2014 BMW 320i

Automobiles
Way back in the day, the 3 Series was a simple car, then it got real fancy and quite a bit bigger except for this one. It's gotten quite a bit simpler. Let's drive the 320i, the baby 3 Series, and check the tech. Now, BMW doesn't really punish you for being parsimonious. This 320i looks really good, basically as good as all the other three sedans out there, unless they're heavily trimmed. So, you can't spot one of these all that readily from a distance. Notice, these are only available as either a four-door sedan rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. You can't get a 320 convertible or wagon. And the coupes, of course, have moved on to become 4 Series now. All the three Series are basically four-doors or convertibles. Now, inside the 320i, it's the way I think it should be. This reminds me of the first 320i back in the late 70s, lean and spare. You also notice that the seats on this car are manual. Every single adjustment -- fore/aft, height, altitude, and my seat back-- those are all levers. You don't see that very often. Even cheap cars have power adjusters, but not this one stuck. Now, to go with this LCD display, which is standard, you've got this iDrive controller that is standard, but it's kind of stripped down. The new iDrive controller has a touchpad right here for navigating and pinching and zooming like on the map, for example. Don't have that here. I point that out because one of my gripes about BMW nav systems is to move around the map or to zoom in and out is kind of a drag going over to this little stack of icons on the left. The new knob would have pinch and zoom like you have on your smartphone. You do have the shortcut buttons and the back button. It's an excellent button arrangement because not everything is done by a turn, a kick, and a click. But one area where they actually even thinned it out more is you don't go up and down on this knob. All it would do is left and right. It's really the bare-bones version of their controller, but it works pretty well. As we scroll through here, you see your sources are pretty straightforward. I've got an AUX plus USB jack in here. You've got to use this little BMW pigtail to get into your iOS device. I tried it USB only, not working. Optical disc slot right here obviously. And that's about it for sources. You don't have Bluetooth streaming here, only Bluetooth calling, and you do not have any apps on this car as it's configured. It's a real bare-bones BMW. Radio, however, is AM/FM with HD but satellite is an optional upgrade. The dashboard is similarly classic. You do have the BMW fuel efficiency gauge, which I find to be comically kind of loose, but it's an old school thing for them. The wheel is traditional. It's got the three spokes the way they did a long time ago. This is a very heritage-looking wheel. One choice on the gearbox, you'll always see this paddle shifter here. No paddles are available here, though. You do have a shiftable gate on the left. Now, down here, this comes on the car, this is not optional, Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro. You'll see those echoed up here on the dash and this car has, by default, auto start/stop technology. Your defeat button for it is right there. Unless you press that, this guy is gonna die at a stop sign and then restart when you lift off the brake. And along those lines, when you get into Eco Pro, it's gonna do several things. It's gonna ease back on throttle tip-in. It's gonna run the whole power train more gently. It's going to run the AC compressor more judiciously. Now, in the engine bay, we've got a little motor. It's the first time they've had a four cylinder [unk] US market since 1999, I think. This is a 2-liter, what they call a TwinPower Turbo, that is not a twin turbo, not for an engine this small. Instead, it's a twin-scroll single turbo. It's got two phases built into it. Some numbers -- 180 horsepower, 240-foot pounds of torque. The car weighs 3,300 pounds, gets to 60 in 7.1 seconds. You have a choice of transmissions. We saw the automatic just now, that's an 8-speed. You can also get a 6-speed manual, which has the exact same 0 to 60 time and gives up just 1 MPG on the fuel efficiency. And that's 24 city, 36 highway on this automatic. That's why they put a small engine here. Now, notice that this car also has, in addition to turbocharging, direct injection, variable valve timing, all the modern tricks as the big brother 328i which uses the same 2-liter N20 engine, but gets a whole lot more power out of it. We'll talk about which of these cars makes more sense when we look out our pricing on this 320i at the end of the pace. Okay, first thing I'm gonna do here is turn off the auto start/stop 'cause I hate that in gas engine cars. It only seems to work elegantly to me in an electrified car which this obviously isn't. So, that's defeated. There we go. Getting into it now, I'm in Sport mode, automatic shift. There's not ample power here. That's the first thing I come away with. That's the biggest misgiving I've done. After that, the suspension is soft and not quite as sharp as I'd expect in a 3 Series. That's sort of a lesser complaint, but it's on there. The handling is very predictable, though, rear-wheel drive on this car and the engine upfront, you know, it kind of goes where I expect it's gonna go. As you nose it through a corner, little understeer there for the most part as you'd expect. It's really a classic 3 Series from back in the day, which I'm not sure was their goal, but I love it. Okay, let's price our cheap and cheerful little friend, $33,700 basically base, $2,000 more for xDrive all-wheel drive, 6-speed manual that's a zero dollar pick. Hello, I'm in. Now is where it gets interesting. Do you take this guy CNET style at all? Or do you enjoy its simplicity? If you wanna go CNET style, here's what you do. $2,150 gets you nav with that cool new touchpad version of the iDrive controller. The driver assistance package is just under a grand that will get you park distance control and the rear camera, you may have noticed, we were missing. Sport package is a steal, 1,300 bucks for these cool wheels, the M steering wheel, sport seats, and sport suspension. That's like robbery. And then, to add a moonroof, which we don't have here either, that's a little over a grand. All in, you're still under $40,000 CNET style, but I just wonder if it's gilding the lily. The bigger question is, "Do you buy this or a 328?" Let's compare them on some salient details. The 328 has 60 more horsepower, 55-foot pounds more torque, shaves 1.3 seconds off 0 to 60, but does give up 1 MPG average. It also includes some nice extra equipment, and with 328, it's $4,500 more, not trivial money. Still, I tend to lean that way as a smart buyer because you're gonna end up with more of that BMW performance that that badge promises and I think you're gonna get quite a bit better resale value. On the other hand, this 320i speaks to me as well because it is all about what 3 Series used to be.

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