2012 BMW 328i Sedan (F30) – First Look and Review

By Jonathan Spira on 23 February 2012
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It all began when I moved to Munich to study history at the university.  I bought a used silver BMW 3 Series (pictured below) and I never looked back.  Since then, I’ve owned 10 of them, which covers every generation of the 3 Series since its inception, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the car.

The 3 Series, or 3er, has evolved greatly since the first generation.  Some changes have been revolutionary and others have been more evolutionary.  The first generation, the E21, evolved into the E30.  While the cars look completely different, many of the characteristics remained the same and they were the only 3ers that shared fishbowl-like visibility thanks to an upright greenhouse and relatively thin sail panels.

The third generation E36 was revolutionary – it evoked howls from BMW purists not dissimilar from when BMW switched from round taillights to rectangular taillights in the 3er’s predecessor, the 2002.  The E46 that followed it, however, was better in all respects but nothing revolutionary.

Of course the fifth generation of the 3er, the E90, was released during a dramatic shift in BMW styling under chief designer Chris Bangle.  Revolutionary might even be an understatement here, not to mention that some aspects of the car’s interior were approaching the dimensions of the outgoing 5er Series.

The 3er accounts for 40% of BMW sales worldwide, so no change is minor and, most importantly, a brand new model has a lot to live up to.  The latest generation 3er, code-named F30 [BMW ran out of two-digit E or Entwicklung (development) numbers so they opted to continue with the next letter of the alphabet rather than go to three digits], doesn’t look that much different from the sides than the outgoing model.  The rear seems to have been taken directly from the current-generation 5 Series and the front, while it has a look all its own with elongated headlights, also shares the larger upright kidneys that appear in the new 5, 6, and 7 Series.

INSIDE THE 2012 BMW 328i

Inside, however, things are different, very different.  While the E90’s dashboard evoked Scandinavian cool (some said it was simply cold), the F30 is warm and inviting.  In addition, the cockpit is now as driver centric as my E21 320iS, if not more so.  Every switch, button, and control is in absolutely the right place, exactly where the seasoned driver would expect it to be.

Many of the technologies introduced in the 7er and 5er have made it into the 3er (including a head-up display, a first in this segment) as well as the black-panel display between the gauges, and it will hold its own against Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

The only thing I’m still not 100% sold on is the way the Central Information Display is integrated into the dash.  While it looks as if it should fold away when the car is turned off (à la Audi), it remains fixed.

Click here to continue to Page 2Under the Hood and Driving the New 3er

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