Can the 328i justify its 420,000 baht premium over the already fine 320i?
After driving the BMW 320i with a new petrol-turbo engine last month, we came away impressed by how smooth, refined and frugal it was.
This week, we're back in the 3-series again, this time in 328i form. Both the 320i and 328i share the same N20-coded 2.0-litre engine but have different ECU settings and outputs for the sake of product positioning.
The 328i is designed to replace the old 325i, which ran a similarly powered non-turbo straight-six petrol motor.
To additionally ensure the 328i's higher position over the 320i, BMW Thailand has given it additional equipment like bigger 18-inch wheels, retractable rear sunshade, gear paddle-shift and a steering system that reduces the number of turns at parking speeds, as such.
So, the key question this time is: should more focused enthusiasts spend an extra 420,000 baht for the 328i which retails at 3.099 million baht?
Let's get one thing clear first. Due to the punitive 220hp tax barrier in Thailand, the 328i's power has been detuned from 245hp down to 218hp.
Even so, you can still feel that the 328i is usefully quicker than the 320i, be it in a straight line, during overtaking other vehiclesor when breaking speed limits.
And the good thing is that the 328i has retained the virtues of its smaller sibling such as a hardly existent turbo lag, smooth power delivery and still offering reasonable fuel consumption.
Although the variable-rate steering may not feel as natural as a conventional system, it certainly makes the 328i a doddle when using tight road space and parking areas around the city.
Unlike the 17-inch wheels that feel a little small in the 320i, the 18-inchers effectively fill the wheel arches in the 328i. Its sportier appearance is also complemented with smoke-coloured exhaust pipes.
A couple of issues, although most are emotional. The looks, for one. It still doesn't feel special or different enough against the 320i.
Then there's engine and exhaust system which has no aural drama when compared to the snarly note and high-rev music of the old 325i.
And while we have no qualms that the 328i still has a soothing ride around town on those 18-inchers, the suspension could have felt a little firmer at high speeds, especially when dealing with undulating surfaces.
BUY OR BYE?
Generally speaking, there's really nothing much to fault in the 328i for it does a good job in delivering more performance than in the 320i yet maintaining the necessary levels of real-world comforts.
However, you'd just wish that the 328i could have had that bit more bespoke design details and a beefier chassis to play the enthusiast's role.
An M Sport package would have been a nice addition for the 328i since the car appeals to driving enthusiasts needing more power than the 320i.
Because of that, it's a bit difficult for us to recommend the 328i over the 320i, because the latter still does a fine job in performance terms and looks and feels practically the same on the move.
In its current state, the 328i's price premium doesn't feel totally justified over the ample 320i.
- No more six-pot power, just turbo’d four.
- 328i asks for 420,000 baht more than 320i.
- 18-inch wheels don’t necessarily harm the ride.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor