Test Drive: 2012 BMW 328i Sport car test drives luxury cars bmw
2012 BMW 328i Sport. Click image to enlarge
First Drive: 2012 BMW 3 SeriesManufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2012 BMW 3 Series

I’ve been beating myself up on how to approach the 328i. On the one hand, it’s an icon that represents the best of driving dynamics in attainable cars. On the other hand, it is a widely sold entry-level luxury model that draws people to this prestigious luxury brand (1 Series barely sells 10 percent of the volume the 3 does, so let’s just ignore that coupe-only model). Do I judge it on the merits of its sporting credentials on which many of us journalists fixate, or the luxury trappings that attract most people when shopping for a, um, luxury vehicle. Conveniently, BMW offered up two flavours of 3, the 328i Sport that I will cover in this review, and a 335i Luxury that I will cover in an upcoming Test Drive.

As documented by Paul Williams in his First Drive, the 3 Series is wider and longer and adds some new design elements that make this F30 generation easy to differentiate it from its E90 predecessor. The longer, lower look is reinforced by the headlights creeping right up to the wider, flatter kidney grille and the blacked out opening for the lower air dam stretches all the way across to combine for a somewhat more sinister look, especially in this Sport Trim.

Test Drive: 2012 BMW 328i Sport car test drives luxury cars bmw
Test Drive: 2012 BMW 328i Sport car test drives luxury cars bmw
2012 BMW 328i Sport. Click image to enlarge

With a trim like Sport, judging the 3 on its dynamic abilities is fair game, although these trim levels should not be confused with actual performance upgrades. These trims are subtle appearance packages that key in on certain styles. The Sport features 18-inch double-spoke rims, which were in storage as the model I drove was sporting 17-inch wheels with 225/50R17 winter tires that robbed this car of significant levels of grip, but made it much more entertaining.

Beyond the wheels, the Sport trim goes with a black and red theme, which works perfectly with the tester’s Melbourne Red Metallic paint. Unique trim pieces include front air dam accents in high-gloss black with silver crossbars, black chrome kidney-grille slats, black mirror caps, more high-gloss black bumper strips, black greenhouse trim, black chrome tailpipe tips and a tacky “Sport” badges on the quarter panel and door sills. Sadly, the noticeably smaller wheels diminished the visual impact of this trim package as the stock 18s finish off the look and lower profile rubber complete the Sport theme, so these pictures may not do it justice. No question in my mind that I would choose this trim.

Test Drive: 2012 BMW 328i Sport car test drives luxury cars bmw
2012 BMW 328i Sport. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the dash insert piece and console around the iDrive controller are, again, in high-gloss black plastic, against a backdrop of supple, squishy dash and smooth, high-quality plastics and buttons. But this is no sea of sombre black as in BMWs of the past. Running clear across the dash is a strip of matte red metal, and subtle, satin metallic accents set off the steering wheel, gauges, stereo controls, storage tray, vent tabs, shifter knob, and iDrive controller while red stitching and piping trims the body-hugging leather seats and steering wheel. The front seats were excellent for me, as were the contoured rear buckets, but the rear centre position is best left unoccupied. Some models reverse the trim and feature brushed aluminum panels around the “iKnob” and dash vents with black or red strip bisecting the dash. Even the fob gets in on the colour scheme, in black with a red accent.

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