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This is a review of my BMW 328i Sport Coupe (E36).
BMW describe their cars at “the ultimate driving machines” and with the 328 coupe, BMW certainly does not disappoint. With stylish good looks, breathtaking performance and smooth, precise handling, the 328 coupe is a car that brings a smile to your face every time you drive it.
Performance: With BMW’s legendary, smooth 6-cylinder, 2.8 litre engine and 193bhp, the 328 coupe is a pleasure to drive. For those interested in performance figures, 0-60 is quoted at a little over 6 seconds and top speed is limited to 143mph. But those figures don’t tell the entire story. In the 328, power is delivered in such a smooth way and, whilst acceleration is very quick, you don’t realise how quick you are going until you glance down at the speedometer! But that’s not all - the 328 just keeps on accelerating through the gears and just never seems to stop!
The gears themselves are precise and ratios are very well spaced. Indeed you are always able to accelerate in any gear, no matter what speed you are travelling at – something that is often useful to get you out of tricky situations on the road. The 328 is probably at its best cruising effortlessly along on a motorway, eating the miles and getting you to your destination in comfort and ease, but it is equally at home driving around the city or winding its way through twisty country lanes. I use my 328 every day for the daily commute to work and I have to say that this car even makes commuting fun. It is just so engaging to drive!
Handling: Steering is precise and being rear-wheel drive, cornering is smooth and effortless. Power assisted steering means that you do not have to be a weightlifter to get this car around corners and the suspension and steering are very nicely balanced. The 328 is not fitted with a limited slip differential, but BMW have included a system called “Automatic Stability Control (ASC)”, which is designed to get you out of trouble if the back end of the car loses control. This is useful because if you are not accustomed to driving a rear-wheel drive car (and such a powerful one at that) it could be quite easy for the back end to slide on a corner, particularly on a wet day. But, in my experience, feedback through the steering wheel in the 328 is very good, and you quickly feel that the back end is sliding and are able to make adjustments with ease. Of course any high-powered, rear-wheel drive car could potentially be a handful on wet, slippery roads, so under those circumstances you just need to treat your 328 with respect and drive with a little extra care. And, if you like to experience drifting around corners, you can turn the ASC off if you want to have extra fun when driving!
Of course a car this powerful needs to be able to stop quickly and the 328 does not disappoint in this department. Braking is smooth and controlled and you always feel safe and in control. Anti-lock brakes are fitted as standard and this combined with the ASC makes the 328 a very safe car to drive.
Styling: I have always loved the styling of the 3-series and in my opinion, the E36 model is a classic design. When it was first released, many people criticised the coupe for looking too similar to the saloon model. But I think that the phrase “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” is appropriate because, from every angle, the design of the E36 is a winner. In 2-door guise, the coupe looks stylish, sporty and even menacing and the 328 looks fast even when it is not moving. My car is a 328 Sport model and this comes with BMW’s “M” styling, including lowered suspension, cross-spoke BBS alloys, M-Sport spoilers and sill extensions. It really looks fantastic and still turns heads almost 10 years after it was made!
The interior styling is very ‘German’ to say the least, but that is not a criticism. Everything is where you would expect it to be and switches are sturdy and functional. The dials are easy to read and contain all the right information. My car also has an on-board computer, which is great for monitoring fuel consumption, planning journey times or just finding out the outside temperature! My 328 has full leather seats throughout and looks every bit the executive sports coupe that it is. BMW’s attention to detail is also impressive and it is the little things, such as the centre console arm rest, that make all the difference. This arm rest is perfect for resting your left arm when not changing gear and makes such a difference on long journeys – I couldn’t live without it!
Size: You shouldn’t forget that the 328 coupe is essentially a sports coupe and as such, size is not usually a priority for buyers. That said, the 328 is not small and can easily take 4 passengers in comfort. I am 6’ 4” tall and I find the driving position to be excellent. The front sports seats adjust in all directions and the steering wheel has plenty of vertical adjustment. With the front seats pushed right back, there is not a huge amount of legroom for rear passengers, but with a small amount of front seat adjustment I have comfortably carried 4 adults on long journeys without problem.
Boot size is not huge on the 328 coupe, but I have never found it to be a problem. I have managed to fit two large suitcases into the boot, but space is probably on the small size compared to other cars in this class. On my car, the rear seat folds, which does significantly expand luggage space. But as I have mentioned, if you are buying a sports coupe, you are probably not too worried about luggage space anyway.
Reliability: My 328 has been extremely reliable and in the 3 years that I have owned it, I have only had to replace a radiator and an ignition/steering lock. That said, when things go wrong they can be expensive. The radiator replacement cost £200 and the ignition lock cost £250 and had to be ordered from Germany with a 1 week wait.
I also recently replaced the tyres on my 328 and, on a car this powerful, tyres are large and can be costly. A set of 4 Michelin Sport tyres cost in the region of £600.
Running Costs: The only slightly negative thing I can say about my 328 coupe is the running cost. Fuel consumption is not great as you would perhaps expect from a 2.8 litre engine. These cars are at their best on long journeys, and on a motorway I average around 40mpg. However around town this drops to around 28mpg and typically I need to fill the tank once a week at a cost of around £50.
Insurance costs can be high on the 328 too. I believe the 328 coupe is in insurance group 18, so this is always going to be expensive. But I recommend shopping around because I found large variations in cost between different insurance companies, and now pay around £400 per year in insurance.
To keep your BMW in good shape you need to service it and this will also help to maximise the car’s resale value. Servicing at a main BMW dealer is usually good but often expensive. I have found that it is better to use good independent BMW specialists to service the car. The 328 has 3 different service categories – an oil inspection, an Inspection 1 and an Inspection 2. At my independent specialist, these range in cost from about £120 for an oil service to around £300 for an Inspection 2. The length of time between services depends on your driving style as well as your mileage but I have found this to typically be 6-8 months between services.
Conclusion: People choose cars for many different reasons and everyone looks for something different when buying a car. For me the BMW 328 coupe ticks all the right boxes. It looks great, it’s powerful, it’s fast, it’s reliable, it’s very comfortable, and it’s fun to drive…but most of all it never fails to put a smile on my face! BMW’s target market is probably the young, style-conscious professional who has lots of expendable cash. But BMW shouldn’t just keep this gem for young professionals. I say this car would appeal to anyone who loves driving and wants to be engaged by their experience; anyone who appreciates good styling, fine engineering and smooth, powerful engines; in short, anyone who is serious about cars. Yes it can be expensive to run and it may not be the most spacious of cars, but if you want a car that gets you to your destination much quicker than expected, in perfect comfort and with lots and lots of fun, then look no further than the BMW 328 coupe.
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