2012 BMW 3 Series Sedan

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CAFE – the government’s “fleet average” fuel efficiency requirements – have finally put the arm on BMW, too.

Up to now, BMW just built the cars – and the engines – its customers wanted and if they didn’t quite make the CAFE MPG cut, well, the slight extra costs (“gas guzzler” penalties”) were simply passed on to consumers. But these costs are set to become unmanageable as the CAFE standard upticks to 35.5 MPG average by 2016. A car – like a BMW car – with a powerful but thirsty six that can’t hit even 30 MPG on the highway is a non-starter in this Brave New World of mandatory economy car fuel efficiency – for all cars.

So, sayonara straight six in the revised 2012 3 Series sedan.

Hello, little four – with two turbos and a hybrid-esque engine shut-down feature and programmable EcoPro function to further squeeze out the MPGs.

A six is still available – but it’s no longer standard. The volume-selling version of the Three – the 328i – is now a four-banger.

Worse news: The diesel Three is gone completely. It apparently cost too much – and its fuel efficiency wasn’t good enough, after being gimped by US emissions regs – to make it a profitable sell here. (It’s still available in Europe.)

So, what else is new?


The Three is BMW’s mass-market sedan/coupe/convertible – one up from the entry-level and minimalist 1 Series and slotted underneath the mid-large (and large-priced 5 Series).

This review will focus on the sedan – which is all-new for 2012.

The 2012 328i with the new 2.0 liter engine (which first appeared in the Z4 roadster) starts at $34,900. A 335i sedan with the 3 liter straight six stickers for $42,400.

Three new trims – Sport, Luxury and Modern – are available, each with its own specific exterior and interior color and accent combos.

At the time of this review, only RWD versions of the 3 Series sedan were available – but BMW says xDrive all-wheel-drive will be here by mid-late summer.

An updated version of the 3 Series  coupe/convertible is on deck for later this year, too.


The ’12 3 Series sedan has been significantly  updated, both cosmetically and functionally – including larger overall dimensions, revised exterior sheetmetal, new interior layout, a new standard engine and a new (optional) eight-speed automatic. A plethora of technology is available, too – including an aircraft-esque “stick shaker” lane departure warning system and hybrid-style Auto-Start-stop engine function.


New 2.0 twin turbo engine is more powerful – and much more fuel efficient – than the previous straight six: 240 hp vs. 230 before – and up to 36 MPG (highway) vs. 28 previously.

Classic crisp BMW – not Bangled – themes.

Roomier-than-before interior, especially the back seat area.

You can turn the Auto-stop off.


God help your wallet when the warranty runs out – and the turbos crap out.

God-damn the government for making diesels commercially untenable in this country.


The ’12 Series offers two engines – a new four and an old six.

The new TwinPower turbo four displaces 2.0 liters – and replaces the 3.0 liter in-line six as the 3 Series sedan’s standard engine. It is the first four in a BMW sedan since … well, since a long time ago.

It’s also the first twin-turbo four in a Three – ever.

The idea was to replicate – or improve upon – the power/performance of last year’s standard 3 liter (naturally aspirated) six while much improving the fuel economy numbers. No question, BMW has succeeded on all three counts.

The four – a full liter smaller than the six it supplants – produces 10 more hp (240 vs. 230) and – where you can really feel it – 50 ft.-lbs. more torque (250 vs. 200) 1,500 RPM lower in the powerband (1,250 RPM vs. 2,750 RPM). The net result is much speedier – and more immediate –  acceleration: zero to 60 in about 5.8 seconds with the manual six speed vs. 6.4 seconds previously – and significantly thriftier fuel-burning stats. The twice-turbo’d four is capable of 36 MPG on the highway and 24 in city driving (with the new fuel-saving eight-speed automatic transmission) vs. an unsustainable 18 city, 27 highway for the old 3.0 liter Three.

Even with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the new Three’s MPGs – 23 city, 34 highway – are still a dramatic uptick over what the larger, thirstier, six could deliver.

It’s also much better – and much stronger – than the Audi A4’s standard (and only) 2.0 liter, 211 hp engine – which tops out at just 30 MPG on the highway. Ditto the Infiniti G’s standard 2.5 liter, 218 hp V-6, which musters an ok 20 city and 29 highway – but needs 8 seconds to get to 60. Likewise, the Benz C Class comes standard with a teensy 1.8 liter four – which delivers almost-BMW gas mileage (21 city, 31 highway) but not-even-close acceleration: Zero to 60 in 7.4 seconds.

Aiding economy is a new (for the BMW Three) Auto-Stop function that works just like similar systems in hybrid cars. When you’re idling at a red light – and would otherwise be wasting fuel going nowhere – the car’s computer automatically shuts off the engine, restarting it automatically when you push in the clutch (manual models) or push the accelerator (automatic cars). Unlike hybrid cars, there’s an “off” button on the ignition switch that you can use to turn off this feature if you wish.

For those who don’t want the new turbocharged four (which by the way is not a peaky, turbo-feeling engine at all; more on this below) there’s still the 335i – which as before comes with the familiar 3.0 six – turbo’d and producing 300 hp on the nose . This engine is unchanged from last year and still gets the Three to 60 in about 5.4 seconds. However, it is available with the new eight-speed automatic, which bumps up the at-the-pump stats to a more palatable 23 city, 33 highway – vs. 19 city, 28 highway last year.

A bit of bad news, though.

The diesel engine. It’s history. BMW’s reasoning, apparently, is that its 23 city, 36 highway numbers aren’t good enough to convince enough people to buy it over the equally fuel-efficient 2.0 turbo engine – especially given the much higher MSRP of the diesel. But the factor most responsible for the diesel’s demise is the government’s emissions regs – which have crippled the economics of diesels in the United States, by rendering them much less efficient than they could be as well as much more expensive than they should be.

I’ll miss the 335d’s 265 hp, though – and even more so, it’s locomotive-like 425 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1,750 RPM.

There is good news, though. BMW will still offer a Sport package for the Three – with more aggressive suspension tuning, including larger diameter anti-rollbars, lowered ride height and 155 MPH top speed programming – plus unique-design eighteen inch wheels plus an exterior body kit.


The new small-displacement turbo engines – like the Three’s new 2.0 liter engine – are designed to not behave like turbo engines. Meaning, they don’t start out flat – then hit you with a sudden surge of obviously turbo-boosted hp. Instead, they behave – and sound – like naturally-aspirated (non-turbo’d) bigger engines. This is the object of having two sequentially-staged turbos vs. one big one. Boost comes on sooner – and less obstreperously. And it’s maintained throughout a wider range, instead of coming on fiercely at a certain sweet spot on the tachometer. BMW basically hoped to maintain the performance – and feel – of the old six without the six’s thirstiness.

Great success – and, very nice – as Borat might say.

The turbo four Three is quick – and very responsive – even at low engine RPM. This is an advantage of the twin turbos, which up-rate the little four’s torque output to big six levels – and give it all to you much lower down in the RPM scale. Just off idle, in fact. There’s enough torque to keep the six speed in the higher gears at lower road speeds – so you don’t have to downshift as often to keep the engine from lugging as you surely would need to with a non-turbocharged, lower hp (and torque) little four.

Any downsides? Sure. At least, there are two that come to mind – one a matter of opinion, the other a matter of fact.

First, the opinion downside: The new four does not sound nearly as sweet as the old six. That engine had (and still has, if you buy the 335i) its own unique character – in particular, its own auditory signature. Straight sixes, like air-cooled flat fours, are all-but-extinct. So when you hear one at full cry, you know what it is right away. This new four sounds … well, it sounds pretty much like anything else today. The slight dieseling sound at idle (from the direct injection; they all do this) and, otherwise – well, nothing bad. But nothing unusual. Nothing distinctive. BMW – like Volvo and others – has dialed out any noticeable turbo whistle. There’s not even a gauge to tell you the engine is boosted. Most people will probably not miss all this. But I do.

Maybe you, too.

The other issue is the turbos themselves. Or rather, the potentially daunting down-the-line maintenance and repair costs of having two turbos (and everything that comes with them) under the hood. I realize BMWs are high-end cars bought by people with the means to deal with such things. But it’s nonetheless a fact that ten or twelve years from now, a car like a ’12 BMW turbo Three could cost a small fortune to keep on the road. This may affect depreciation rates – and resale values.

Affluent people do care about that.

Oh, one more thing: I don’t like the Auto-Stop feature. To be precise, I don’t like that you have to turn it off each time you turn the car on – if you don’t want to deal with the engine turning itself off at lights and so on. And why would you not want that? Well, because it affects the car’s smoothness. Even though the engine cuts back on almost immediately, just as in a hybrid, it’s not the same – not as immediate – as the engine just being on when you want to go. You also get some vibration through the gearshift (manual cars) and you definitely don’t want the system on when you are trying to drive away muey rapido. Of course, you can then turn the system off before you launch. But it’s a small aggravation to have to do this all the time.

But, don’t blame BMW. Blame Washington – and the glad-handers and strokers (none of them engineers) who issue these fuel efficiency fatwas – forcing the automakers to come up with ever-more Rube Goldberg-esque ways of complying with ever-more-ridiculous fuel economy bars.

It sucks all around.

Because – absent Uncle – BMW (and the others) could build – and profitably sell – 40 MPG (or better) diesel powered cars.

But, they can’t – and so, don’t.

Other stuff:

The Three offers both electric assisted steering and (for the driving-minded driver) a traditional variable-ratio rack and pinion set-up. You can dial up different driving modes – Comfort, Sport and (Al Gore will be pleased) EcoPro – using the console controls. Each setting alters suspension firmness, throttle tip-in and other parameters: Softer and less aggressive in Comfort, firmer and more aggressive in Sport. Economy-optimized in EcoPro – including the AC system, which operates at reduced performance in this mode to give you slightly better fuel efficiency. Using the mouse input on the center console, you can pull up various displays to monitor the car’s performance, including horsepower and torque peaks.

But – no turbo boost gauge!


The new Three looks leaner – and hungrier – than the outgoing model. This was achieved by pushing out (and flattening) the double kidney grille – eliminating the fill panel that used to separate the grilles from the headlights. It’s now one continuous – and slightly menacing – grin from ear to ear. The lower air grille area (below the license plate) is also one piece now instead of three separate cut-outs. This plus a subtle tapered “v” pleat in the hood that sweeps back from the blue and white BMW spinner toward the A pillars gives the new Three a lower, flatter profile – like it’s getting ready to pounce forward. The rest of the exterior continues the tuned-up theme, though the changes broadside and tail-end wise are more subtle – such as the new car’s flatter, slightly elongated tail-light lenses.

Much less subtle is the new Three’s noticeably roomier interior – specifically, the back seat area. The old Three sedan gave backseat occupants a DVT-inducing 34.6 inches of legroom – almost exactly as much (well, as little) rear seat legroom as you’d get in a Toyota Corolla – a compact-sized econo-sedan. The redesign gives your backseat riders a crucial additional 3/4 of an inch – almost enough to make it comfortable back there.

Certainly much more comfortably than the even-scrunchier backseat area of the Benz C – which gives you a less-than-Corolla 33.4 inches of legroom.

Given the new Three is about 3.7 inches longer overall and has two inches more wheelbase, I’d have expected even more spreading out room – but the extra almost-inch is welcome and definitely noticeable. It gives the new Three mid-sized livability – in contrast to compact-sized competitors like the C-Class Benz.

You’ll notice some additions to the gauge cluster, including a hybrid-like “battery-power” gauge that slides right – and red – as your foot goes down, then back left – and blue – as you back off – and burn less gas.

There’s also a new take on the lane departure warning idea – instead of a chime or light, the steering wheel vibrates when you stray across the center line (or get too near the edge of the road). I call it a stick shaker – like the system in airplanes that tells a pilot he’s flying too slow and about to stall out. And what’s even nicer is that this system has to be deliberately turned on. If you don’t push the button (it’s to the left of the steering wheel) the system stays quiescent.  Unlike Auto-Stop, you don;t have to turn it off every time you turn the car on.

The Three also offers an automatic parallel park feature (only available with the electric-assisted power steering) that finds you a spot as well as putting the car into the spot – plus a Heads Up (HUD) display and a “brake wipe” feature that engages when the windshield washers are turned on.

Want more electronic assists? The hood release is electric – pull the under-dash catch twice to release. To check your engine oil level, check the computer – there is no physical dipstick. But, you can open the trunk without using your hands – just wave your foot near the under-bumper sensor and it’s open sesame. A surround-view camera system (similar to the system used in some Infiniti vehicles) is also on the menu.

If you choose the optional Sport package, you’ll get form-fitting buckets with more lateral support. The Modern trim gets cool satin metal accents; Sport gets serious black – including black chrome exhaust tips – with red seat stitching and trim plates.

Luxury trims get more chrome – and wood – accents.


The new Three has a bevy of potentially bewildering electronics – functions and displays – but the updated iDrive controller makes them all accessible and quite everyday usable, even when the car is moving. The new big-screen (6.5 inch) LCD display monitor has large, easy-to-read fonts and pictographic – and the updated iDrive controller is pretty intuitive. Up, Down, Back – or Froward. Click – or Scroll. It’s all straightforward.

Even I can use it. So you’ll probably be fine.

It’s nice that the Three is significantly larger than before – but surprisingly, only slightly heavier (3,406 lbs. vs. 3,362 lbs.) and much more fuel efficient – while also better-performing than the outgoing Three.

It’s just too bad that BMW wasn’t able to achieve all this with a diesel engine – an inherently more durable, longer-lived engine than a multi-turbo four gas-burner. And which could have given us 40-plus MPG instead of just 36. (The current Audi A3 TDI wagon gets 30 city and 42 highway.)


I can’t fault BMW for doing what it had to do – and which I think it did very well. I just wonder what the end game’s going to be. The ongoing bum-rush to make new cars ever-more-fuel-efficient is making them ever-more complicated and – potentially – throw-aways once they get a few miles on them. I’d love to have a new Three – fully warranted and ready to rock.

But I’d be scared to buy a used one a few years from now. And that seems to be where things are headed.

Throw it in the Woods?




  1. Twin turbos, auto-stop buttons, and the other 1001 assorted stupidities foisted upon us by the morons in D.C. – oh, brother.

    I could be wrong here, but in most arenas of life, the more complex a process/the more parts a machine has, the greater the chances of errors/breakdowns…

    At this point, with cars generally not fixable by a shade tree mechanic without expensive machines/computers/tools, it’s worth it to just say the hell with it, buy an electric motorcycle or car, even though they’re only good for city driving at this stage. Sure they’re going to be boring unless you’ve got the money for a Tesla, but those systems are easy to understand, and fix yourself. You could truly be your cars own mechanic once again.

    • Or, just buy an older vehicle – car or bike. Even a “modern” one that’s not new enough to have to much crap. EFI and a computer, ok. Six air bags, ESC, Auto-stop, having to get the computer’s ok to install a new battery – etc. – no thanks!

      • And what happens when your computer decides to up and die? Absolutely nothing will work. You then have a 3500 pound curb ornament.

        I would love to see the bill for that. “Sorry sir, your car is dead. A new computer will cost you $20k Plus labor, of course.” “Ah, screw it, give me the value of the scrap metal, I will buy an old pickup.”

  2. I bet “Autostop” will be he next required tech in cars, and not just because of CAFE.

    I’m seeing more and more “no idle zone” signs, and IIRC California is getting very strict with “no idle”, at least for commercial vehicles.

    And if you want to blame someone for the death of diesel passenger vehicles, it is the California Air Resources Board (CARB) who have set NOx standards so low no OEM can make even lean-burn gasoline engines (no more Civic HF) economically, not just diesels.

  3. My expereince with BMW is based on only one 3 series but I’m comparing it with Honda and Acura, car’s I’ve also had, and any dealership dealings.

    Acura / Honda–no costs other than regular maint. and worn items: tires, breaks, etc. Engine needed an overhaul at 150K miles (told this is SOP)

    BWM: Ignition coil failure within 12 months (warranty-only replaced the defective one-known issue) Door trim comming unglued (WTF?) Sunroof not working 100%–asked for a “cleaning/greasing” of wires etc. Dealership said can’t. Give you a new sun roof for 3k though. Declined.

    Net net: BMW more fun to drive, no torque steer, more torque at lower gears…I have power in 6th gear if I punch it, vs having to down shift to 3rd in the Acura to get the revs high enough.

    Heated seats keep my ass warm in winter vs none in Acura.
    Main’t more expensive than Acura
    More sucking up at the BMW dealership vs Acura. (Free loaner–the time I drove a Series 5..nice.)

    BMW more fun that Acura–costs more—will not buy new BMW again. Also, too much “tech”. BMW is loosing the “pure driving” expereience–and I don’t like the I drive crap.

    • Anecdote that I suspect is indicative of the new BMW demographic vs. the old:

      We have a friend who is a big-wheel TV producer. She is a terrible driver. A Clover. She can barely put the shift selector in D. A manual transmission? Are you kidding me? She routinely squats in the left lane while “driving” several MPH below the speed limit – all the usual Clover behaviors. Lives in DC. Has probably never driven faster than 70 MPH in her entire life.

      She drives a new Three. And has a Benz, too.

      Reason? The snob appeal.

      While there are still people who buy these cars for their performance attributes, many – probably most – are just status-hounds who need/use 300 hp variable cam timing/turbo’d engines as much as I need/use a suit and tie.

      BMW and Benz are consciously marketing to people like our friend – people who have money and want the status and the technology but don’t even have a clue about what’s under the hood, much less what to do with it.

      • 1st accessory I bought for my A3 was a OBD-2 bluetooth adapter. There’s an Android app called Touque that will give you, amongst lots of other useful things, a boost gauge.

        I’ll bet there’s a setting buried in the computer to permanently turn off Auto-stop, since that sounds like something the European market wouldn’t put up with. You just need to find someone who has the programming cable and software. The downside is you might void your warranty. I know Audi is coming down hard on tuners who change parameters on the computer, instantly voiding their warranty if they detect any changes from normal. Can’t speak to BMW specifically.

      • Sadly, I have to acknowledge the increasing Cloverization of my beloved BMW’s.

        No dipstick. Replacing a battery requires a trip to the shop, where they tell the computer about your new battery. Replace a headlight? Same thing–the computers must be informed.

        It’s like a trip to the DMV to do basic maintenance, and I won’t put up with it.

        My e39 M5 is the last generation; it still has a dipstick, the computer concerns itself with the engine and not much else, and I can do all the basics without a $50,000 shop computer.

        But as Damon says, they’re still just more fun to drive. My wife’s Infiniti M45 is incredibly competent, a total breeze to maintain (and it never needs anything but the basics)…and yet it feels soul-less compared to mine.

        I dunno.

        But that new Mustang 5.0 is looking pretty tempting; it’s the identical engine (5 liters, 4 cams, variable timing, high revs, great breathing…and it makes more stock HP than the M5 does) and it’s lighter.

        Lighter in cost, too.

        Eric how’s the “soul factor” in the Mustang 5.0? And do you think there’s that much more soul in the Boss 302 that it’s worth the extra money and waiting time?

        • I think you’d be very happy with the new GT – Boss or just plain old mass-market GT. The engine – despite the smog gear – has a very retro basso rumble. Very torquey – yet will spin to 7,000 and seem happy about it, too. The manual has outstanding feel; “geary,” if that conveys anything.

          Now, the handling is not as agile (in particular, the steering response) and the car feels a bit heavy – but that, to me, enhances the fun of working it. And the car will do amazing tricks in the right hands.

          Of the Big Three – the Camaro, Mustang and Challenger – the Ford has the best interior. Not only looks-wise, but also sight line-wise and comfort-wise. It is a very liveable car – one you could drive every day and not grow to loathe.

          Go test drive one!

          • For sure, I’m going to. I’m hoping to pick up a very slightly-used one, hopefully from another middle-age-crisis owner who hasn’t tracked it yet.

            Believe me–I’ve seen the tricks those things can pull on the track! One of the “red team” (solo) drivers in our local HPDE track club lets me ride along. Nothing special; an old 4.6 liter Bullitt with mild suspension and brake work, stock otherwise.

            It astonishes me how hard that thing corners, brakes, and pulls.

            A long time ago my Dad took me to Bondurant when they still used Mustangs, and I gained a real appreciation for them.

            So YES, thanks, I will go test drive one.

            Bet they’re easier to work on than the new BMW’s.

            BTW–are they metric or SAE?

          • I am still learning my way around the ’12. I don’t see how it will be any more difficult than my ’97 unless I start modding the drive train. And I probably won’t be doing that. Well other than a shifter. The stock one can be rather vague although I seem to have gotten used to it now.

            I ordered the brembo package on the ’12 so out of the factory it’s upgraded to where I modded my ’97 delta wise. The ’12 is far better though, because the base car was better.

            Mustangs have been metric since at least 1979. In ’79 even the tires were metric.

            • Just my 50:

              I would never even consider buying a car – any car – that required me to “reflash” the computer in order to replace a battery or headlight. That’s just absurdly over-the-top. Ditto the absence of a physical dipstick, at least as a back-up. I went through the process of checking the oil level – electronically – in the Three I had. It took a good little while to get to the appropriate menu, then wait as the computer “uploaded” the level. Ridiculous. Pop the hood, pull the dipstick – done. I like lifting the hood and checking things – myself.

              I don’t like this business of “fixing” what ain’t broke. Over-elaborate technology to do the same thing that can be done just as well – arguably, better (because simpler and so more effectively/reliably) by a mechanical control. It’s like eliminating an analog airspeed (and altitude) gauge in an airplane – and replacing them with computerized readouts. What’s the advantage? Ask the pilots of the Airbus that plunged into the sea when the pilots couldn’t tell how fast (or how high) they were flying because the computer/software crapped out.

              How does all this stuff make the car better in terms of how it drives? Does it make it more reliable? Easier to use? Not that I can see. In fact, the opposite.

              Your ’97 is one of the last BMWs I personally would even think about owning.

          • The ’12 doesn’t have any of those BMW issues. It has a dipstick. The computer just deals with the engine. The only real computer annoyance is for people who purchased lesser optioned cars. If someone wants to add OEM Nav and various other options the body computer has to be reflashed to recognize the additional devices. Depending on what it is and the abilities of the local dealer it may or may not be possible.

            Now, It does have some traditional Getrag quirks because well it’s Getrag transmission as people coming from BMWs have so commented.

        • Methylamine,
          I know exactly what you feel w.r.t. the similarity between the spirits of the Mustang and the E39 M5!
          I had an E39 M5 and when I sold it, I sorely missed its feel (but not the bills). Not very long after, I test-drove the new Stang (2010 — new body-style and suspension but with the old 4.6 V8) and the thought that came to mind was: now this is the first other car makes me feel feel like I’m in my M5. The way the car shrank around you, the brrrapp of the engine, the tautness of the chassis (cart-axle notwithstanding)… just made my heart burst with joy. There is hope after all.

          • Ah! Thank you VERY much Carzzi, that’s what I needed to hear.

            The thing that really hooks me about the e39 M5 is that engine; it’s like a living thing. It’s so willing and eager, with an aggressive bark and a soulful wail at high revs.

            Along comes that Mustang and behold!–7500 rpm (in the Boss), BIG horsepower and torque.

            I’ve heard a couple on the freeway and streets around here, and at full song they’re absolutely musical.

            It really seems like a spiritual brother to the M5…and its performance numbers are quite a step beyond what the M5 can do, too…quicker to 60, quicker to 100, quicker in the 1/4 mile, better skidpad numbers, better braking.

            If you flash the computer and remove the top-speed limiter, I wonder what they’ll do?

            The M5’s been flashed and it will reliably peg the speedo past an indicated 185…which according to internet wisdom is 182 real.

            Bet the Mustang could do at least that without a governor.

      • QFT.

        But I’m the type of guy that always said that if he every bought a Porche it wouldn’t be a weekend, sunny day car where I’d keep it in the garage where it couldn’t get a scratch. Cars like that are made to DRIVE. I used to have a 60-90 min commute each way. I bought the BMW because sitting in a Acura Integra was not as much fun as sitting in a BMW for the time, plus it was more fun once I got it on the highway.

        • Yeah, but in stop-and-go traffic, what’s the point? I mean, you might as well be driving a Buick – so long as the AC’s good, the seats are decent and the radio works… right?

          I used to live in Northern Va. – and there are few things more frustrating than stewing in traffic in a car like an M5 or Viper….

          • I don’t drive in stop-and-go, fortunately. We have several toll roads, a.k.a. autobahns here that lend themselves well to the strengths of these cars 🙂

            I’m considering getting a beater–an old Ford Explorer for example–for my commute, and to have as a spare, tool hauler, park-where-you-want car.

          • My commute was “mixed”. Little stop and go, but some, and a fair amount of highway. Of course I left for work at 5:30 AM and for home at 3:30. 🙂

        • The commute to work is abusive to the car and sucks the fun out of driving it. Soon every time I get in it the fun isn’t there. This is a big reason why my new car isn’t getting driven to work. The little mazda seems to handle just about everything just fine.

          • If I ever had to commute again – heaven forbid – I would do it in something like Dom’s got: a little A to B Yaris or similar. Driving a performance car in traffic is like going to the Playboy Mansion when you’re 80.

            What’s the point?

          • Yep. It’s just commuting. So long as the car is mechanically sound and the HVAC and radio works, what else is needed?

            If I can get up to 50mph on my commute I am lucky.

  4. If my experience with a 535xi wagon is any guide to the quality of the new BMWs, this car will be a major problem for owners.

    Allow me to provide some examples. The two turbos had to be replaced (fortunately under warranty). This was after several trips to the shop for an “engine malfunction/decreased power” warning was issued by the car. The shop could not seem to find the error code (I thought they were supposed to record this stuff!). Finally, new turbos were called for. Turned out these were recalls.

    The battery crapped out almost immediately. The car kept issuing “increased battery discharge” error codes, and once the car died completely in the garage. Fortunately I have a manual so I could bump start the car. I brought the car into the shop, and they even “left it on the charger to monitor” overnight. Nothing. I thought it might be the battery, but was rebuffed for months. Finally, someone decided that the battery needed to be replaced. Under warranty that time, but three and a half years later, the battery is going again. Now it is not under warranty, and I was told that I would need to drop somewhere near 500 bux to replace. And the batteries cannot just be dropped in (a la PepBoys or similar). See, they “need to be coded to the car’s computer” and all that jazz.

    HID headlamps are another issue. One of the daytime lights burned after about 1 year. Dealership bluntly told me they knew the lamps were defective. So they replaced both, right? Not so much. Only the defective one. If the other went out a day later, I was free to come back and have them replace the other (known, defective) lamp.

    And sure enough, about 4 months after the warranty ended, guess what? The other (not replaced) lamp went out. I bitched at the dealership, and finally BMW “graciously” replaced them. As a customer satisfaction measure, of course. But I was also told that I would not get any other “freebies” so was I sure I wanted to waste it on headlamp?. Like they would replace the turbos again. Ha!

    And other small things, like the oil changes, BMW nickel and dime you for. Sure, full service on the vehicle. But if you want the oil done near, but not before the scheduled service, they will tell you to kick rocks. I found this out the hard way before a long trip and wanted to make sure the car was up to snuff. I tried to get the oil changed at about 13.5K, prior to a 7k trip. “Scram” is what I was told, in so many words. See, service is due at 15K.

    Guess what? The car ran low on oil during my trip, and I even got a call stating the car informed BMW of the situation. I needed a quart of (expensive) synthetic oil to make it back to California.

    Or how they will only replace the defective items (4 of 6 high pressure fuel injectors). Like BMW would replace the other two also, you know, just in case. No, costs them money.

    The short version of the above is that if you buy a BMW (any model) be prepared for endless hassles, having to go back to the shop multiple times to get various services done, a lack of concern that you are frustrated, and the possibility that you will spend thousands of bux upkeeping after the warranty was out.

    As someone said before, smart people lease these things, dumb people buy.

    I say smart people stay a good distance away from these money pits. Buy a car with quality built in (Toyota or something.) If you need a “luxury” car, upgrade to a Lexus.

    BMW = Big Money Waster

    • Sorry your experience sucked so much, BigDP.

      I’ve had one bad experience–the early life of my M-Coupe.

      UNTIL–I figured out to use an independent shop. Once I found a good one, my experience changed for the better.

      The dealerships are the bane of BMW owners, and give BMW a bad name. Independents charge half as much and act pro-actively–saving you mucho down the line.

      • I appreciate that fact, but man, if you are still under warranty what do you do? Argue with the BMW warranty for coverage, or pay out of pocket to have REAL service done?

        Tough call.

      • Thanks, Eric, I hope so too.

        I only hit the big ones, either mechanically or personally annoying (oil changes…)

        Two additional thoughts.

        One related to a discussion below regarding “flashing” the computer on the car. You need to do that for even a head lamp change. I don’t even know if you could change the things yourself. What should take 5 minutes takes over an hour at the shop. They kept it overnight to change the lamps the second time to “re-code” the computer.

        Ditto for the battery. Triple-A cannot/will not even swap the battery in case you get stranded.

        The other item I would like to address is BMW’s own arrogance. Complaining about the problems I listed, I was told by a dealer representative “Sorry to hear that, but you need to understand that your vehicle is a high performance machine, so you need to expect a few more issues than with your typical car.”

        I can understand that for a Ferrari. Maybe even an M5, with a huge motor. But the 535 is the flagship vehicle! Some “ultimate driving machine!” And BMW USA contacted me to discuss. I got the strong impression the discussion was simply to find out how the dealership can be blamed.

        BMW seems to cater to the fake boobs, plastic surgery crowd (make me beautiful, regardless of the costs), and the jerks who “need” an M5, but then drive like the the car only has 50 horses under the hood.

        I love the performance of the car… when it works. So I am frustrated. I say pass on these.

        • I’m looking at a couple of BIG jobs; connecting-rod bearings and VANOS (the variable cam timing mechanism).

          And I’m not certain I want to tackle them myself.

          Meanwhile, I’m seeing cars like the Boss 302 Mustang with essentially the same engine–quad-cam 5-liter V8–making more horsepower and torque at half the price, and probably as or more reliably. Not to mention, they’ll be half the cost to repair, too.

          The Boss 302 supposedly has a “competition” bearing design. It’s designed to withstand frequent track outings; with a redline of 7500 in a big V8, I’m impressed they’re confident enough to say you can track it every weekend.

          As we’ve discussed here–the new BMW’s are even less DIY-friendly. I don’t think I’ll jump for one; I just can’t stand the thought of not fixing it myself…and being associated with the clovers who seem to be buying them now.

          • I considered a BMW and then decided on the ’12 GT. At the time Boss 302s were way too decontented for my tastes and had a dealer premium on them. There was one at the dealership exactly how I would have optioned it. Engine and rear end I would like to have, but the spartan even for a 6cyl interior wasn’t what I liked. I was really expecting something mach 1 like because that’s what the original bosses had.

            The 2013 is somewhat different plus the GT can now be ordered with the recaros and the torsen diff and the coolers etc. Just wouldn’t have the few upgraded engine innards.

            Mustangs are still modifiable and greatly so. Stay away from the drive train (and with a boss 302 there’s no reason to mess with it) and you won’t need a ‘tune’. Although tunes can be had on a teenager’s budget if you go there.

            There are some transmission complaints but those coming from BMWs seem to take it in stride as they are used to getrags. An MGW shifter is probably a good idea. I may be getting one. I’ve gotten used to the stocker, but an improvement would still be nice.

          • @BrentP:

            Yeah, I was shocked at the dealer markups on the Bosses…but just yesterday I was poking around eBay motors, and there were six Bosses for under $45K–one or two under $40K–with very few miles on them.

            Give it a couple years, might see them around $30-35…

            Brent do you know anything about the internal mods in the Boss? And is the Boss all that different from the “standard” GT? I believe its redline is higher; but the standard is 7000 or 7200, correct? I wonder what its longevity would be if you exercised that as much as I do…although I rarely get to the track, maybe once or twice a year.

          • Engine differences are the intake, the tune, Different head machining and valve components. I think the pistons are made with a different manufacturing process. Redline is 500rpm higher.

            There are other suspension mods over a brembo GT as well. thicker wall front sway bar, larger rear sway bar. Somewhat different control arms as I’ve heard.

            Dealer premiums collapsed after the 2013 was announced. Used 302s are out there as people changed their mind with regard to what they want or needed something different.

            Maybe in the future I’ll pick up a used boss 302 and a 2013 GT500 for giggles. If I can get the space for more cars 😉

          • @Brent:
            Sounds like fairly serious differences. I wonder what they boil down to in terms of actual feel; guess you’d have to drive them back-to-back.

            The suspension bits you could easily replicate or better in a GT; the internal engine mods, not so much…although there will be superchargers galore available.

          • The differences between the brembo GT and the Boss 302 are probably just changing the bias point between street and track. Nothing dramatic. The brembo car would say be 65% street, 35% track while the boss 302 would be 65% track, 35% street. Made up numbers for illustration of course.

            The engine internal differences will probably only show up if the car is raced very regularly or how far supercharging, etc can be pushed.

            Ford racing parts has good details on the two crate motors but they may differ slightly from what is in the cars stock.

            Also: http://mustangsdaily.com/blog/2011/02/15/a-look-inside-the-2012-mustang-boss-302s-444-horsepower-v8/

  5. Isn’t it possible that BMW has been able to build more longevity into those turbochargers? Especially, with rigorous maintenance, shouldn’t they be able to go 150,000 miles, and last almost as long as most of the other major components?

    • Maybe, but who’s gonna be the guinea pig?

      I think turbos are fine for limited use “fun” cars that you take out every now and then. But for an everyday driver? A car that may rack up 15,000 miles a year?

      Not for me!

      • I think those turbos are water-cooled, Eric; I’ll have to check.

        But with turbos the single most important factor is OIL, as in high-quality and frequently-changed.

        They’ve solved most of the shaft-seal issues; you used to see perfectly good turbo engines making blue smoke not because the rings or valve seals were gone, but because the turbo’s bearing seals were shot.

        With today’s ceramic or ball-bearing turbos, and water cooling, that shouldn’t be an issue any more.

        I spoke to my excellent independent BMW mechanic who takes care of the big stuff on mine I’m too afraid to tackle. I’m considering a 135 with a Stage III Dinan kit (close to 400bhp in a 135i…woooo-weeee!), and he said the only scary thing on those engines is what they do to the oil. In 5000 miles, it looks like it’s been broiled in the oven.

        If your prospective second-hander has had religious oil changes, fine. Not so much? Scary.

  6. Axiomatic:

    The wise LEASE German cars.
    The fools BUY German cars.

    I know someone who spent $5K at a Mercedes Stealership (I repeat myself) to replace both headlights. He was a #2.

    • Amen!

      The sad thing, though, is that both BMW and Mercedes were – once upon a time – very ruggedly built, long-haul cars that with decent care could – and did – go 20, 30 years and hundreds of thousands of miles before major service was needed.

        • I still remember when one of Car & Driver’s writers–I think it was Peter Egan–referred to Lucas as:

          Lucas Electrical: Prince of Darkness

          Hot coffee spewed forth from my nose.

    • Not that I am gonna buy one, but are you likely to review Scion FR-S? Rear wheel drive, 6 speed manual, 2.0 boxer engine with 200hp in a 2700lb car…

      • I definitely want to know about it too, I wouldn’t buy one new but I have owned 2 MR2’s and an ’87 corolla (AE86) and when toyota decides to make something fun, it usually turns out well.
        I drive past a toyota dealership on the way to work and when i see one there i plan on test driving it.


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