Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2011 BMW 323i

Haven't updated in a while, here's something of real interest.

Introduction: The BMW 3 series has been around since 1975, it wasn't until the 1980s when it entered its second generation that it took off and has slowly been the luxury sports sedan of choice throughout the world. This might be due to the popularity of the M3 which was started after BMW noticed success in their quiet release of the original M5 which salvaged performance parts from the doomed M1, BMW's only supercar. BMW is the only automaker left who still hasn't technically produced a mainstream front wheel drive model(to be honest the MINI counts), nor has it adopted to change its 6 cylinders into V6s over the traditional inline-6. The 3 series despite being BMW's entry level model for a very long time still has a very large following thanks mainly due to its handling over many other comparable cars. Today the 3 series is in its 5th generation soon to enter its sixth for 2012.

I was rather excited to drive one of these cars. I was particularly curious about the engine as everybody but BMW has abandoned the straight six in favour of V6s. I wasn't expecting outright power since this is a 323i and not the 328i or the 335i which are both more powerful particularly the 335i which is the closest thing to an M3 without paying a whole lot. I was also interested to see whether the "Ultimate driving machine" slogan was really worth all that hype.

Performance: As I mentioned its just a 323i so the figures are not going to be impressive. In the 323i you're given the 2.5L straight six engine which produces 200 hp and 180 lb.ft of torque. Many cars have much more powerful engines than this which cost a whole lot less. Its acceleration time from 0-100 km/h is about 8.2 seconds with an automatic, if you get a manual it will be 7.1 seconds. So its not that fast, is there anything else that makes it different? In my mind yes, this engine is much smoother in its power delivery than any V6s out there. When you step on the pedal you won't get an explosion of power, rather its progressively gets faster. Its also rather quiet too even at full throttle making me think that Toyota and Nissan were indeed foolish to toss the inline-six in the garbage. I like this engine, it may be slow but it shows that creamy smoothness is still the inline-6's strength and that V6s despite massive development haven't gotten there yet.

My Score: 9/10 - Its not that fast, but its very smooth and quiet.

Handling: This is where the 3 series makes its claim to fame. It doesn't disappoint, keep in mind the 323i is the base car and even in the wet the handling is superb. Steering feel is exactly the way it should be, heavy enough for precise driver input and light enough to turn easily. When taking the corners it takes normal corners without issues, little body roll and it corners rather flat. Ride comfort I dont' think took a hit either, its not the cushiest ride but much more comfortable than say a Acura RSX.

My Score: 10/10 - No complaints at all, outstanding.

Interior: If there's any real room for competitors to try to attack the 3 series on, this might be one of the areas. Inside the 3 series its a bit bland, with its layout. I didn't like the stalks they provided, I don't like the indicators for instance...self canceling doesn't seem possible which isn't a problem in a normal car with proper stalks. Some of the display text in the 3 series is also on the small side. Materials seem to be of average quality or higher which is a good thing. The cup holders come out rather neat and look solid. Visibility is actually pretty decent on a modern car. I can see some problems when it comes to legroom for passengers in the back, as the 3 series isn't that large of a car and with rear wheel drive this space is further reduced. Build quality is very good, this car being made in Leipzig, Germany. The 323i doesn't have the toys that other models will have so its lacking on that end. Overall its a decent interior, but it doesn't have as much personality compared to the way the car drives.

My Score: 7/10 - You get the sense that its an above average interior with problems being rear legroom, the silly stalks, small text display and overall bland styling.

Styling: This particular 3 series is not my favourite when it comes to BMW styling. Removing the BMW features, the car is indistinguishable meaning if your remove the Hofmeister kink and the BMW kidney grille its just a generic car. Styling-wise this is one of the least appealing cars in its segment. It just doesn't look interesting. The only good item is actually the wheels, they're nice.

My Score: 3/10 - Removing traditional BMW items it looks like some random generic car with nice wheels.

Value for money: This is very troubling, BMWs have always been rather terrible value for your money in the traditional sense. They do everything normal in driving exactly like every other car but cost more. However if you're concerned about things like balance, poise and delicacy then the BMW may be the only choice despite its price tag. Its very sad when nobody offers a competing straight-six since BMW automatically wins on smooth power delivery and the explosion of power from a V6 seems crude. The competition is pretty stiff as you have the choice of this, or the Mercedes C-class, the Audi A4 and the Lexus IS250. Technically you can even throw in the Infiniti G37 which is also rather competitive. If you put higher preference on driving feel over power and technology then its hard to argue against choosing the BMW. You can have more power in the BMW but that means getting the 328i, the 335i or at the apex of the 3 series...the M3 not to mention cabriolet options. The price of this is...the price you can spend anywhere from $35,000 to $81,900 on the 3 series.

My Score: 6/10 - This is the driver's car of the lot, at the lowest end with the 323i you get most of the driving thrills with a decent engine. If you feel there isn't enough power you'll have to spend more and you could spend a lot.

Overall: 35/50 - Not a perfect car in my mind, where its weak on styling, and not strong on interior or value its very good when it comes to driving dynamics where the engine and handling come in play.


  1. BMW is one of those brands which car's are not bought for daily commute.Its cars are most elegant and stylish one out of the whole automotive business.Its BMW 323i is a fine example of its expertise.
    Nowadays we have an option to buy cars and Car Decoration Items online.Its a safe and secure deal.

  2. I was hoping to hear that it wasn't bad on gas or had some power to it. I drove the 328 and can't imagine having less power than that for the money..