Third Place: 2013 BMW 328i xDrive

2013 BMW 328i xDrive
2013 BMW 328i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Based purely on its merits, the 328i xDrive was not the worst vehicle in this comparison. Actually, using the word ‘worst’ isn’t really fair; all testers agreed that any of these three vehicles could easily find a home in their driveways. When the scores were tallied, the BMW was ranked just ahead of the Benz. However, once price adjustments were factored in, the much cheaper Mercedes-Benz pulled out a second-place victory.

So how did the BMW 3 Series, the grandmaster of the compact luxury segment for so many years, fall to third place?  There is no simple answer to that, but a good place to start is with the chassis. The 3 Series is famous the world over for its driving dynamics and driver engagement; to say this compact BMW has its share of fanatics is an understatement. But, as we mentioned earlier, the focus of the 328i seems to have shifted more towards luxury. During our driving loop, all three testers commented that the BMW doesn’t drive like BMWs of old. The Audi was the clear-cut driver’s car of the trio and, even with the smaller rims, the Mercedes felt like it gripped better in the corners than the BMW. The 328i felt softer, more isolated, and was prone to the most body roll during moderate cornering.

2013 BMW 328i xDrive
2013 BMW 328i xDrive
2013 BMW 328i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) was also ranked worst in test, mostly due to the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Although the engine is powerful, it is rough and noisy. It is not a good noisy, but rather a coarse, thrashy sound. Suffice to say it is not the sonorous growl of BMW straight-six engines of old. The start-stop is rough and slow to react and it is not hard to catch the engine still in its start-up procedure while depressing the accelerator to go. This results in a jerky departure from a stop and caused some of us to disable the feature during the test.

But don’t think this is a dump-fest on the BMW. The 328i xDrive Sedan is still a very good vehicle and has many redeeming attributes. The eight-speed automatic is great and almost equals the Audi’s. Shifts are quick, smooth, and seamless. The exterior of the BMW is also attractive, and although it was ranked third place in looks, that is like coming third in the Miss America Pageant; still ‘pretty’ good. The 328i also featured the nicest paint job, by far, with a deep pearl white paint, and second best when it came to exterior frills like accent lighting and wheel design.

But where the 328i really shines is inside. Besides a great interior design, we all appreciated that a bit of colour had been added to the interior, a departure from the all-black BMW interiors of old. Compared to the basically monotone interiors of the Mercedes and Audi, the BMW cabin looked fresh and welcoming, although some found there were too many materials used: wood, metal, brown leather, black leather, brown plastic etc.

It is true that the BMW appears to now be more focused on coddling its occupants rather than on all-out performance. If your priorities align this way, than the 328i is for you; and yes, it does feel weird saying that about a BMW 3-series. –MS

Pricing: 2013 BMW 328i xDrive Sedan
Base price: $46,200
Options: $3,500 (Premium Package), $850 (BMW Assist with Extended Bluetooth Package), $800 (Driver Assistance Package), $300 (BMW Apps Package), $250 (Heated Steering Wheel), $600 (Heated Rear Seats), $450 (Satellite Radio)
Freight & PDI: $2,095
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $55,145

Connect with