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BMW 3 Series 328i 2012 Review

The look this time around is long and low with sweeping lines that convey a sense of athleticism.

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Not everyone wants to drive a big, boofy SUV. Small wagons are making a bit of a comeback, especially sporty Euros with offerings from all of the big three - Audi, Benz and BMW.

BMW's new 3 Series Touring wagon is one of the tastier morsels to choose from, due to arrive early next year in Oz. We got a taste of things to come this week in Munich.

DESIGN

The 3 Series is still very much the jewel in the crown, by far and away the German car maker's biggest selling model. The wagon, although it doesn't account for a huge number of sales (less than 10 percent of 3 Series), still makes a worthwhile contribution. The look this time around is long and low with sweeping lines that convey a sense of athleticism. 

It's identical to the sedan from the centre pillar forward, with a wider stance and lower front 'kidney' grille designed to accentuate its sporty appearance. At the rear BMW's characteristic L-shaped tail lights with integrated LEDs serve to emphasise the car's wider, stronger haunches - 37mm wider at the front and 48mm at the rear.

LARGER

The fifth generation Touring is almost as long as a Commodore and 97mm longer than before, with a 50mm longer wheelbase that translates to 17mm of extra legroom in the back and more space for luggage behind the seat.

In fact, with an extra 35 litres of luggage space, BMW claims the car now offers a greater capacity than any of its rivals - with room for three golf bags. Through the use of high strength steel the engineers have been able to reduce the weight of the car by 40kg.

THE BOOT

There's 495 litres of space with the rear seat upright and 1500 litres with it folded, with a power operated tailgate that has a window that opens separately for quick access. Wave your foot under the rear of the car and the tailgate opens magically. The rear seat splits and folds in a 40:20:40 ratio that means you can fit several pairs of skis down the centre of the car and still have room for four adults.

A partition net and luggage compartment cover are provided that stow neatly under the floor when not in use. The floor hatch is reversible for carrying dirty items. In the front, larger stowage bins in the doors now accommodate 1-litre drink bottles.

THE RANGE

We're getting three models: the 328i, 320i and 318d. The 323i is no more and the 335i performance model has been dropped due to lack of demand. The first two are powered by 2.0-litre petrol engines and the third by a 2.0-litre diesel. Of the trio we got to sample only the top of the range 328i.

UNDER THE BONNET

The twin turbo 2.0-litre four cylinder direct injection petrol engine produces 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It will be hooked up to an eight-speed automatic as standard in Aussie cars. A sports auto with gear change paddles and more dynamic shift characteristics is also available. The dash from 0-100km/h takes 6.0 seconds flat, with a top speed that is electronically limited to 250km/h. The 320i meanwhile produces 135kW/270Nm and the 118d 105kW/320Nm.

FUEL CONSUMPTION

The 328i is rated at 6.8 litres/100km and produces 159g/km of CO2. During the launch this week we returned a figure of 9.4 litres/100km over a distance of 230 easy kilometres. All models will be fitted with stop/start and other fuel saving tech, as well as a drive control with Eco Pro mode to maximise economy.

BMW claims the latter can reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. Stop/start as its name suggests shuts down the engine at traffic lights and in other situations to save fuel, automatically restarting the engine when the driver presses the throttle.

ON THE ROAD

I have to confess it's been a while since I last drove a Beemer and I had forgotten just how sporty they always manage to make them. The transition from six to four cylinder engines in the name of better fuel economy has been seamless, with the 2.0-litre engine in the 328i punching well above its weight.

The chunky steering wheel feels snug in the hands and performance is strong, with plenty in reserve for overtaking. It even sounds the part under full throttle which is so important. The eight speed auto is excellent and responds quickly to throttle input, with the option to change gears manually, via the shifter or the steering wheel mounted paddles.

Whether you're in auto or manual mode, the effect is satisfying, especially under hard acceleration when the gears snap home. In fact, we'd go as far as saying it's more responsive  than the tranny in the Porsche wagon that we drove the other day. Whether barreling down the autobahn or threading our way through the many villages that dot the countryside, the car remained unfazed.

INSIDE

Typical BMW. The cockpit has a clear driver focus and the computer screen is bigger than ever. There's even a cradle for your iPod in the centre stowage bin, along with AUX and USB ports. It's available in Modern, Luxury and Sport trim lines, as well as with the M Sport package with lowered suspension. And, of course, there's plenty of options.

SAFETY

It hasn't been tested yet, but the sedan gets a full five stars and the wagon is expected to achieve the same rating. Front and side airbags are fitted, plus head airbags for front and rear along with a full suite of safety systems.

VERDICT

Much more stylish. The previous model looks positively small in comparison, although this one is physically only slightly larger. Like we said not everyone wants to drive a rolly-polly SUV, particularly if you're just driving around town. In this context a wagon makes more sense as it offers the same kind of utility but in a more refined and more engaging package. Your call. Pricing and specifications for the new wagon will be revealed closer to launch in February-March.

BMW 3 Series Touring wagon 328i

Price: from $66,900
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder direct injection petrol, 180kW/350Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.8 litres/100km, 159g/km CO2 emissions
 

Pricing Guides

$24,494
Based on 133 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$16,588
Highest Price
$35,996

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
320d 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $18,500 – 32,000 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 320d Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $26,988 – 35,996 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs
330d 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $33,000 – 39,270 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 330d Pricing and Specs
335i M Sport 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $26,988 – 35,996 2012 BMW 3 Series 2012 335i M Sport Pricing and Specs

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Pricing Guide

$22,220

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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