If you've had your eye on a new F30 BMW 3-Series but couldn't quite stomach the starting price, there's a new option: the 2013 320i, starting from $33,445--a saving of $3,400 over the 328i.
The 320i is very nearly as much a sport sedan as the 328i, even using the same 2.0-liter displacement and turbocharged induction--but rated at 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque--down about 60 of both compared to the 328i.
Despite the power deficit, the 320i is still capable of a claimed 7.1 seconds to 60 mph. Top speed is electronically limited at 130 mph.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, while a six-speed manual is optional. BMW estimates the 320i's gas mileage to be about equal to the 328i's, at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with the six-speed manual or 23/33 for the eight-speed auto. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but an all-wheel drive 320i xDrive model is also available, priced at $35,445, but only with the automatic transmission. BMW estimates gas mileage ratings of 23/33 for the 320i xDrive.
For driving engagement (or efficiency) the Driving Dynamics Control switch offers Comfort, Sport, and ECO PRO modes. Auto stop-start is also standard.
A wide range of standard and optional sport-focused equipment is available, including a Sport Package which includes a raised top speed limiter, sport seats, M sport suspension, M steering wheel, and anthracite headliner, and summer tires--though xDrive models will skip the sport suspension.
BMW is careful to talk up the 320i's "precision engineering" and sporty demeanor, which while true, is also a bit of clever misdirection from the fact that you'll have to give up a bit of luxury to get the low entry price of the new model.
On the technology front, however, BMW makes no mention of standard equipment, mentioning only the Premium Package, Driver Assistance Package, Lighting Package, and Cold Weather Package as available upgrades--with details to follow, presumably. Navigation will almost certainly be an optional add-on, as will Dakota leather upholstery--leatherette is standard (and also code for vinyl).
BMW isn't as miserly with the safety tech, including Dynamic Stability Control, ABS, Automatic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic Brake Control, and Cornering Brake Control, start-off assist, brake-drying, and an electronic limited slip function for the rear differential (activated via switching DSC to "off") as standard equipment.
(c) 2013, High Gear Media.