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      01-30-2013, 11:20 PM   #1
bimmerjph
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So I was one of the ones that was adamantly against the F30. I had taken a short drive in a no-line base car, and well it was crap in terms of sportiness. I still maintain that, but today I got to test drive the Sport Line w/ Sport auto for about an hour on the twistiest roads I know of, and I think I now have enough experience to write a review of it. My review is going to be in comparison to the E60 and E46, which are the two BMW's I have the most experience with.

Interior
Since the car was a sport line, it came equipped with the sport seats. These seats are absolutely wonderful. They strike the perfect balance of comfort and control; in fact I would go so far to say that the sport line is worth it for the seats alone. The seats in this car were also leatherette, but unless I told you, you would never guess that. BMW has done the job of recreating the creamy feeling of leather so well that I would say it is not worth spending $1,500 on the real deal. The interior plastics have improved also. All of the controls have a very chunky, high quality feel to them. In the back there is nearly as much (if not more) room as in my mom's E60. I am 6' and I still had about 2 inches of spare leg room. Thats not to say that the F30 has no flaws when it comes to the interior. The interior lighting is sub-par in my opinion, the driver head rests make it harder to check behind you, visibility in general just isn't as good as it was in the E46, and I actually found the older i-drive easier to use (although that could be because I am used to it). Overall the interior is a massive leap forward from the E90, and a comparison to the E46 would best be served by an analogy. The F30 is to the E46 what Homo Sapiens are to Homo Erectus.

Transmission

This car came with the optional Sport Automatic Transmission. I am not going to beat around the bush, everything you have heard about this transmission is an understatement. Around town the shifts are very smooth and uneventful, but in manual mode at the red-line the box quickly slams the gears into place, its actually surprisingly satisfying. Also the quality of the paddles have improved. In the E90 the shifters felt slightly cheap and plasticky, but now they feel much more metallic. While I personally would probably opt for the manual, with this transmission you can no longer flame those that buy the sport auto. It is that good.

Engine

BMW is renowned for their legendary inline-6 engines. Their smoothness, higher revving character, and flat torque curves have become an expectation of cars from BMW (or at least in the states where a four banger has not been on sale since the late 90's) . So I was a little bit worried that the new N20 would not live up to the reputation the 6's have earned over the years. Now I know all of the magazines have said that there is nothing to worry about and that the N20 is a major improvement over the N52, but I had to try it out for my self to be sure. There is a lot more low end torque than there is in the N52 or M54, this is an obvious side effect of turbocharging. However one usual consequence of turbo chargers were not present, turbo lag. Trust me when I say that I looked for it; I Mashed the throttle in 5th gear at 30mph and still could only maybe slightly feel a little bit of lag. In my mom's car (N54) you can still feel a little bit of lag in normal driving, but only if you are looking for it. On this car I had to put it in un-normal conditional to even slightly feel lag. Another way that I feel it differs from the N54 is that it holds its power better up to the 7,000 red-line. However I do have one complaint, the sound. At full throttle it has a nice raspy roar, but at anything less it makes nearly no noise at all. I find that a little disappointing. How it is just a little niggle, and it should not take away from the fact that this is a magnificent engineering achievement.

Handling and Steering
This is the most controversial aspect of the F30. Many say that the car has become too soft and luxurious for a car that has defined the sport sedan market for nearly 40 years. They say that the steering is a disappointment and that the car is awash with body roll. And after a 1 hour performance drive on roads with decent elevation changes, switchbacks, fast corners, and slow tight ones I can finally report what I think about the new 3-Series.

I am going to start with the handling and ride. The ride in town is appropriately smooth, it is not crashy over bumps, but it is not a car you waft in either. There is also a surprisingly low amount of body roll. Much less that in my car (e46 non-sport) or my moms (E60 non-sport). I was driving down an extremely twisty road and I never thought about the body roll. By which I mean that there is no significant amount. So I have no idea where the reports came from that said otherwise. Overall I think the sports suspension is good. Would I like it to be sportier? Yes, but I do realize that BMW wants to sell cars, so I think it is an okay compromise.

The steering is more of a mixed bag. In comfort mode the steering is just flat out too light. It does however tighten up in sport mode, but the weight just does't quite feel natural. There is no change in weight as you turn in or based on your grip level. However it is very very precise and contrary to what the magazines say you can still feel some bumps in the road. I don't think it would be a big deal to improve the steering. Better programing would fix the steering feel, and I think different bushings would help with feeling the bumps.

I just want to add one last thing about the steering. Apart from the amount of road noise, it really isn't that different in feel from the E60. Neither are really swarming with steering feel. However in someways it actually feels better than the E60. This is because of the Servotronic speed sensitive steering in the E60 is way to obvious. So in regards to consistency I think the F30 is actually better.

Overall:

I got into this car fearing the worst. Fearing that BMW had lost its way, and that the company I one day hope to work for is not the company it once was. After an hour of driving I can report that I now have a feeling of relief. It is not the apocalypse that many think it is. It is not as sporty as I would like, but it is a much better all rounder than the E90. In short, this is the absolute best 5-Series that BMW has ever made.



Any comments, questions, or angry rants are welcome!
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      01-30-2013, 11:33 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by bimmerjph View Post
In short, this is the absolute best 5-Series that BMW has ever made.
nice review! but fyi... its a 3-series not a 5.
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      01-30-2013, 11:37 PM   #3
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Nice write up! One question...

"In short, this is the absolute best 5-Series that BMW has ever made."

Was that intentional?
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      01-30-2013, 11:46 PM   #4
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Yes it was intentional. We all know that the 3 is what the 5 used to be, the 5 is what the 7 used to be. I didn't mean it as a bad thing, it was more of an acknowledgment of a change in purpose and a compliment because it does it very well.
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      01-31-2013, 12:05 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by bimmerjph View Post
Yes it was intentional. We all know that the 3 is what the 5 used to be, the 5 is what the 7 used to be. I didn't mean it as a bad thing, it was more of an acknowledgment of a change in purpose and a compliment because it does it very well.
are you saying that because of the size of the cars...
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      01-31-2013, 12:19 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AntBabeee

are you saying that because of the size of the cars...
Partly, yes the size is the reasoning for it. But also the purpose of the car has changed. By which I mean I think the philosophy of the car is more in line with what the 5-Series used to be, which is a balance of comfort and sport. Whereas the 5 series is now luxury with a hint of sport, which is what the 7-series used to be. Again I am not saying that is a bad thing, it just took an extended drive for me to realize it works. And it makes me look forward to the upcoming 2 series.
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      01-31-2013, 01:48 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by bimmerjph View Post
Partly, yes the size is the reasoning for it. But also the purpose of the car has changed. By which I mean I think the philosophy of the car is more in line with what the 5-Series used to be, which is a balance of comfort and sport. Whereas the 5 series is now luxury with a hint of sport, which is what the 7-series used to be. Again I am not saying that is a bad thing, it just took an extended drive for me to realize it works. And it makes me look forward to the upcoming 2 series.
Ahhhh i understand where you coming from. The f30 is the first bmw. So i dont have experience of owning the old 3 or 5. I been inside and was driven in the 3, 5, 7 series. But never got to drove it much to test it out. But unlike some people who complain about the size of the f30 being big... I actually like it compared to the e90s... I parked next to my friends 08 335i... made mine look like a 5er... haha. I looked at his back seat... and i couldnt stop thinking of the lexus is350 backseat... haha
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      01-31-2013, 01:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AntBabeee View Post
nice review! but fyi... its a 3-series not a 5.
Am a little late to the game, but yes he really meant 5 and not 3.

i understood him right away when reading it, And i agree with OP! This is practically the size of old 5s

Great Review ! Although this car is far from being perfect, it does tick most of the right cases to still put it at the top or very near the top of rewarding cars.

Am glad you were finally able to make an objective judgement of the car.
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      01-31-2013, 12:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bimmerjph View Post
..... It is not as sporty as I would like, but it is a much better all rounder than the E90 .....
FWIW, I came from an E60, 2008 535Xi, to an F30, 335i xDrive Sportline with DHP and Sport AT. I find my F30 to be significantly more sporty, agile, and fun to drive than my former E60, yet it rides just as comfortably.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bimmerjph View Post
..... In short, this is the absolute best 5-Series that BMW has ever made .....
The F30 compared to the E60 has a lower seating position, ingress/egress that is not as easy for me, and it's not as spacious feeling inside but boy am I happy I made the switch!


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      01-31-2013, 01:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceOmega

FWIW, I came from an E60, 2008 535Xi, to an F30, 335i xDrive Sportline with DHP and Sport AT. I find my F30 to be significantly more sporty, agile, and fun to drive than my former E60, yet it rides just as comfortably.

The F30 compared to the E60 has a lower seating position, ingress/egress that is not as easy for me, and it's not as spacious feeling inside but boy am I happy I made the switch!


Bruce
Yes it is more sporty than the E60, but I still want it to be more sporty than it is. There is a lot less body roll, and it feels nearly as fast as the 535i. I am just the type that always wants more when it comes to handling and steering.

Yeah it is a little tighter up front than in the E60, but in the back it felt nearly as roomy as the E60. Or at least to me it did. Lets put it this way, I would not at all mind taking this car on a long road trip.
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      01-31-2013, 01:44 PM   #11
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I have a G37 and that car is one of the largest in the segment, the F30 is still smaller than the G37 and the Q50 will be larger than the G37.

Isn't the S4 about the same size as the F30?
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      01-31-2013, 02:13 PM   #12
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I have a G37 and that car is one of the largest in the segment, the F30 is still smaller than the G37 and the Q50 will be larger than the G37.

Isn't the S4 about the same size as the F30?
i have driven G37 many times and it feels much smaller than my 335i, just try changing the seat position in g37 you cant even reach the seat buttons if the door is closed, 3 series feels much more spacious
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      01-31-2013, 02:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bimmerjph View Post
Partly, yes the size is the reasoning for it. But also the purpose of the car has changed. By which I mean I think the philosophy of the car is more in line with what the 5-Series used to be, which is a balance of comfort and sport. Whereas the 5 series is now luxury with a hint of sport, which is what the 7-series used to be. Again I am not saying that is a bad thing, it just took an extended drive for me to realize it works. And it makes me look forward to the upcoming 2 series.
I would say that the F30 can be what the owner wants it to be. They can buy a Luxury line, leave it in Comfort mode and have a comfortable car that is still a sport sedan. They can buy a Luxury line with the dynamic handling package and have the same but with the option of sharper handling or they can buy a Sport line and get a terrific all around sport sedan. The only drawback is the steering but that is a problem with nearly every newer car and is a result of the need for greater fuel efficiency.
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      01-31-2013, 02:25 PM   #14
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I read the first line and the last line of the OP. It's still a 3 Series.
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      01-31-2013, 03:21 PM   #15
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You should check out the DHP option, it might improve your opinion of handling and steering.
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      01-31-2013, 03:37 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ft1337 View Post
You should check out the DHP option, it might improve your opinion of handling and steering.
Possibly, but aren't the variable dampeners (in sport) the same as the standard sport suspension?



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I read the first line and the last line of the OP. It's still a 3 Series.
I would read the whole thing. I am not that mean to your car.
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      01-31-2013, 03:44 PM   #17
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Possibly, but aren't the variable dampeners (in sport) the same as the standard sport suspension?
No it's firmer by most accounts...
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      01-31-2013, 03:55 PM   #18
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Possibly, but aren't the variable dampeners (in sport) the same as the standard sport suspension?

I would read the whole thing. I am not that mean to your car.
LOL.
I can't count beyond 3!

...... Ok, I've read it. Thanks.
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      01-31-2013, 04:13 PM   #19
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wonderful review, have you seen the new commercial from BMW - titled "The Feeling Remains". It really does embody what BMW cars do best........Putting a ridiculous smile on your face!
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      01-31-2013, 04:18 PM   #20
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wonderful review, have you seen the new commercial from BMW - titled "The Feeling Remains". It really does embody what BMW cars do best........Putting a ridiculous smile on your face!
Actually, on both my faces.
It is truly an amazing car. Why can't all women be like my BMW?
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      01-31-2013, 05:52 PM   #21
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Actually, on both my faces.
It is truly an amazing car. Why can't all women be like my BMW?
they will never give you full control like a BMW lol
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      02-03-2013, 04:20 PM   #22
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So I take it sports line is a must if buying a new 3 series? Is it really that bad if you go with a base model performance-wise? I think you can always do aftermarket stuff
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