Being a car guy, the type of car and associated options are a very important detail that some buyers overlook. Let’s be real, a lot of the drivers on the road just want a car that starts every time and gets them from A to B for cheap. The econobox has taken over much of the lineup available to the US market. Everyone is EPA this and save the environment that. Don’t get me started on why there haven’t been more significant gains in fuel economy over the last two decades. Example: I once owned a 1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse N/A, aka 2gnt. During highway trips I could achieve 29-30 MPG on the piss water fuel(87). A brand new 2017 Lancer is rated at 33 MPG highway. In nearly twenty years, we’ve basically zero gains in this area, why isn’t anybody talking about this? I digress….
This push for “safety” and “convenience” is forcing car makers to neuter performance and dumb down the enjoyment level of many cars available. Gotta stay relevant and sell more cars yea? That poses an issue for someone like myself. I enjoy driving. I enjoy rowing through the gears manually with the fuel pedal to the floor. Windows down and radio up on a twisty mountain road would be the dream. Then reality hits and your options are automatic transmissions and electric steering. I could go older, but I do share some of the same needs as the general populace, I need it to start pretty much every time. I’ve owned cars that I enjoyed driving and they ended up modified. That leads to countless potential issues that will occur. Owning something cheap to modify is not a good idea right now, especially with California regulation, it’s tough to do much without sinking lots of money into CARB certified parts or sliding as much money under the table at the SMOG shop every couple years to go unnoticed. I’d rather just plan to move than go through all that noise.
The goal then becomes to find the best of these “slush boxes” to try and get a semblance of enjoyment out of the car. This crosses a lot of the available options off the list right off the bat as many automatics are just what we remember from the 80’s, mushy, slow, and meh. There are a few out there, though, that will make a believer out of even the most hardened manual Gearhead. The ZF 8HP transmission variants in many BMW cars is a fine piece of machinery. With the right programming and options, this transmission shifts extremely quick and is rated up to around 360 lb·ft of torque for the 328D.
I found a car after a few months of daily looking. I wasn’t trying to buy at the time but decided that it didn’t hurt to go and look. Upon arrival, the car was magnificent. With M Sport, the car was aggressive and sitting on staggered tires. The interior was all black. This was a significant change over my previous car as the headliner was grey, it makes a big difference. This car had the lighting package with Xenon headlights and Navigation. The list goes on. It was missing the Technology package which is basically a HUD on the windshield with the way the car was optioned. Also the top and side view cameras. I really wanted those but to be fair, I hadn’t seen a single vehicle with them during my entire search.
As most trips to a dealership go, I spent nearly the entire day there. This time included test driving the car, general chatting with the sales rep, price negotiations; Even walking out of the dealership at one point as the sales rep shut down any further attempts to negotiate. I ended up approaching a finance rep that spent fifteen minutes with me earlier in the day and she was willing to continue negotiating. After a late lunch and some more stewing, an agreement was made and we went back to the dealership to complete some preliminary paperwork.
There are some things that need to change, I am a car guy after all. I don’t plan on voiding the warranty any time soon as this could potentially be an expensive car to fix. Some general coding changes, programming the sports automatic transmission, a few other minor annoyances. I would *like* to change out the shifter to the “2TB” variant, it’s sportier and more comfortable in the hand. It may also be required to get the full oomph from the sports automatic transmission coding, from what I’ve read so far, there may or may not be a control module in the bottom of the shifter that modifies how the transmission works. I haven’t found a clear answer on that one yet. Either way, I’m enjoying the car as it is and I expect to get a ton of usage before it is retired. I’m looking forward to finishing the break in on the engine and starting to enjoy the full experience of this amazing F30 328D.