Posts Tagged ‘328i’


If you’re like me, you’ve read all the glowing reviews of the all-new 2013 Cadillac ATS, the entry level Caddy that was created to slay the mighty Germans, with the BMW 3-series directly in the engineers’ cross-hairs.

The first 2013 Cadillac ATS rolls off the assembly line. It was a great moment for GM's luxury division.

The first 2013 Cadillac ATS rolls off the assembly line. It was a great moment for GM’s luxury division.

I certainly was skeptical. After all, the Bavarian Motor Works has been honing its 3-Series for decades and it’s the de-facto benchmark by which all compact sports sedans must be compared. Cadillac’s engineers tore apart the 3er to see what makes it tick and then built the company’s all-new rear-drive Alpha platform to meet, match or exceed the standards of BMW.

The short answer is that Cadillac has succeeded in making a competitive, first-rate compact sports sedan. Is it a BMW? No, it’s not, but it’s a great freshman entry. It’s not quite carved from one block of granite and doesn’t convey the decades of engineering experience and crammed trophy cases that paved the way for the current (internal code) F30 BMW is built.

A BMW 328i sedan - the benchmark for all compact sports sedans and the target of the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

A BMW 328i sedan – the benchmark for all compact sports sedans and the target of the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve owned at least one or more cars from all the German manufactures. Perhaps I’m predisposed to expect mediocre product from the Wreath and Crest division of General Motors. However, in the ultra-competitive luxury car market, brand image is vital and perception translates into sales reality.

GM’s luxury division is going to have to work magic to get BMW, Mercedes or Lexus owners to cross shop – particularly in a region like Southern California where a Caddy is joke punch line, not something you drive. Cadillac’s customers skew much older and attracting youth to the brand – youth that will appreciate the driving dynamics of the ATS and who will know how to use all the electronic gizmos – will be key to the future of the brand.

I’d like to get past the styling before we get to the actual driving experience. The ATS wears a conservative, toned-down version of Cadillac’s decade-old Art & Science theme. I like the way the vertical headlight array sweeps up the front fenders and the mini fins in back are a Cadillac hallmark. The rear center brake light is nicely integrated into the trunk lid. The whole package works well, but color choice is very important to the overall look.

2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury Sports Sedan

2013 Cadillac ATS Luxury Sports Sedan

Detail of the 2013 Cadillac ATS'  headlight module. Note how the vertical LED running lights sweep up and over the front wheel fender. A nice touch.

Detail of the 2013 Cadillac ATS’ headlight module. Note how the vertical LED running lights sweep up and over the front wheel fender. A nice touch.

The rear of the 2013 Cadillac ATS. You can still see vestiges of fins in the vertical taillights and the center brake light is nicely integrated into the trunk spoiler.

The rear of the 2013 Cadillac ATS. You can still see vestiges of fins in the vertical taillights and the center brake light is nicely integrated into the trunk spoiler.

The ATS’ Alpha chassis is text book sports sedan: Front engine, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel independent, multilink suspension, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and optional all-wheel drive. Like all modern cars, to save weight and engine drag, the ATS uses the latest-generation electric power steering unit from Germany’s ZF.

Cadillac offers three engine options: The base unit is a Chevy 2.5 L four-cylinder unit with direct injection making 202 hp. Next up is a 2.0L turbo four, also with direct injection, making 272 hp and the most potent engine (before the inevitable ATS-V makes its debut) is the familiar 3.6L direct injected V6 good for 321 hp.

The standard transmission on all trim levels is GM’s aging 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. You can get a 6-speed manual transmission only on the 2.0 turbo models. GM always seems late to the party on transmission. Its competitors have been using 7- and 8-speed automatics for a while now. However there is hope. The just-introduced 2014 Cadillac CTS, which also rides on the Alpha platform, will use an Aisin (aToyota affiliate) 8-speed automatic on some models with V6 engines. The 8-speed should migrate to the ATS in the next model year. Problem solved.

I drove the ATS 3.6 Luxury with a base MSRP $42,090 – much more than the standard ATS 2.5 that starts at $34,000. Aside from the V6, 6-speed automatic and an assortment of other goodies, it come standard with the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system (sans navigation). My tester had the optional $845 Driver Awareness Package and nothing else.

Morello Red leather with Jet Black accents is an optional interior on the ATS

Morello Red leather with Jet Black accents is an optional interior on the ATS

The ATS was a delight to drive. If this was around in the Roman times, Mercury wouldn’t have needed wings on his shoes. The 3.6 has plenty of power and a very broad torque range. It effortlessly flew up hills and down wide boulevards. This was a happy time for my right foot; just don’t watch the instant fuel economy readout.

The ATS felt light and nimble, even in “Luxury” trim wearing only standard 17 inch wheels and all-season tires. And I do mean light. The V6 ATS weighs around 3,400 – about 100 pounds less than the comparable BMW 335i. It’s also balanced nearly 50-50 front/rear, long a BMW bragging point. It easily tosses into turns and straightens out without feeling like the mass is still moving in the opposite direction.

A cutaway of the 2013 Cadillac ATS shows how weight was saved by using aluminum and high-tensile steel.

A cutaway of the 2013 Cadillac ATS shows how weight was saved by using aluminum and high-tensile steel.

Fortunately, the Cadillac doesn’t use run-flat tires like almost every BMW. Even on highway braille bumps and uneven surfaces, the chassis was calm, quiet and composed, facilitating a sporty but comfortable ride. It was a joy.

Steering is light, well balanced with commendable road feel. Much can be attributed to the ZF EPS unit, but Cadillac’s engineers really spent bundles of time and untold computing hours tuning the steering – and it shows. There was no drift, and it tracked laser straight and small movements yielded exacting results. I wished for slightly better on-center feel. That said, I wished for the same things when I drove 2012 BMW 328i and it’s the benchmark.

Cabin quality was on par with the competition, but not to the level of Audi. Materials felt rich, plastics were mostly soft to the touch (with a few glaring exceptions) and I liked the French stitching on the dash. Some switchgear felt cheap.

The cock pit of the 2013 Cadillac ATS sports sedan. This one has CUE, Cadillac User Experience, the brand's high-tech infotainment system.

The cock pit of the 2013 Cadillac ATS sports sedan. This one has CUE, Cadillac User Experience, the brand’s high-tech infotainment system.

For me, the cabin was a bit claustrophobic – I’m 6’1” tall, 180 pounds. While I fit in the seat, and I liked the electric adjustments, side bolsters and the manual thigh support extension, I just felt like the passenger and I were too close. There was an unconscious jousting of elbows for the slim center arm rest.

And with me in the driver’s seat, the back seat is good only for small adults or children. There was barely room for our two dachshunds. The BMW 3 seemed to have more space. Trunk space was on par with the others in this category. If your idea of weekend fun is Swedish meatballs and flat-packed furniture, buy an SUV.

Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system is frustrating and might be enough to kill the deal. I’ve driven many cars with more responsive touch screens. I believe Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system that mixes a more responsive touch-screen with old-school knobs and buttons is far superior. While CUE’s haptic feedback is nice, I always felt a hesitation when I punched a function on the slick 8 inch full color screen. It was slow enough to make me almost want to touch the control again. Like many others, I’m used to the instant response of an iPad screen and CUE feels like the design predates the iPad which is already on its third generation.

The capacitive sensing touch screen of CUE.

The capacitive sensing touch screen of CUE.

I also don’t like the lack of physical knobs for things like volume or climate control. While I’m sure you’d get used to sliding your finger over the slick center panel to raise or lower volume, I’m willing to bet users will elect to control that kind of stuff with the redundant hard buttons on the steering wheel.

The center dash touch panel of the 2013 Cadillac ATS has no knobs or physical buttons. Everything is touch sensitive. It's easier to turn the knob to turn the sound up or push it to turn the system off.

The center dash touch panel of the 2013 Cadillac ATS has no knobs or physical buttons. Everything is touch sensitive. It’s easier to turn the knob to turn the sound up or push it to turn the system off.

The very fact that the 2013 Cadillac ATS exists is a minor miracle and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for something different from the standard issue (in LA) BMW 328i, Audi A4 or Mercedes C250. But for me, it’s really the Almost There Sedan from Cadillac. It would only be attractive on a heavily-vented short-term lease. I have high hopes for the ATS, particularly when it matriculates to its 2nd generation. Maybe then, some of its freshman flaws will be exorcised and we can call it the All There Sedan.

[Editor's note: March 2013 sales were announced two days ago. Cadillac's March 2013 sales were up 55%. The ATS had its best month since launch, with 3,587 units sold - outselling the Audi A4/Allroad, but still a distance from the BMW 3-series with nearly 9,000 unit sales. Ward's Automotive reports that 70% of ATS sales were "conquest sales" from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.  Fifty percent of ATS sales were with the 2.0T engine, with the remaining half split evenly between the base 2.5L I4 and the 3.6L V6 engines. ]


Since the BMW 2012 (internal code F30) BMW 328i arrived on our shores earlier this year, it’s been tested and written about endlessly by every car magazine, enthusiast website, TV show and blogger on the planet. Whenever a new generation BMW 3er arrives, there is much hand wringing as to whether it’s still the benchmark by which all other sports sedans are measured.

The near unanimous consensus is: Yes, the BMW 3er is still The One.

The 2012 BMW 328i Sport Line in Melbourne Red Metallic.

There are many competitors, including the Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, Volvo S60 and Infiniti G. Each has admirable qualities and often one or the other beats the BMW in one or more statistics or test categories. Yet none quite add up to the BMW 3er. At least not yet.

The 2012 BMW 328i in Luxury Line in Imperial Blue Metallic, a new color.

Here’s what you will like:

  • Fantastic new 2.0L inline TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder direct injected engine making 240 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque – easily more than the old six. And you won’t find any turbo-lag with BMW’s excellent twin-scroll turbocharger. Why pay thousands extra for the thirsty 335i when you have this delightful, powerful and fun unit as the base engine?

    The engine bay of the 2012 BMW 328i. Note the TwinPower logo next to the BMW badge.

  • Empathic ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that always finds the sweet spot for the engine with overdrive gears that help the new drivetrain achieve impressive EPA numbers of 23 city, 33 highway 26 combined.
  • High-performance, lightweight, 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC)
  • Dynamic chassis with a sophisticated 5-link rear suspension and double-pivot type front suspension with spring struts and anti-roll bar
  • It’s bigger than the last 3er, but still only weighs 3,485 pounds – a weight gain of 133 pounds. You’ll never notice it with all the extra power.
  • Zero to 60 mph at 5.6 seconds according to Car & Driver.
  • Sporty, small-diameter, meaty, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel.

    The cockpit of the 2012 328i Sport Line is a great place to spend time. I love the new steering wheel and the Coral Red Dakota leather is outstanding.

  • Higher quality interior materials, even as it retains its aura of Germanic austerity.

    The interior is nicely appointed. Materials are mostly soft-touch plastics or leather. I like the new horizontal dash layout too. Fit and finish is excellent.

  • Terrific 10-way power memory sports seats. The standard 8-way power memory seats are good too.
  • Latest iDrive with navigation has terrific graphics, all on display in a lovely 8.8 inch full-color TFT screen. In addition to the 2-D view, it now has night view, height mode and 3-D perspective. A switch from DVD-based to a hard-drive make it all faster.

    I love the gigantic 8.8 inch iDrive navigation screen. Analog controls for HVAC and seat heating as well as some radio controls are nice to have.

  • Increased 1.9 inch longer wheelbase means a slightly better ride. Quieter too.
  • More interior colors and choices. I have a particular fondness for the available Fine-wood “Fineline Pure” textured, matte-finished wood trim available as part of the $2,100 Modern Line package. Many will find it too odd-looking, but it is unique in this class.

    A 2012 BMW 328i Modern Line with the Fine-wood trim ‘Fineline Pure’ textured. The interior is Oyster Dakota Leather.

  • Great new colors including my favorite, Mineral White Metallic (a $550 option).
  • New options not previously available on a 3er. Heated steering wheel, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, rear-, side- and top-view cameras, adaptive light control, park assistant (parallel parks for you) and automatic high beams. Just don’t ask the price.
  • Automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers are still standard equipment.
  • Tons of standard passive and active safety features, including air bags, electronic nannies and wizards, which all work behind the scenes, mostly completely unnoticed.
  • Handsome new, if evolutionary sheet metal. I find it hard to distinguish it from the last 3er and it looks eerily like a shrunken 5-series – which most consider a good thing.
  • Still the best warranty around. BMW’s Ultimate Care package includes no-cost maintenance for 4 years or 50,000 miles. You only pay for gas and tires.
  • Same prestigious blue and white badge – which is a representation of the flag of Bavaria, not the urban legend that it represents an aircraft propeller.

What you won’t like:

  • The low-rolling-resistance run-flat rubber all around. I hate the run-flats as the ride quality suffers significantly and road noise increases. But all new BMWs get them, so unless you want to spend the money to swap out the original equipment tires, it’s something you live with.

    The wheels look great and the low-profile tires are sporty. However, the cement-like firmness of the run-flat tires add to a harsh ride and more road noise.

  • All new automatic 3ers gets BMW’s electronic shifter. It’s sensitive and fiddly and it makes fast shifts between reverse and drive – something you try to do in tight parking spots while blocking angry traffic – difficult and frustrating.

    BMW’s electronic shifter looks good and functions well when going from Park to Drive. But rocking back and forth between Reverse and Drive is tricky and can be frustrating.
    Note the new iDrive controller with a bunch of dedicated short cut buttons. Much better.

  • The new electric power steering doesn’t have the precise on-center feel or quite as snappy feedback as the old hydraulic unit. But EPS isn’t going away as hydraulic units sap fuel economy. Even the new Porsche 911 has EPS. I think BMW will refine its system as time marches on, so this isn’t a fatal flaw. The sad fact is that most BMW drivers don’t know the difference and won’t notice. They only drive the car for its badge.
  • No cooled seats option.
  • The 2001 Space Odyssey-like obelisk iDrive screen (the standard 6.5 inch screen or the 8.8 inch unit included with navigation) is fixed in the center of the dash. It looks like it should retract when not in use.
  • Some of the switchgear looks cheap.
  • Terrible cup holders that are too small – still.
  • No diesel engine option – at least  not yet; Bi-Xenon headlights should be standard.
  • Price. The base MSRP, including freight, is $37,395 and you don’t get much for your money. The alarming German trend, pioneered by greedy executives at Porsche, to make just about everything optional, has accelerated. Even just a few option packages push the price well beyond $50,000. The base 528i sedan starts at $48,395 (of course, that is stripped too).

The 2012 BMW 328i in new color (and very handsome) Sparkling Bronze Metallic.

Now for the really important question that everyone is asking: When my 3-year lease is up, should I get a new BMW 3er or look elsewhere? My advice is to check out the competition, but I think you’ll feel as connected with this new F30 328i as with any in the past.

I’ve owned two 3ers over the years. First there was a 2003 (E46) 325i Touring then a 2007 (E90) 335i Coupe. Both were great cars that I remember fondly (except for those run-flats on the 335i). I’d buy or lease a new 328i in a heartbeat if – and that’s an important “if” – BMW discounts its interest rates or sub-vents its leases enough to soften the blow of the inflated sticker. The redesigned 2012 3er is the still Ultimate Driving Machine and the most pure expression of  BMW’s heart and soul. And I’m still in love.