electric steering doesn’t mean that I can control the car less. It was easier to control the car whilst performing a half circle drift as well.
- The space and the interior of the car is nice and luxurious, feels a lot more updated compared to the E90 (duh!). The one thing that I am glad is the size of the screen. I couldn’t stand the small-sized screen with the 320i and the 320d (non-M sport). Seats were comfortable and there is more room at the back.
- Gone is the usual inline 6, it is time to consider turbo charged 2.0 engines. With a smaller displacement engine, that means that the roadtax will be cheaper and with a turbo, that means you have more torque compared to the outgoing NA engines.
- Smooth gear changes from the new ZF 8-speed gearbox. Change it over to manual and you even get the infamous DSG fart! Coming from a VW, I really love that sound when you change gears.
- The car I test drove was the Sports line version, I love the red line and red stitching accents in the car. A lot nicer compared to the M-Sport version which has a blue line across the dash and black stitching.
What I don’t like about the car
- Because this wasn’t the M-sport model, the amount of body roll I had to go through at the bends in Sepang circuit meant I hated it. It is down to personal preference.
- There is a slight turbo lag before the torque kicks in. Even with the twin scroll turbo, it still has a slight lag. Noticed that especially when exiting turn 9 at Sepang (with DSC turned off).
- I seriously can’t think of anything else.
Personally, if I were to spend RM300,000 on a new car, I would definitely have the 328i M-Sport version as one of the cars at the top of my list. Not that I am a BMW fan boy, but if compared to other cars in that price range, I would have the 328i over the Audi A4 2.0 is because the A4 is currently end of life so I would rather get a newer model instead. If compared to the Mercedes C250, I would still go with the 328i purely because I prefer a little spirited driving now and then. If I were looking for a car to get me from point A to point B in comfort, I would go for the Mercedes C250.