BMW 3-Series F30 320i Test Drive

I was moving back and forth between Quill BMW located at Section 14 lately as I was installing my powerkit and had to send the car in for it’s 30,000km service. It was during this period where I had a courtesy car to use over the week, which was the face-lifted BMW X3. During this week of travelling between home and KL as well as occasional trips to Bangi to visit certain clients and a wedding to attend at Cheras, I had my first taste of BMW’s new 2.0 litre power plant with it’s twin scroll turbo technology.

As I returned the X3, I spied the recently launched BMW F30 320i. Being the curious person I was, I wanted to try it out and have a go at it. Immediately after getting into the car, the few differences between the E90 and F30 can easily be noticed.

  1. Key-less stop start system – This was one of the things which irritated me whilst I was driving the X3 as the engine would stop running every time I was at the traffic lights or stuck in traffic.
  2. New steering wheel design – BMW has moved the cruise control functionality to the steering wheel rather than having an additional stalk compared to the E90.
  3. No paddle shifters – Like the F30 320d, the F30 320i doesn’t come with paddle shifters
  4. 6.5″ screen with no satellite navigation and DVD playback
  5. 8-speed automatic transmission

Personally I really do like the newer 8-speed automatic transmission, it feels a lot smoother versus the older 6-speed variant. It took me a lot of adjusting when I moved from a double clutch gearbox where shifts were extremely seamless and smooth to a 6-speed automatic. All I can say that the newer 8-speed feels very closely to the double clutch gearbox.

Power Plant
The BMW TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine which combines twin-scroll turbocharger with Valvetronic, Double VANOS and High Precision Injection really does live up to all it’s marketing hype. Those familiar with BMW’s engines from the MINI series will be familiar with their latest engine in the F30 320i. Power delivery was fast thanks to the turbo and 270Nm of torque. I was very impressed with it’s acceleration and couple that together with quick gear shifts, the F30 320i really did impress me. Definitely we will see people getting the 320i and then having a simple remap on the ECU should unleash even more horses from the car.

The car comes with the sports mode functionality whereby your throttle response is improved, your gear shifts are aggressive and your steering, a little heavier. In technical terms it means a gentle tap to the accelerator can be easily felt, you swap gears at higher RPM’s and you get less help from the power steering making the wheel (steering) heavier.

The steering is definitely lighter than my car, the feel of it is nice and smooth and once you go into sports mode the steering gets heavier which is a feature I do like. But what you do lack in terms of steering is the feedback from the front tyres. You don’t get to feel the groove the of the roads. This is a preference for different people, especially people who just want a car that is nice and comfortable, the steering on the F30 320i doesn’t disappoint. But for those hardcore fanatics then they will be wondering what is it that is missing. It’s like when Porsche recently included in an electric steering rack to their 911 which a lot of critics said that the car has lost it’s soul. In this case, it really doesn’t matter because the 320i is meant to be a comfort saloon car and not one would expect to turn it into a performance monster.

The suspension was soft on the model I have driven but that’s because it wasn’t the M-Sport model. So far, no tentative dates yet are available on when the F30 M-Sport models would be hitting our shores.

Priced at RM238,800 (recommended OTR), I would say it’s main rivals would be the Audi A4 as well as the Volkswagen CC. Both the VAG cars have a 1.8 litre power plant but the A4 and the 320i are closely matched in terms of power although the A4 has a bit more torque (320Nm vs 270Nm) compared to the 320i but loses out in horsepower (170hp vs 184).