I thought it might be helpful for some readers of this sub to provide detail about my recent decision to purchase a 2014 328i xDrive, and give my first impressions of this vehicle after driving it for around 900km. This is supposed to be sort of an “every man/laypersons” review, catering more towards casual enthusiasts such as myself. Sorry if this misses the mark for you more advance drivers/enthusiasts. My intent is to help the purchasing process for people that are considering this vehicle.
My girlfriend and I were looking for an entry level luxury car which, luckily for us, is a class full of excellent choices. We budget was around 50k (Cdn) but there was some room to play with. Must haves: sporty design inside and out, 4 wheel drive (Canadian winters), room for our dog in the back, back up camera, navigation, heated seats, etc.
After looking at Honda, Acura, Infinity, we narrowed our focus Mercedes C250/300, Audi A4 and Audi A5, BMW m235i, BMW 328i. The M235i was by far the most exciting, but it was impractical (paltry rear seats, no AWD option – yet) and too costly. This would make a great second car but wasn’t the right one for us. Nixed.
Next up was the Merc. I found the interior of the 14′ C class unimpressive and old fashioned. We didn’t want to wait for the new C class and the current gen seemed tired. Scratch that off the list.
Next, the Audi A4/A5. These models offered the biggest competition to our eventual choice, the BMW 328i xDrive. The cabin was the standout feature with tight tolerances and quality materials. I’m not a fan of how the nav screen is integrated into the dash, but that is something I could have dealt with. The S-line package on both A5 and A4 made a huge difference and was a MUST for us. This really pushed the A5 out of our budget (and besides, it was only a 2 door with cramped rear quarters).
The A4 seemed like it may be the winner. Refined, quiet, quality. Not the most exciting drive but miles above our current vehicle (2004 Honda Civic). Then we stepped into a 328i at our local BMW dealership.
The 328i offered the features we were looking for at a price we thought was fair. I disliked the previous generation but am a big fan of the current f30 body style. We selected the sport line with 19″ wheels, black leather with red stitching, paddle shifters, premium package and sapphire black exterior. We were able to negotiate 4% of MSRP – probably could have pushed more but I’m a little passive with these things.
Vehicle Review after 900kms
Positives – the engine produces ample power at very low rpm, which makes it feel faster around town than the specs suggest. I describe it as very “usable power”: passing is easy, accelerating up to speed on the highway is a breeze. All things current owners might take from granted, but coming from a “normal” car this is big deal.
I’m a tall lanky guy and there’s ample leg/head room both front and rear. Front seats are supportive and comfortable over long distances. The Smart Access key works very well, seamlessly detecting my driving preferences (seat, mirror, etc) when I get in after my GF has driven it.
After a few days I was navigating the idrive interface like a pro. I’m 26 and generally savvy with technology, so learning this system was NOT challenging for me. However, I can see how this might be an issue for someone that doesn’t interact with smart phones/ipads/computers every day. My dad wouldn’t get far.
Nice features: nav directions in between tach and speedo. Auto-sensing wipers. Cruise control light on speedo telling you where it’s set, as well as a precise digital read out. Comfort access trunk with one-kick open has been awesome so far (once I figured out it’s just a simple kick forward and not to wave my foot). Back up camera is also awesome and makes life easy in our underground parking lot. Ditto with the auto fold in rear view mirrors which look kinda cool and provide a little extra security from parking lot dings.
Driving impressions: I find the steering to be weighted appropriately. This is NOT popular and I know it, but keep in mind I’m coming from an econo-box that felt like the steering wheel was attached to a bowl of jello. I leave it in eco-mode around town for the most part, and put it into Sport if I want to get a little spirited. The difference between the two is very obvious. Throttle response, suspension, gearbox, all work together to transform the feel of the car. It stays flat while cornering and I’ve yet to come close to the limits of adhesion, even after provoking it through a few tight corners.
Ok, now for my dislikes:
The engine is not very smooth at idle. This is exacerbated by cool operating temps as you might imagine. Sometimes there is a very slight vibration at stop lights. Now, you need to go looking for this…but nonetheless it’s still there.
Auto Start Stop is exactly how people describe it: intrusive. I do must of my driving around town and if it happens to be stop/go traffic I turn it off. Under normal conditions I leave it on and just deal with the jittery start up. This has helped with my fuel economy which has averaged 9.9l/100km of somewhat spirited city driving (and a LOT of stop/go) and about 400kms of highway driving. On the highway at 110-120 it reads a steady 5.5-6l/100km (AWESOME!).
Overall the car is just what I was looking for: well made, engaging to drive, that “luxury feel” with great tech features, and great performance. It’s not the hardened sports car that it once was, and that will bother some people. But it’s a great car for someone like myself looking for a blend of luxury and performance.
Anyway, thank for reading. Hopefully my ‘regular joe’ experience helps one or two people out there.