BMW 328i HIGH-LINE SPORT
BMW hits Benz head-on thanks to the High-Line range, with plenty of features to reflect the prestige badge. The 328i is a good buy though the 320i is a lot cheaper (nearly $5K) and almost as satisfying. Leather, satnav, nine-speaker audio and an extensive safety kit are alluring. No capped-price service and resale is 57 per cent, same as the Mercedes.
Some heavy-handed designs predate this 3 Series but the latest redeems past indiscretions. It’s neat, roomy (for four), has a decent 480L boot (a match for the Merc) and a subdued but highly effective dashboard. Good use of materials — leather and gloss trim — raises the ambience. Best of all, it looks expensive.
Turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engines are becoming popular. This one (180kW/350Nm) delivers pleasing performance — 0-100km/h in 5.9secs and reasonable thirst, 6.3L/100km on 95 RON. Eight-speed auto is as smooth as single malt and rear drive enhances handling. Run-flat tyres so there’s no spare (ditto Merc). Welcome features include head-up instrument display.
Germans love their safety and all brands sport topshelf features. This one gets a five-star rating with six airbags, tyre-pressure monitor, self-parking, lanechange warning with passive steering, surround camera with front and rear park sensors, collision warning with lowspeed braking and bi-xenon headlights with auto-on function.
Feels as dynamic as a sports car. The engine is sparkling in its response — though still a bit harsh — and the eight cogs slide up and down with seamless ease. It’s quick but more impressive is the handling and the sense that it’s on rails. But it’s tailored more for the sporty driver and could be a bit more comfortable.