By now, the outrage, raised eyebrows, and shrugged shoulders of hawkish automotive journalists have been replaced by subtle nods of approval on the subject of standard 4-cylinder engines in the base executive sport sedans offered by the luxury bigs from Germany and Japan.Â For a brief moment of low oil barrel prices, V6s were standard across almost all entry-level luxury or near-luxury models. Not anymore. In what came as a shock to no one, the target American consumer of such models silently and unknowingly gained more modern technology and fuel efficiency by giving up two cylinders they probably didn’t know they had.
Given this shake up in the playing field, some questioned whether the BMW would lose some of its mojo that so long put it on a pedestal for enthusiasts and young law school grads alike. The short answer is: no, it didn’t. In fact, the 328i is still as good to drive as the previous iteration, even better in some ways, and still superior to its rivals without becoming the least bit unhinged.
So essentially, nothing has changed. The BMW is still sporting king, the Mercedes is buttoned-up queen, and everything else falls somewhere to one side or the other. What I question in the midst of my giddiness to learn about its advanced technology and options, as well as drive, ride in, and build my perfect version online is…what is the value in going against the grain?
Do you pay to drive the best, optioning it in a way that makes it your own, or eschew it out of spite for all the lawyers (/doctors/rich teenagers/moms) who’ll be parking next to you in theirs? And if you focus in on a different brand and different model, you’re still buying something that lots of other people will too. I think a lot of people see this dilemma, see the options of roads less taken, and default to just picking the one they like the best or can get the best deal on.
In a way, I miss brands like Saab. BMW’s greatness, compounded by Mercedes’ and Audi’s, worked to topple Saab, which meant there was one less player. I guess that’s the way a free market works, and we always want the best. I’m happy BMW has made some efforts to provide multiple trim lines for the new 3 (Standard, Sport, Modern, and Luxury), so that no two copies are easily made identical. And, although a 6-speed manual is not standard, it is a no-cost option.
Maybe what I’d need is one car in my garage that satisfies all the technical, driving superiority boxes (like a 3), even while being a dime-a-dozen, and then a niche, cool, uncommon model, like a 1990s Mercedes 560SEL tank.
The new BMW 328i, long a revered 6-cylinder model, joins the Mercedes C250, Audi A4 2.0T, Volvo S60 T5, and Cadillac ATS in offering a lesser powerplant than its predecessor, albeit with more tricks up its sleeve than both its former self and its current competition, to retain the top spot. For whatever reason, many will choose it over others because it’s just that good. After all, it’s more about the motion of the ocean than the size of the ship…I heard that somewhere.