BMW puts one of the most solid feeling cars on the road with the all-wheel-drive 2007 BMW 328xi. Our test car was the sedan version and, although it didn't come with a navigation system or premium sound, we were still impressed with its cabin tech interface. Its handling was also impressive, although accelerator modulation proved difficult and its power steering made low-speed turning require serious effort.
A Sparkling Graphite Metallic paint job and its sedan body at first glance made our test car look mundane. But a second look reveals the car's performance cues, such as how the cabin is set back slightly, allowing a longer nose. The hood rises up in a muscular manner, making room for a potent power plant. A door-handle height crease breaks up the monotony of the otherwise smooth sides. All of this adds up to an understated performance note.
The cabin of the 328xi features classic European luxury. All of the interior materials have a feeling of quality, while the switchgear, even the plastic buttons, feels solid. A navigation-equipped 328xi would have an LCD taking the place of the radio display. Without this option, as in our test car, you get an orange LCD, which is starting to look a little dated in this era of cell phones with full color screens.
Test the tech: Out of control
Because this was the all-wheel-drive version of the BMW 328, we felt compelled to see how it handled under extreme conditions. So we resolved to corner it so hard that the wheels would break free of the pavement. And we ended up getting it a bit further loose than we expected, but the car really showed what it could do under the circumstances.
First, we found an area free of traffic and other obstacles. We were also fortunate in that our pavement was very dry with a thick coating of dust from a nearby construction site. For this cornering test, we jammed the accelerator as we entered a tight turn. The car dutifully slid, with its rear end breaking free and swinging out a little farther than we had expected. We applied counter-steer and the car quickly got back in line.
In the cabin
Because so many cars we get have a navigation screen in the center of the dashboard, the BMW 328xi looked bare in comparison. As mentioned above, we appreciated the luxury feeling of the cabin. The steering wheel has a nice, new design, with the side spokes curving down into the bottom spoke. Metal accents between the spokes mirrored the metal inset on the automatic transmission shifter.
We got the base stereo in our 328xi, but you would have never known it by the audio quality. The stereo put out a strong sound, which seemed in keeping with the driving feel of the car. The audio system uses 10 speakers, including two subwoofers. But this system doesn't put out heavy bass. The audio quality is refined along the entire range, from highs to lows. Overall, the quality of the audio is very good. An upgrade is available, to a Harmon/Kardon Logic7 13 speaker system.
The Premium package, with which our car was equipped, includes Bluetooth cell phone integration. As with other BMWs we've seen, the cell phone integration is excellent. Pairing our Motorola V551 phone to the system was quick, and the system almost immediately made our address book available on the radio display. Dialing numbers by voice worked flawlessly, and call quality was very good.