D to the X to the B!
Drives: ABS,American bargain supercar
Join Date: Jul 2007
2009 BMW 328i
First place: Conspicuous consumption lite.
If Moses had brought down from the big guy himself, chiseled into stone, the chart for rating cars, maybe we’d have a different conclusion here. But he didn’t. So we calls ’em as we sees ’em. Yeah, this is subjective, but we think BMW has a special way with sports sedans.
This car is so seductive that it’s almost embarrassing to read through the comment book: “Love the look, the way the skin stretches tightly over the machinery.” Or: “This is one Crisco-smooth ride.” And: “Clutch and shifter are the same as always, perfect.” Then: “Best shifter and clutch on the planet” and “Great back-road partner” and “Laser-straight steering welcome on long straights” and finally, “Six-cylinder sounds top Beethoven’s best.”
You get the idea. But the subjective side had to push hard against nagging reality. This stripper of a 3-series raises some value issues. Yes, the $36,475 as-tested price is lowest of the quartet, but fake leather on the seats? (BMW calls it leatherette.) No power on those many sport-seat adjusters? No satellite radio?
Add to that a short list of significant annoyances: “The fact that the radio display blanks out when wearing polarized lenses is, frankly, stupid. What is this, 1983?”
The starting ritual raises questions, too. “Why must I insert the remote fob into its dock, then move my hand to the start button? Why is that better than a key?”
“Why are the HVAC controls down by my knees?” And: “BMW must be the last holdout against indicating the fuel-filler location on the gas gauge.”
The 328i topped just one performance category, but it’s one that is increasing in social if not economic importance—fuel economy. Although the Audi does significantly better by the EPA method—23 mpg combined versus 21—the BMW outscored all on our 350-mile test trip at 25 mpg compared with 23 for the Audi, 21 for the Acura, and 19 for the Infiniti.
As a passenger hauler, we judged the BMW to be a shade better than the Audi for two in back but not enough for a full point. It has superior kneeroom, but the rear wheels encroach on the backrest, forcing occupants toward the center of the seat. Forget adding a third adult (none of the others will accept a third, though for different reasons).
In the last meeting of this category in January 2008, we summed up this way: “What the 328i does better than its peers is combine the ingredients of the perfect sports sedan: driving dynamics and luxury.” The luxury component has weakened significantly since, leaving a margin that’s sliver thin.
2009 Infiniti G37 Sport
Second place: Conspicuous consumption lite.
In that narrow slice of marketing terrain where sports sedan overlaps muscle car is where you’ll find this mid-size Infiniti. Will it exercise the neck muscles? Have no doubts.
Will it satisfy your need for speed? Oh, yes, in megadoses.
When the votes were tallied, the BMW 328i came out on top again this time but by a very small margin: two points. At the track, the Infiniti shamed the Bimmer in every contest except for skidpad (a tie). In acceleration, the chase wasn’t even close, with the G37 ahead by a half-second at 60 mph—5.4 seconds versus 5.9—and leading by 6 mph at the quarter-mile. The G37’s gap was narrower but still significant in the lane change. In braking, its one-foot-out performance from 70 mph—159 feet versus the BMW’s 160—is almost certainly insignificant, but we’ll call that one for the G on the superior detailing of its calipers, finished in glowing satin metallic etched with a subtle Infiniti logo.
The G37 Sport, designated by a red “S” on the tail—plus a subtly reshaped fascia and sill treatments—gets a six-speed manual, shorter final-drive gearing with a viscous limited slip, quicker steering, and very large brakes: 14.0-inch discs in front, 13.8s in back, all vented. Inside, there’s a highly supportive sport seat with power adjusters to tailor thigh and torso bolsters.
All of our drivers were put off at first by the heavy, abrupt clutch feel, and the shift lever slipped into sixth gear only after a Google search. But by the second day of driving, the complaints were gone. This is a serious machine: planted, professional, poised. The steering always knows how to find straight-ahead, and the effort builds progressively as you turn. Unlike most of the others, the brakes are not overboosted. They have a linear feel, just right for holding the edge of the friction circle as you trail-brake into curves.
The cockpit supports vigorous motoring. There’s a rest for your left foot in exactly the right place. The tilting column moves the instrument cluster so the dials are always centered within the wheel. The buttons and rockers on the wheel are the easiest of all to use. Only the buttons for shuttling through the trip-computer screens are an awkward reach.
There were a few Darth Vader cracks about the all-black interior, but the rice-paper finish of the metal trim contrasts beautifully.
A4 and TL were missing alot of things...you can read those on your own by clicking on the above link.
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