2013 BMW 320i xDrive
2013 BMW 320i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Story by Justin Pritchard, photos by Justin Pritchard and James Bergeron

Take off from a light in no particular rush, and the BMW 320i effortlessly glides up to highway speeds without a peep from its engine, and without so much as a squirm in power delivery as the transmission completes eight gear changes which see the tachometer needle twitching away around 1,500 revs.

Push the throttle too hard, and the EcoPro system lights up an icon requesting you please lighten up on throttle application as the system tries to minimize combustion. Follow this, and other EcoPro tips, and a cumulative readout shows the number of kilometres you’ve theoretically added to your current tank of fuel by not driving like a hoodlum.

This Canada-only 320i model gets a two-litre turbo four-cylinder engine that cranks out 180 horsepower – a modest figure that many of my car-buff pals questioned, given the presence of the turbocharger. Turns out, a little turbo boost does big things for low-end torque, which helps get the 320i up to speed with very few revs and scarcely a sound escaping the engine bay. Turbocharging is front and centre in the tester’s intention of prioritizing fuel-economy over all-out firepower.

This entry-level 3-Series slots in beneath the 328i and 335i and caters to a shopper after a taste of that famous 3 Series character with an eye for affordability and great fuel mileage. The drivetrain spec sheet reads like a wish list of any fuel-saving enthusiast: included are Auto Start/Stop, direct injection, eight forward gears, and on-demand oil and water pumps. There’s even an alternator that recharges the battery mainly when the car is coasting, reducing load on the engine. It’s as high tech and fuel saving as a four-cylinder gets these days, but that’s only part of the appeal of this fuel-mileage model.

2013 BMW 320i xDrive2013 BMW 320i xDrive
2013 BMW 320i xDrive. Click image to enlarge

Generations of glowing reviews, awards and droves of fiercely loyal owners reinforce the fact that BMW simply gets something “right” with this car, every time around. Recently, the 3 Series was revamped from the ground up into this latest generation model, which is called the F30. It looks not unlike the last-generation 3 Series, but a bit more alert, dynamic and tidy – both inside and out. So, if you’re a 3 Series fan or current owner looking to upgrade, you’ll feel right at home in its presence, and in its cabin.

Designers played it safe, inside and out – opting for a freshening-up of existing looks, rather than a revolutionary, full-out do-over. A new fascia conveys more energy and aggression. Things look more alert, tidy, dramatic and current – but remain very “3 Series” from a glance. The new 3 looks like the last-generation car after a Red Bull and a haircut.

And inside, it’s all assembled with that eye for detail you’d expect of a machine that’s a bit on the pricey side. The right materials fall beneath the driver’s fingertips in all of the right places, and the partially digital instrument cluster and after-dark ambient lighting will be conversation starters with your passengers. At-hand storage is adequate, as is rear-seat legroom for most occupants of average size. Said rear seats fold flat as needed, and I was able to move a large air compressor tank home from a friends place to my garage for a weekend renovation project with relative ease.

As part of its almost-$50,000 asking price, the tester was fitted with the Premium Package for a more upscale cabin environment, as well as a slick navigation and infotainment system accessed via the iDrive central command console.

I appreciated the Lighting Package too. The $1,200 option adds self-dimming mirrors, and more importantly, dual xenon projectors to slather the road ahead with crisp white light that extends past the tree line flanking dark highways. Hours into a late-night highway drive, your writer’s eyes hadn’t strained and remained fresh and alert.

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