2013 BMW 320i: Track Tested

Is the Base 3 Series Still an Ultimate Driving Machine?


  • 2013 BMW 320i

    2013 BMW 320i

    2013 BMW 320i. | September 03, 2013

15 Photos

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.

Most Recommended Comments

By robs249
on 09/03/13
10:45 PM PST

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.

Recommend  (32) (17)

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By pommah
on 09/04/13
4:39 AM PST

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.

Recommend  (28) (5)

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By fortstring
on 09/04/13
10:47 AM PST

"$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.

Recommend  (23) (10)

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