I'm really looking forward to driving the new 328i. No, the N20 will never be as refined as the N52 and its predecessors, but I'm sure it's a very refined 4-cylinder and I'm sure it still has a BMW soul. In addition, the N52 had one glaring flaw, lack of low-end torque. The N20 solves this problem and then some.
As for the 8-speed auto, I'll reserve judgment for a test drive. I've spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel of a new 650i convertible with the 8-speed, and while it was a definite improvement over the ZF 6-speed, I still found it to be kind of lazy. It seemed to want to upshift way too early and consequently elicited a lot of downshifting for even the slightest acceleration. Sure, it downshifts really fast but I found it annoying that it seemed to always be downshifting. Just upshift a little later in each gear and a lot of that downshifting could be avoided. Hopefully the 3-series tuning of this transmission is a little more on the "sport" side.
P.S. I find actual sport mode (on both the GM 6-speed auto in the 128i/328i and the ZF 6-speed auto in the 135i/335i) annoying for everyday driving as upshifts happen too late for normal driving and downshifts can be abrupt. Perfect for high-speed runs, but not very practical for normal driving. There really needs to be a middle ground where upshifts are held off for even just 500 RPM and gears are held just a tad longer when you back off the accelerator before an upshift occurs. Stepping off soapbox now
P.P.S. Will the ridiculous naming convention still be present on the F30? That is, will it be called the 328i sDrive or 328i xDrive? Why not just go back to the days of yore when it was just a 328i or a 328ix??