Back in the glory days of the e30 chassis, the 320i was the smallest-displacement, and thus cheapest six-cylinder 3-series BMW offered. Now BMW is set to bring the 320i back, and though it has two less cylinders than the 320i of old, buyers shouldn’t need to make excuses for it.
Why? Let’s start with that somewhat controversial engine choice. Though there have been plenty of four-cylinder BMWs, including the 318i and the “Mini M” 318is of the e30 era, cars with designations of 320 or larger have seemingly always been inline sixes.
But the 320i has an ace up its sleeve: BMW TwinPower turbocharging technology. With 180 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque on-tap, the cheapest 3’er you can buy today shouldn’t offer slouchy performance like the M10-engined 318i of the mid-’80s. The full 200 lb-ft of torque is available across a wide band from a very low 1,250 RPM to 4,500 RPM thanks to the 2.0-liter engine’s twin-scroll turbo. But much like the M10, the 2.0 should deliver excellent fuel economy, with the stick shift rated at 34 MPG highway and the automatic rated at 33.
That automatic transmission, we should mention, is an 8-speed. It helps the slushbox-equipped 320i get to 60 in just a hair over 7 seconds, according to BMW, and doubtless plays a large role in helping minimize MPG loss for those who prefer to let the car do the shifting. It should also help the all-wheel drive 320i xDrive model pay no penalty in highway fuel economy, if BMW’s testing is correct.
The 320i doesn’t require any sacrifice in telematics, comfort, connectivity, or infotainment, either, offering “most of BMW’s leading ConnectedDrive elements and vehicle versatility options from the BMW 328i and 335i siblings,” according to BMW. Among those options are heated seats front and rear, BMW Assist telematics services, BMW Apps, xenon adaptive headlights, rear-view camera, and navigation system.
Another tech toy not reserved solely for the higher echelons of 3’ers: Selectable drive modes. The 320i allows the driver to select from Comfort, Sport, and ECO PRO modes, each remapping the car’s throttle response, steering, and other systems to allow for comfortable driving, spirited driving, or highly efficient driving. Those likeliest to use the ECO PRO mode will be glad to know the car also features auto start-stop to cut down on MPG-killing idle time.
Of course, there are a bevy of packages and options that can make the 320i alternately more sporty or more refined, including a Sport package that gives it stickier tires rated for higher speeds, 18-inch alloy wheels, sportier seats, and M suspension tuning, among other things. But for those who want to enter the world of modern-day BMW, the base 320i starts at an MSRP of $35,445 after destination and handling charges, and it doesn’t require you to make any excuses or apologies for your choice.