Velvet overground

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Few would argue that there was much awry with BMW’s old 2.5-litre straight six, but the fact remains that it has been dropped…

But fear not. Dead though the wonderful 325i may now be, its spirit lives on. The 328i is no mean substitute.

Quite simply, an aluminium block replaces the old iron thunderbolt. The result is a weight saving of over 30 kg, which leads to better fuel economy. A hard return trip from London to Le Mans in a 328i Touring, fully laden, yielded 26.3 mpg, which is highly respectable. In less punishing use, BMW estimates that a 30 mpg-plus return should easily be attainable.

And the combination of increased capacity (via a longer stroke) and VANOS variable valve timing have led to improved torque, the 207 lb ft peak being scaled at just 3950 rpm. The 328i is extremely flexible (acceleration from 50-70 mph takes less than eight seconds in fourth), and smooth with it. Like its immediate forebear, it packs a velvet punch. There’s plenty of power available (193 bhp/5300 rpm), but it is delivered softly. It is fast, but serene.

Quoted top speed is 143 mph; from a standing start, it will reach 60 mph in around 7.5s. It also retains the 325’s balance and poise.

Somehow, BMW has taken what was already a clear class-leader and made it better still.

In the case of the Touring, which essentially shares the saloon platform (albeit with minor suspension retuning), there are also improved ergonomics. Packaging of the old 3-Series Touring was never its long suit, but now there is a more spacious boot area, rear headroom has been improved and it is also now possible for unfeasibly tall people to sit in the back with their knees in a conventional position, rather than around their ears. Both of those who occupied the rear on the Le Mans haul could pass for basketball players.

As ever, star quality costs, although £25,500 doesn’t seem unreasonable in this day and age. The 3281 tops a range that will eventually span five models: the 318 turbodiesel, which goes on sale later in the year, serves as an entry model, at an expected price of around £17,500, and there will also be a 2.5 turbodiesel and a 1.8i petrol to complement the existing 3281 and 320i.

It’s nice to report that whoever attempted to help themselves to our test car walked away with the barrel from the passenger door lock but got no further, A pity that such overt desirability has to have its drawbacks, but BMW’s security systems at least give you a fighting chance of waking up the next morning to find that your car is still there.

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