Test Drive: 2010 BMW 328i Coupe

The 328i is BMW?s baseline car, and this week?s review car is very close to an absolute base model of the 328i. I like it when the review car is a base model, because then you can see what the car really is without an extra $10,000 worth of features.

In general, I?m not bowled over by BMWs. The sedans have become too sedate in their handling ? but I?m happy to note that the 328i two-door coupe follows in the footsteps of the 335i coupe, with lively handling and a generally excellent driving experience.

With just 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque the 328i is not a neck-snapper, but it makes good use of the power in the engine, and you never feel shortchanged. The specs on top speed and acceleration are better than the raw engine numbers would lead you to expect: 0-60 in just 6.2 seconds, and a top speed of 130 miles per hour, or 150 if you bought the Sport package.

The test car came with a 6-speed manual transmission. The shifter is light to the touch, the shifting is quick, and the clutch is easy to handle. You can also get this car with a 6-speed automatic if you prefer a two-pedal car.

The 2010 BMW 328i comes very nicely featured for a base price of $36,200. Interestingly, that?s down over $1,000 from the 2009 price of $37,325. With the economy still lingering in the doldrums, now is a great time to cut a hard bargain with auto dealers.

Also on the financial side, right now, BMW Financial Services is offering financing to people with credit scores down to 575 ? where most banks aren?t lending under 600. That could tip the scales in favor of BMW for a lot of buyers. Another factor on the financial side is that BMW is now offering insurance products ? including wheel and tire replacement, paintless dent repair, windshield insurance (always a biggie in the Pacific Northwest!) and the usual extended service plan. BMW also offers Gap insurance ? which covers the difference between the fair market value of your car and the amount you still owe on it. That saves you from ending up underwater in case of an accident before you?ve paid down the loan.

But that?s all a separate issue from the car itself. And BMWs are well-known as luxury cars ? so where?s the luxury in the base model?? Well, as it turns out, the base model has a lot of good stuff, including Xenon HID headlights, automatic climate control, cruise control, real walnut trim, and a nice stereo. You get leatherette seats ? I could hardly tell the difference between BMW?s leatherette and real leather.

My only complaint with the interior is that once again, the seat bolsters tended to grab me right in the kidneys ? and I?m not overly wide-bodied compared to most American men. You can relax the bolsters some, but I think BMW could stand to make the seats just a bit wider and then let you contract the bolsters to a comfortable fit.

The car I had came with just a few options ? and I was split on the value of these. For example, $1050 for a moon roof. I don?t like sunroofs in general ? I?ll either buy a convertible or leave it alone. As a car ages, a moonroof is just an invitation to water leaks ? a friend of mine bought a late-model Toyota recently and it?s already leaking copiously from the moonroof. So, I?d save that money, and spend it on the $400 iPod/MP3 adapter, and the $500 keyless entry and keyless start option. The other extra money on this car?s sticker was $550 for Montego Blue metallic paint. I?d skip that and pick one of BMW?s very nice stock colors.


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