BMW’s 328i employ’s the brand’s “N20″ internal designation 2.0 liter, turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. “Four cylinder!” you say, “how could that possibly be luxurious?!” To get a bit technical, BMW have used dual balancing shafts and a dual-mass flywheel, as a result the engine is velvety smooth across the rev-band. On initial startup it can sound a bit rough – but who doesn’t need to clear their voice in the morning? After the block warms up and the car settles down to low idle, it becomes quite and constrained – the loudest noise is projected from the piezo injectors, just like on the 5, 6, 7 series and every other car that employs this pivotal technology.
Once you are underway the engine remains smooth and quietly propels the car forward through all 8 gears. As far as I know the 6-speed manual is still an option, but I have no idea why anyone would order the Luxury line with a manual – the whole point of this car is to isolate you from the mechanical side of things and swoon you in a blanket of grace. Now would be a great time to mention the brilliance of the ZF sourced 8-speed automatic. Shifts are incredibly quick and smooth, and because the car is shifting so frequently, it seldom revs high during normal driving – again lending to its relaxed demeanor on the road.
From the exterior, the car errs on the side of classic looks, with tasteful slats and badges distinguishing it from the sport and modern lines. The car garnered a surprising amount of looks from passers-by and even a thumbs up, which I did not expect to receive in this car. It’s colour combo was one of my favorites: deep, rich navy blue on tan leather interior.
Now: what if you predominately favor a comfortable, luxurious car, but you still have a wild side in you that craves the occasional back-road blast? Allow me to answer the suitability of the Luxury line to this hypothetical in the form of a true to life story. I was in the elevator going down to the parking garage of my condo building when a familiar neighbor jumped in. Heading down to the garage level, we made small talk and while approaching my parking space I made mention of the 328. “Wow” he exclaimed, “if I were you I’d be driving it all day” he offered, with very wide eyes hinting to his excitement. “Have you ever driven in a BMW?” I asked. “No,” came the answer. I like this particular neighbor more than most, so I offered a ride to fix his ignorance of the brand.
It was high time for a round-about blast, around 7 pm on a Sunday. Normally I strictly obey all speed limits and leave the action for the racetrack, but in the interests of my neighbor gaining brand awareness, I let it rip. Even I was surprised by the performance the car served up in response. Admittedly, there was a lot of body roll and inputs were cushioned from responses, but nonetheless, if you know how to extract performance from this car, you can still extract serious performance. “Wahhh! My Cadillac could never hit these speeds through a corner! Ahhhh!” he blurted as we wound out the gears and hit the brakes heavily, merging onto the highway. Lesson learned, BMW aficionado gained. Bottom line: this car has an emphasis on luxury and comfort, but it’s still a BMW. If you ask it to, it will dance – and what a dance. No C class or Lexus could even come close, the jury is still out on the new Cadillac ATS – but then judging by the interior, the ATS is hardly a luxury car.