2013 BMW 320i Track Test on Edmunds.com
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2013 BMW 320i: Track Tested

Is the Base 3 Series Still an Ultimate Driving Machine?


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Edmunds tests hundreds of vehicles a year. Cars, trucks, SUVs, we run them all, and the numbers always tell a story. With that in mind we present "Edmunds Track Tested," a quick rundown of all the data we collect at the track, along with comments direct from the test drivers. Enjoy.

Enthusiasts will tell you that the BMW 3 Series has lost its way; that the new car is too big, too powerful, too plush and certainly far too expensive. But it doesn't have to be.

Tucked neatly into the bottom rung of BMW's 3 Series lineup is the $33,475 2013 BMW 320i. Like the 328i, the 320i uses a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but in the 320i it's tuned to develop 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque instead of the 328i's 240 hp/255 lb-ft output.

Available with either an eight-speed automatic or a no-cost six-speed manual, the 320i also returns 28 mpg in combined driving compared to the 328i's 26 mpg combined.

So it not only saves you some gas, it also saves you about $4,000 to start versus the 328i. Of course, the big question is, does it still feel like a real 3 Series with only 180 hp on tap? We took it to the track to find out.

Vehicle:
Odometer: 1,997
Date: 8/27/2013
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $34,775 (as tested, $33,475 base)

Specifications:
Drive Type: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Eight-speed automatic
Engine Type: Direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder with variable valve control
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,997/122
Redline (rpm): 7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 180 @ 5,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 200 @ 1,250
Brake Type (front): Ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): Ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): Independent MacPherson struts with dual lower ball joints, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 225/45R18 91Y
Tire Size (rear): 255/40R18 95Y
Tire Brand: Bridgestone
Tire Model: Potenza S001
Tire Type: Asymmetrical run-flat, summer performance
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,332

Test Results:

Acceleration
0-30 (sec): 2.6 (3.2 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 4.6 (5.3 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 7.3 (8.0 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 7.1 (7.6 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 10.9 (11.7 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 15.4 @ 89.7 (15.9 @ 89.3 w/ TC on)

Braking
30-0 (ft): 27
60-0 (ft): 111

Handling
Slalom (mph): 67.8
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.89 (0.88 w/ ESC on)

RPM @ 70: 1,900

Comments:

Acceleration: There's nearly a full second between slowest (default Comf + Drive) and quickest (Sport + Auto-upshift manual) modes, and yet not quite enough power to spin the rear tires with traction control shut off. Upshifts in any mode are exceptionally smooth and reasonably quick. The car will still upshift at redline, even in Manual mode. The turbocharger doesn't make itself known at all: no lag, no swell of torque and no whine/whistle. Most folks would never know.

Braking: Medium-firm pedal from first to last stop. Good heat capacity in the brakes, as the best stop came on the third stop. Arrow-straight, little dive, no drama.

Handling:

Slalom: While this isn't an analogous experience to every 3 Series that preceded it, it is a nimble car with high limits and quick reflexes. It retains only a modicum of feedback for driver involvement: The steering isn't what it once was in terms of feel, nor does one "drive it off the rear tires" like before. What it is now is well-balanced and competent rather than invigorating and involving.

Skid pad: The throttle offers just enough response to be useful in transferring weight front/rear and the steering is surgically precise. Highly polished and poised.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Comments

  • robs249_ robs249_ Posts:

    As much as I've always loved the 3series, I can't see paying the premium for a base 320i over the '14 Mazda3 S Grand Touring. The 328i should really start at this price point.

  • pommah pommah Posts:

    The 1-series is now what the 3-series used to be, the 3-series is what the 5-series used to be, and so on.

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    usually bmw has great wheel design; especially for the sport package. those wheels do nothing for me.

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    oh... i hope you guys dyno'd that car.

  • rwatson rwatson Posts:

    pommah, that's exactly what I said all along. I wonder if the base1 still has the straight-6? If so, that's the BMW to get, I think. I really consider the 1 series to be the old 2002 with a lot more power.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @rwatson: You can get the BMW 135i with the turbocharged 6. The base model 128i still has the naturally aspirated 6. Either of these cars are great (minus space issues in the back... too bad we don't get the hatch); in Michigan I've been seeing enthusiast

  • jadis jadis Posts:

    As usual crappy editing by Edmunds. Those tires are NOT all season. If you are going to post details, get them right, or don't post them.

  • cotak cotak Posts:

    @rwatson @duck87 The 320i is just surprising to Americans cause you guys didn't get the 323i previously. That car's basically the 320i but without the turbo, the 0-60 times are basically the same. It's the stripper volume model BMW sells to people who wan

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    This makes the ATS 2.5 liter look like a race car. This 320i will be for those that just want the badge and that's it.

  • fortstring fortstring Posts:

    "$33,475"??? For that price, I'd much rather have the Volvo S60 T5 AWD or Infiniti G37 Journey. This value thing (or lack thereof) is getting a bit absurd with BMW.

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    @cotak- You're in North America, thus you're also an "American" Pertaining to your other comment however; you're right, people in the U.S. are a bit spoiled and want performance and options for a solid price or they just won't consider the vehi

  • gmanzx3 gmanzx3 Posts:

    Looked at purchasing one of these and was very underwhelmed. Had a 2011 328i and was spoiled. The new 320i was slow...coarse...loud...and unbelievably cheap inside in comparison. Light steering and a sloppy ride drove me away. Shopped the competition and the S60 and TSX both were better vehicles for me (in the low $30k price range). The 320i was nearly $40k with leather/roof/cold wx!!! The S60 (with incentives) was nearly $7k less...and it blew it away. The TSX was $10k less! I ended up with the TSX...while not perfect...definitely the best bang for the buck.

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  • financeman2 financeman2 Posts:

    $35,000 for a stripped down daily driver is crazy...especially given other choices for the same price or less. That said, I sure the BMW drives well. Still its very fairly unexceptional in a very competitive marketplace. It the BMW badge is important to an owner/driver, this might be an appealing option. For almost the same price, you can get a basic, but dramatically more powerful and vastly better equipped Infiniti Q50.

  • shatner shatner Posts:

    As much as I've always loved the 3series, I can't see paying the premium for a base 320i over the '14 Mazda3 S Grand Touring. The 328i should really start at this price point. ++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++++++ You may be the only person to have ever compared and cross shopped those 2 cars. A Mazda 3 and a Honda Civic are closer competition.

  • cbrandi_ cbrandi_ Posts:

    I'd rather have a Focus ST and pocket the extra money. BMW has become a mass market producer of cars for the masses. Pretension is still here but sporting is not. These are cars for those who cruise the suburbs and shopping malls, not winding mountain roads.

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