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      08-13-2014, 08:59 PM   #1
Trekk
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M-Sport 328i xDrive experience

About two months ago I bought a 14' 328i xDrive M-Sport. This forum helped me a great deal so here is my personal experience, in case it might help others. Be forewarned, it's a reasonably long read.

I was looking for a car that is fun to drive, with a modern engine, chassis and drive/safety aids; a car to keep for 7-10 years. It had to be family friendly as I have two small kids of toddler age. That ruled out convertibles and such - which I would have otherwise considered given that I live in California.

So far I've been driving a 2011 VW Jetta with the 2.5L NA 170hp engine, which I very much enjoy. It has quite a bit of torque for a naturally aspirated engine, the steering is precise, it has plenty of room in the back for passengers, and the trunk is a cavern. The interior design is fine, if spartan. That said the quality of interior materials is pretty low - lots of cheap hard plastic. My wife picked it up as her daily driver after I got the BMW and she likes the practicality of the Jetta a lot.

Anyway, back to the BMW. I am no race pilot but I enjoy driving. I wanted a bit more power than the Jetta had, with raw HP coming secondary to driving feel, interior comfort, design and overall quality. Some people enjoy hearing the engine roar and the exhaust burble when they drive. Nothing wrong with that, but I do not. I like refined, effortless, and ideally noise-free acceleration with neutral, stick-to-the-road handling. I looked at BMW 3 and 5 series, Audi A4/S4, Mercedes C-class, Lexus, and Tesla Model S. The status-symbol aspect was irrelevant to me, they are all as common as Honda Civics in the SF Bay Area anyway. Well, maybe Tesla a little less.

Tesla Model S was ideal for what I like in a car, but well optioned it pushed $100k and I wasn't looking to spend that much on a car. I spent some time considering it still (it is such a nice car), but in the end ruled it out on price.

Lexus IS250/350 has older engines with neither the power nor the fuel efficiency of BMW powertrains. I did not like the interior and exterior design, so this option died before even doing a drive test.

Mercedes C250 is a nice car and I enjoyed it for a week as a rental on a business trip. It was resonably quiet, comfortable, and pretty enough inside and out. The gearbox (auto) was odd though, with surprisingly jerky shifts (especially downshifts), and the engine was 'nervous' for lack of a better word. A nice car to be sure, but surprisingly unrefined for a Mercedes. The Command entertainment system was ugly, but ultimately usable. This was for the '14 model, the redesigned and well-reviewed '15 wasn't available yet.

Now onto the Audi. I very much like the exterior styling of the A4/S4 - perhaps even more so than the current BMWs. I enjoy tech features so I figured Audi might just be it for me. Well, no. I just could get over the interior design. The quality was great, but the design felt so outdated. The engine specs were also not competitive with the BMW powertrains. The new S3 looked much nicer in pictures, but it wasn't available in the timeframe I was looking for - and it made the A/S4 look even more outdated.

And finally, the BMW.

First, some history. The E90 was THE dream car for me back in the day - meaning, when I could not afford to get one . It looked so, so distinctively good on the outside, and the interior had this feel of restrained, teutonic quality. When the F30 came out I went, well, ran to the nearest dealership - I just had to see it even though I wasn't in the market to buy. Man, what a massive dissapointment that was. I was sitting in this Modern line F30 and it looked like a caricature of a BMW. Weird, waivy plastic-looking trims, ugly steering wheel, cheap creaky plastic everywhere, that cut-out line across the trunk, the ugly front bumper. Hell, even the salesman seemed ashamed of what he was peddling. What a sad joke of a premium car. The HUD was nice, but that was about it. I didn't even do a drive test. I left convinced that if I ever buy a BMW in the future, it will be a pre-owned E90. As far as I was concerned the BMW magic was dead, burried and forgotten with the F30.

Fast forward to the present. I went to a BMW dealership and true to my initial experience I bypassed all the F30s on display and asked to see their CPO E90s. I did a drive test in a 328i and it was OK, but a used car doesn't quite give you that vibe and excitement thatr you get with a new car, does it. The steering seemed unnecessarily heavy, the engine did not pull as much as I expected it would. I figured to take a look at the F30 one more time, this time a '14 328i in M-Sport trim. Well, this sure wasn't the same car as the '12 Modern I had seen before. Whatever they changed and updated since '12, as far as I'm concerned it has completely transformed F30. Part of it is the M-Sport line, but also the overall quality of the interior seems so much better. It is hard to say what makes it what it is, but the overall effect is not subtle.

On for a test-drive of the F30 328i. Nice! The N20 engine had grunt, for me it definitely spanked the E90 328i in driving feel. The E90 steering was much heavier and I preferred the F30 steering. I read about the N20 engine sounding like an agricultural diesel. Well, I heard no such thing. At idle it was so quiet I could barely hear it, and as you revved it there was this deep, low growl up to 2000-3000rpm, turning into a roar at higher rpms. No ticking, no rough noises. Not bad - and very quiet unless you where stomping on the acceleration.

I switched an F30 335i to compare. It was more powerful, I could feel the difference. But, driving on the highway at 70-80mph the engine has this loud droning noise, louder than I would ever accept for daily use. It did not sound bad, but it was loud enough that I could hear with the radio on. I cut the drive test short because of that, since it was a show stopper for me. I briefly wondered how 'enthusiasts' live with that noise every day (the salesman was raving about how great the noise was, go figure), and then moved on to consider only the 328i as an option.

In retrospect, I have a guess as to what happened. I think the sales guy switched the 335i to Sports mode without telling me about it, something that I don't think he did on the 328i. He might have thought that will make me love the 335i more. Instead, he killed it for me with that engine noise. That's just a guess though. Perhaps the 335i is quiet too in Comfort mode - I don't know, I haven't done another drive test since. The 328i is certainly quiet, and only in Sports mode it starts to throw some noise at you - even then, it is acceleration noise and not constant droning.

Driving the 5 series felt like driving a tank compared with the 3 series, although interestingly from the inside it barely felt any more spacious than the 3 series. I also didn't particularly like the exterior design, so it fell off the list pretty quickly.

I decided to custom-order a car with the exact options I wanted. This is the final order:

328i xDrive Sedan Details
BASE MSRP
$39,300
M Sport $3,500
Mineral Grey Metallic $550
Black SensaTec $0
Aluminum Hexagon interior trim $0
Driver Assistance Package $950
Driver Assistance Plus $1,900
Dynamic Handling Package $1,000
Lighting Package $900
Technology Package $3,150
Sport automatic transmission with shift paddles $500
Wheel Locks $160
Heated front seats $500
Parking Assistant $500
Rear manual side window shades $575
Harman Kardon surround sound system $875
Anti-theft alarm system $400
Automatic high beams $250
Moonroof $1,050
Destination & Handling:$925
Total MSRP as Built $56,985

Other requests:
- All season tires, non-staggered
- PZEV SULEV (N26) engine with lower emissions
- German build

The sale price was $50,830 (6,150 off MSRP), cash purchase. I could have saved another $500 with a dealership some (long) distance away, but I didn't want to deal with the drive. You can probably do better on pricing if you pick something from the dealer lot, and by now there might be more incentives on MY2014 since MY2015 is out.

Why these particular options?

The M-Sport wasn't really much of a debate. If it weren't for the M-Sport look I would not have picked this car to begin with. The bumper and steering wheel design on the base and sport lines are not my cup of tea.

I picked xDrive so that I can better deal with the piles of snow we get here in California. Heh, no - I got it purely as a safety feature. I read enough on rear-wheel drive to make me doubt that that the BMW would be a safer car than the FWD Jetta in conditions where the wheels might slip (rain, oil patches, snow on week-end mountain drives). I didn't want to wonder about my wife remembering the RWD factor on wet on-ramps and such, and for that matter I didn't want to remember it either. The ability to slip the rear is a liability to me, not a feature. The cost of xDrive is extra $$ upfront, more weight, and slightly lower gas mileage. I was fine with that trade-off.

Related to that, I wanted non-staggered all-season tires. I can rotate them, they last much longer than summer tires, and I would not need to deal with the yearly swaps to winter tires (it gets cold in Cali too, even if there is no snow). I could not add the M-Sport brake option on non-staggered wheels, which is a bit of a bummer.

I wanted Driver Assistance Plus for the surround view camera and blind spot monitoring. I set mirrors properly to avoid blind-spots, but having an automated radar do an extra check for me is pretty darn nice. Also, in city areas and parking lots I find surround view to be much more useful than the regular rear-view camera (which you still get anyway). I also added the Parking Assistant for my wife.

The lighting package looks (a lot) better than the standard lights, and the HK sound system sounds (a fair bit) better than the standard audio. It comes down to money, I guess you pay for them if an improvement in these areas is worth the asking price to you. The automatic high beam is something that I think you can add later through coding, but I did not know that when I ordered.

The tech package is there because I definitely wanted the HUD and the larger display. I could have done without all the bundled 'office' features.

The Dynamic Handling was too nice of a feature to pass up, especially with people saying the standard xDrive suspension is a little on the soft side.

I added the alarm so that the car beeps when locking the door, and yells if somebody tries to steal the alloy wheels from under it. Not much value here, tbh.

I added the window shades for my kids, the moonroof for my wife, and the sport transmission & paddles for me. I requested an N26 engine since it runs cleaner and it has a longer emissions warranty.

What options are missing?

The most obvious is the Premium package, because I absolutely did not want leather seats. One reason was that many luxury cars that I see look great on the outside, but look like sh*t on the inside due to that worn look that leather gets after a while. Mind you, not every car is like that. Some owners maintain the leather religiously, modify their entry step so that they don't crease the side bolsters, and so on - and it shows. However, that's not me. I detail the interior about twice a year, and that's about all I have time and willingness for. Another reason is that now I have kids and child seats mounted, and they are not leather friendly. Finally, it helps that the Sensatec material is so close in looks and feel to the heavily processed Dakota leather (it is actually a bit softer and more comfy than Dakota) - and saves me ~$1.5K to boot.

Interestingly, not a single BMW salesmen tried to upsell me to leather or even claim that leather was a 'superior' choice. One of them mentioned that leather can be damaged more easily than Sensatec, but leather is also repairable whereas Sensatec is not - and that's about it. They all praised Sensatec as a great option, which surprised me.

I could individually add the moonroof and later on satellite radio through coding, but I had to give up comfort access and lumbar support. I would have liked these features, but not at the expense of getting the Premium package and dealing with a leather interior.

I did not get the active radar cruise control because I have no use for it. I prefer to actively drive in all traffic situations.

I skipped the cold weather package and added only heated front seats. I probably could have skipped those too, given the climate here.

That was the order, and six weeks later one sweet BMW with 2 miles on the odometer was waiting for me at the dealership.

Two months and 800 miles after that, I absolutely love the car. The exterior design, the interior design, the iDrive system, the seats, the steering wheel, the driving feel. It is truly a pleasure to drive.

Below are a few more detailed impressions. I can compare with a F30 328d and an X1 xDrive28i, which I had as service loaners for a few small issues that the service took care of.

I read about people having wind noise issues. I do not have that problem, the car is very silent. However, there are two things that I noticed and perhaps this is what people are upset with. One is that at speeds above 70mph any cross-winds generate a fair bit of wind noise around the front pillar/window. It is not a lot of noise (not more than Jetta has) but the car is so quiet otherwise that you tend to hear it more easily. Sometimes it sounds a bit like the window might not be fully closed, even though it is. However, it is not so bad as to be an issue for me. The second is that the noise insulation on the side window is noticeably less that the noise insulation elsewhere around the car. This is noticeable when you drive past a source of noise (or one drives past you), you clearly hear it louder when it is by your side.

The X1 had much, much more wind noise than my car. It was downright annoying at highway speeds. The 328d was about the same as mine, but it seemed to let more of the outside noise in (not wind noise in particular).

The engine is very quiet at idle. From inside you only hear a deep low note to tell you the engine in on. There is zero ticking or diesel like sputtering, in fact you have to strain to hear anything at all. It stays like this up to ~1500 rpm, then the low growl becomes a bit louder and around 3000 rpm it starts to become a low roar. That is in Comfort mode. In sports mode the sound signature is similar, but it is significantly louder and more agressive sounding at the same at rpm (ActiveSound I guess?). Honestly, the sound signature in Comfort seemed to me quite similar to the 335i - but not as loud and a bit higher pitched at high rpms.

Now, it might very well be that this is a new development with the MY2014 model. Some people on this forum say that is the case. I did not drive an older F30 to compare, but I had an X1 loaner for a day with the same N20 engine. If the older F30s sound like that X1 then I can only say I feel sorry for their owners. When I got into the X1 and I started the engine I genuinely thought the car has a problem and got out to have it checked by the SA. It wasn't just the fact that it was loud, it was the way it sounded : high pitched, irregular, with uneven gurgling and vibrations. If that is what people say is a diesel sound then I disagree. The F30 328d loaner had that traditional agricultural diesel rythm to it, and the diesel vibrations at idle. It's not something I would personally buy, but it sounded true to itself - a healthy, torquey diesel. The X1 sounded like it was sick. The acceleration noise in the X1 was also very rough and unrefined. It is the first time I drive in a car and actively notice how crappy the engine sounds. That noise killed a lot of the luxury feel one might get in a BMW. I really can't believe my car has the same engine under the hood, it sounds nothing alike.

From the outside I have fewer comparisons that I can make. All I can say is that my car sounds different from the F30 328i that one of my neighbours drives (I don't know the MY). His car has an easily noticeable diesel-like rythm to it, whereas I don't hear the same on mine.

One other thing I noticed on the X1 is that the car seemed to have this odd lag when pressing the acceleration. Sometimes I would press the pedal, and nothing would happen for almost a second - then the car would upshift and start accelerating. It's as if the car simply ignored the pedal press for a short while. This was easily noticeable at stops or when passing on the highway, it made the car feel laggy and unresponsive. My car doesn't do that, and neither did the 328d. Maybe it is related to having (or not) the sports transmission? I don't know.

Speaking of the sports shifter, it looks and feels nicer and higher quality than the standard shifter, something that I did not know when I ticked that option (it thought it was mostly the paddles and better programming).

I very much like the overall driving experience. The Comfort and Sport modes completey change the car, from luxury feel to sport, damped, well planted feel. I like driving in Sports mode most, except for that extra ActiveSound noise that the Sports mode adds. In city traffic though Comfort mode is quite nice.

The fuel consumption is pretty bad in city driving (16-19 MPG), although Sports mode, short trips and my rather enthusiastic pedal-work might have something to do with it. I tried hypermiling once and the computer showed 40.1 mpg on a 30 mile trip (90% highway, average speed 60mph). This was in EcoPro, and sailing mode seemed to help a lot. With regular driving in Comfort mode I got 34 mpg on the same trip. The 328d got 50 mpg on that route without even trying, so no contest there.

The 328d loaner was an interesting experience. The specs (HP/torque) aren't that different from the 328i, but in practice they drive nothing alike. At low speeds and rpm's the 328d torque hits hard, and makes the car feel much faster than it actually is (as long as you don't floor it, that part is rather uninspiring). It is a lot of fun in city driving. The 328i is the opposite - it is much faster than it actually feels.

One thing that I'm not extatic about is this hard to define lazy feel that Comfort mode has, especially at low rpms. This might also have to do with the fact that it is only a 2L engine after all, and piling xDrive and moon-roofs on the car doesn't help. I wonder if the 335i does better in Comfort mode at low rpms, if so that might make that option a bit more desirable for everyday 'enthusiastic' driving. Although I guess one would switch to Sport mode anyway in that case .

One genuine dissapointment with the 328i was not with the car itself, but rather with the tuning scene for it. I initially read about JB4 and such and I was under the impression that one can easily add 30-40hp to the N20 engine for little money and risk. Well, not really, and for a few reasons.

First, if you look at a BMS stage 1 dyno all the gains are almost exclusively above 2500 rpm. With city driving I rarely go above 2500rpm. It is the low rpms where I would personally like to see some torque gains, and the tunes that boost in that range are very expensive (AC Schnitzer, Hartge and the like). These tunes modify the ignition timing rather than just the boost-pressure. Their dynos show flat torque gains across the entire rpm range, and they claim that they put (comparatively) less stress on the engine.

Second, even if you are fine with boost-only, ride the knock sensor, cheap tunes (BMS,AFE,etc.), they all come in packages that are not waterproof and have exposed electronics. I find it pretty amazing that people are comfortable with that, given the out-of-warranty damage potential, but to each their own. You can get a proper waterproof enclosure with boxes like RaceChip Ultimate, Speed-Buster and TMC for ~$700-800.

Personally I am not willing to risk out-of-waranty engine damage with these tunes. If Dinan comes out with a warranty-backed N20 tune then I might consider it depending on how they price it (I certainly wouldn't pay the $1999 they currently ask for their 335i tune). Until then, I'll just use the Sport mode.

To conclude, I am very happy with the car (I attached a picture from the delivery day). There are many things that are very nice on an everyday basis that I didn't get to describe here (like having navigation directions with lane-assist on the HUD, for example). I hope it ends up being as reliable as it is fun to drive (one can only hope ).
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Last edited by Trekk; 08-14-2014 at 12:57 PM..
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      08-13-2014, 10:21 PM   #2
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Read first sentence.












Scrolled all the way down to the picture. Nice car! Congrats!
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      08-13-2014, 10:46 PM   #3
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Congrats on the car, it is beautiful! Your thoughts helped me as I am debating between a 328i and a 335i. Just a quick question, when you went on the test drive did they let you go alone or did a salesman ride along? When I went to the same exact dealership, the salesman let me go alone for 15 minutes on a pre-owned car. I am wondering how their test drive policy works on new cars as I am looking for a new generation 3 series instead of the old one now. Thanks!
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      08-14-2014, 01:05 AM   #4
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I Can't wait to get my 328i M Sport!
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      08-14-2014, 03:06 AM   #5
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Congrats on a beautiful car.
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      08-14-2014, 03:14 AM   #6
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Interesting.
For me money and driving taxes were the only thing that made me choose the 28i over the35i.
I cant even figure why people hesitate...

very nice car and picture by the way
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      08-14-2014, 04:51 AM   #7
Trekk
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I do not know if they allow solo testdrives, I did not think to ask.

Regarding the 328i vs 335i, I make no claims of one being a better choice in general. Based on specs alone 335i has the better engine. Is it the right choice for you? The way I see it that depends on a few (and somewhat subjective) factors.

Pros for 335i
- More power. Most people enjoy this.
- MPPK for even more power. See above.
- Fuel consumption. 328i is technically better, but for the power it offers the 335i efficiency is impressive.

Cons for 335i
- Extra cost, in US between $6k and $3k depending on the option list, and much more elsewhere.
- Noisier. For some this is a plus (heck, some pay for the M performance exhaust and get even more noise for their buck).
- 'Mature' engine prone to going limp when it needs to perform. The young N20 stud has no such issues.

In my case it was the noise that killed it. Perhaps it was the Sports mode with ActiveSound and no overdrive gears, or maybe that drivetest car had a performance exhaust (I doubt it). It was too much of a drone for me at highway speeds. If it weren't for that I would have probably bought the 335i. Maybe. Honestly I wasn't primarily looking for a boatload of power with this car, but rather for a modern, balanced, nice ride that works as a family car. I'm still quite happy with the Jetta, and that's 'only' 170 hp.

That said, I think the current F30 328i is a very sweet deal. When BMW introduced N20 as the base engine they likely knew that they would get a lot of pushback against a four banger. And so, what they did was to push the 328i performance much closer to 335i than it used to be. I guess they had to do that to make sure a four banger is desirable, number of cylinders be damned - not an easy thing to do given their target demografic. Look at the first year F30 reviews: there are a lot of them questioning not the cylinder count of the 328i but rather the added value of the 335i given the extra cost. There are even professional reviewers claiming that the 328i is the better car, even though it is not the most powerful. Mission accomplished.

To some extent they did this by not giving the 335i much of an upgrade for F30. My guess is that with the LCI that will change and the 335i (or whatever they will rename it to) will get a more sizeable boost to better differentiate it from the 328i.

But until then I think the 328i engine is a pretty nice option relative to the 335i.
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      08-14-2014, 05:19 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinweiss 335i View Post
Read first sentence.












Scrolled all the way down to the picture. Nice car! Congrats!
Same here. Hehehe. Congrats!
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Michael

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      08-14-2014, 08:29 AM   #9
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Love that color!

A baby bunny dies every time a dealer bolts a plate to an m sport front bumper though
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      08-14-2014, 05:21 PM   #10
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never can go wrong with a F30 msport! One of the best looking cars in its price range. My phone pic below..
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      08-14-2014, 05:30 PM   #11
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I can never resist posting pics. This was my one year old f30, it was replaced with an identical f30 by BMW.
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EBII 2014 335i xDrive
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      08-15-2014, 12:35 PM   #12
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Congrats!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by alpinweiss 335i View Post
Read first sentence.
Scrolled all the way down to the picture. Nice car! Congrats!
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