Slushbox Doesn't Damper the Performance
Historically the BMW 3 Series has been regarded as the epitome of the compact premium sports sedan segment — a segment it created. Although the current F30 generation car seems to have replaced some of its sport with luxury, the 3 Series is still the standard of the segment. Our previous testers, including our former 2012 BMW 328i sedan, were equipped with the six-speed manual, and we finally got our hands and test equipment on a 2015 BMW 328i sedan with the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Options on our tester, which had a $38,495 USD base price, included the $2,500 USD Sport Line trim (a sport steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, black door mirror caps, sport seats, brushed aluminum trim, Coral trim, and an anthracite headliner), the $950 USD Cold Weather package (a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, and retractable headlight washers), the $950 USD Driver Assistance package (rearview camera, park distance control), the $1,000 USD Dynamic Handling package (Adaptive M suspension and variable sport steering), $650 USD M Sport brakes, $500 USD Sport automatic transmission, and a $1,050 USD moonroof. With $9,050 USD in options, the as-tested price came to $47,545 USD (a 2012 328i Sport Line sedan is pictured here).
Motivation for the 2015 BMW 328i sedan comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4 rated at 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic with the optional Sport feature. At the track, the automatic-equipped 2015 BMW 328i sedan hit 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 97.8 mph. Braking from 60 mph took just 116 feet. The 328i pulled 0.88g average around the skidpad and lapped the figure eight in 26.0 seconds at 0.73g average.
In comparison, two different 2012 BMW 328i sedans with the six-speed manual we tested accelerated to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and 5.7 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 98.2 mph and 14.3 seconds at 98.2 mph, respectively. Those cars also stopped from 60 mph in 113 feet and 107 feet. The manual-equipped cars lapped the figure eight in 26.3 seconds at 0.70g average and 25.9 seconds at 0.67g average and pulled 0.89g average and 0.9g average around the skidpad, respectively. As we can see from the numbers, the performance of the 328i with the eight-speed automatic is in the thick of its manual-equipped counterparts, though it does give up some of the driver involvement.
Until we get our testing gear on a new Jaguar XE or a rear-drive version of the Mercedes-Benz C300, the BMW 328i sedan’s most formidable competitor is the Cadillac ATS sedan. In testing, our former Michigan-based 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T with the turbocharged, 2.0-liter I-4 (272 hp, 260 lb-ft) and six-speed automatic transmission reached 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.3 seconds at 97.3 mph. The baby Caddy stopped from 60 mph in 114 feet. The ATS sedan lapped the figure eight in 26.7 seconds at 0.66g average and pulled 0.89g average around the skidpad. Despite similar acceleration and skidpad performance, the BMW 328i sedan posted a significantly faster figure eight lap.
On the streets, the 2015 BMW 328i sedan rides smoothly even with the drivetrain and suspension in Sport mode. With its rear-drive chassis and variable sport steering, the compact sport sedan is easy to place around corners and through the twisty bits. Cornering speeds can scare passengers unfamiliar with the 3 Series. The front eight-way power seats are comfortable, and the adjustable driver’s seat lumbar provides good lower back support. The blue M Sport brakes stand out against the Alpine White paint, and real brushed aluminum trim contrasts tastefully with the Coral Red Dakota leather interior. Overall, our color and trim combination had a premium look and feel.
With the automatic transmission, the BMW 328i is EPA-rated 23/35/27 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s just 1 mpg better than the manual-equipped version. In our Real MPG testing, the 2015 BMW 328i sedan with the eight-speed achieved 22.9/35.4/27.2 mpg, nearly spot on with the EPA rating.
Although the current F30 BMW 3 Series does not (yet) have the cult following of its predecessors, the car that created the compact sport sedan segment can still hold its own — even with a “slushbox” transmission. Things could change, however, if Cadillac blesses the ATS with GM’s new eight-speed auto or when we finally get our hands on the redesigned Mercedes C-Class and Jaguar XE sedans. We look forward to future comparison tests.
|2015 BMW 328i sedan (auto)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$47,545|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/240-hp/255-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,498 lb (50/50%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.2 x 71.3 x 56.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.1 sec @ 97.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||116 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.88 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.0 sec @ 0.73 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/35/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||147/96 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.71 lb/mile|