• Road and Track compares the 2008 E90 328i to the 2012 F30 328i - N20 versus N52 showdown

      This is not the first time this comparison has been done as the now defunct Insideline (integrated with Edmunds) did this same comparison over a year ago. People have short term memories so here is the same comparison yet again presented as if it is brand new content from Road and Track. So which is the better car? Well, the F30 being newer and sporting an underrated turbocharged four cylinder N20 motor definitely tips things in the F30's favor.



      Both vehicles are 6-speed manuals. Interestingly, the F30 is heavier with its 3412 pound curb weight than the E90 although just slightly by 26 pounds. The N20 four cylinder also affords the F30 with a little bit less weight on the nose as it's 49/51 front to rear weight distribution compared to the 50/50 for the E90 shows. The length of the N52 inline-6 in the E90 328i playing a factor.

      Performance wise the new 328i is simply faster. 0-60 in 5.6 seconds for the new car versus 6.0 for the E90 and the 1/4 mile coming in 14.3@100 for the F30 versus 14.7@96 for the E90. Definitely significant and the 0-100 number really tells the story as the N20 gets to 100 miles per hour a whole two seconds faster than the N52. Despite being rated only 10 horsepower higher at 240 the real world power difference is much larger than indicated by BMW.

      Additionally, the fuel economy figures show why BMW made the change. The N20 has more power and torque yet gets better mileage. 27 mpg in Road and Tracks testing versus 25 mpg for the N52 based E90. 2 miles per gallon plus better performance, difficult to argue with.

      Road and Track however does argue the E90 is the better car. Why? The steering feel is slightly more communicative. Also, the N52 is the better sounding motor in their opinion. Picking the E90 over the F30 based on the engine sound and steering feel? The steering feel point has merit but the performance gap simply is too large to ignore. Hard to agree with this decision and this statement:

      "In terms of real-world speed, the two cars are evenly matched, posting identical results on the 5-to-60-mph rolling-start test, where the naturally aspirated six's instant response beats the four's turbo lag. On the conventional 0–60 run, the more powerful four-banger is 0.4 second quicker—and as speeds increase, the new car pulls ever farther ahead."

      A two second difference in 0-100 times means in real world comparisons on the highway it really is no contest. From a stop, it's no contest as well. The only time the cars appear evenly matched is when the N20's turbo lag is used against it. This is a valid point but it is only a single situation that evens the cars as in all others the N20 offers superior performance and efficiency.

      A naturally aspirated BMW inline-6 will pretty much always sound better and be smoother than their turbo four-cylinders. But the E90 is not the better car and the N52 is not the better motor. The N52 is probably one of the weakest examples of a BMW naturally aspirated inline-6 that can be chosen. When one experiences the magic of an S54 high revving BMW inline-6 in an E46 M3 that is a whole different ballgame. In an example using base 3-Series cars where power, torque, and acceleration are all improved along with efficiency BMW's turbo decision makes complete sense. Road and Track's decision would make more sense if they were comparing a naturally aspirated previous generation M car to a new turbo M car. Efficiency is not at a premium in a performance model which should be a razor sharp responsive Ultimate Driving Machine.

      This article was originally published in forum thread: Road and Track compares the 2008 E90 328i to the 2012 F30 328i - N20 versus N52 showdown started by Sticky View original post
      Comments 13 Comments
      1. leveraged sellout's Avatar
        leveraged sellout -
        Not everyone buys cars for 0-100 times. And the N52 is not a "weak" motor. The F30 is a great car but there is nothing wrong with an E90 328.
      1. BlackJetE90OC's Avatar
        BlackJetE90OC -
        Had a F30 328i m-sport loaner the other day. Worst 3-series I have ever driven. Add to that the interior is just awful to look at.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by leveraged sellout Click here to enlarge
        Not everyone buys cars for 0-100 times. And the N52 is not a "weak" motor. The F30 is a great car but there is nothing wrong with an E90 328.
        The N52 is weak and in the context of BMW inline-6's is one of the weakest examples. Sure, there's nothing wrong with a E90 328i it's a great car. The F30 328i is just better.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by BlackJetE90OC Click here to enlarge
        Had a F30 328i m-sport loaner the other day. Worst 3-series I have ever driven. Add to that the interior is just awful to look at.
        What was so bad about it? Everyone else is raving about their N20 loaners.
      1. onurleft's Avatar
        onurleft -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        The N52 is weak and in the context of BMW inline-6's is one of the weakest examples. Sure, there's nothing wrong with a E90 328i it's a great car. The F30 328i is just better.
        God Sticky what you state as fact and information is just so pathetic. It's almost funny how you decorate your trailer trash method of doing "BMW" things into well written words you actually consider an 'article'. The lameness/hilarity kept me coming back, but it's just getting to the point where I have to stop and better my time. Your pretty words are nothing but information from a biased bafoon. A complete idiot bored with his time.

        I wonder who in the hell gave you a keyboard, and why they actually support you. Nasty women, rants, not following his own rules, bench racing, bashing. A true sign of a lonely home schooled trust fund baby beating his meat all day. GET A LIFE.

        Signed off until things improve.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by onurleft Click here to enlarge
        God Sticky what you state as fact and information is just so pathetic. It's almost funny how you decorate your trailer trash method of doing "BMW" things into well written words you actually consider an 'article'. The lameness/hilarity kept me coming back, but it's just getting to the point where I have to stop and better my time. Your pretty words are nothing but information from a biased bafoon. A complete idiot bored with his time.

        I wonder who in the hell gave you a keyboard, and why they actually support you. Nasty women, rants, not following his own rules, bench racing, bashing. A true sign of a lonely home schooled trust fund baby beating his meat all day. GET A LIFE.

        Signed off until things improve.
        So your rebuttal to me saying the N52 is a weak example of a naturally aspirated BMW inline-6, which it is, is a pointless string of insults? Good idea, sign off.
      1. cstavaru's Avatar
        cstavaru -
        I have a feeling that the new 328i feels slower around town compared to the old 328i due to the turbo lag. And I would hate this. I spent weeks tuning my car for better low-end, which is priceless in crowded cities. I may be wrong though.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by cstavaru Click here to enlarge
        I have a feeling that the new 328i feels slower around town compared to the old 328i due to the turbo lag. And I would hate this. I spent weeks tuning my car for better low-end, which is priceless in crowded cities. I may be wrong though.
        Well then why do people use the argument that the N54 has more low end than the S65?
      1. cstavaru's Avatar
        cstavaru -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Sticky Click here to enlarge
        Well then why do people use the argument that the N54 has more low end than the S65?
        Well, the weeks I have spent to re-gain the low-end were because I installed RB turbos...Click here to enlarge
      1. Brey335i's Avatar
        Brey335i -
        I think the N20 will feel more peppy around town than the N52. More torque down low rather than having to work for it.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Brey335i Click here to enlarge
        I think the N20 will feel more peppy around town than the N52. More torque down low rather than having to work for it.
        And here's the other side of the coin...
      1. morkusyambo's Avatar
        morkusyambo -
        I have read countless (as I'm sure most of you also have) articles comparing the demerits of the F30 vs past 3 series. I have driven several of those cars, as well as every model porsche and audi make due to a past life working at a dealership. My personal daily driver used to be a modified RX8 making 300+whp. I still own the 8, but the F30 is my favorite, particulary the 328i. I mention the 8 because neither the bmw nor most of the aforementioned audis and porsches could subjectively beat it when it comes to handling, steering, braking, or general road feel.

        I didn't buy the 3 to replace the 8, or because I felt that it should be as sporting. I bought it because it was an amazing combination of comfort, luxury, economy, and good-enough performance for most "passing" situations. I have taken several corners faster than I prefer just to push the limits on the street and my luxury line run flat laden car handled them with no issues.

        I can understand those that are frustrated due to the 3 no longer being as "edgy" as previous generations, but I closely shopped several E90s and didn't pull the trigger because the lack of comfort and economy combined with sportiness that couldn't match my 8 didn't seem worth it for a 40k+ vehicle.

        To summarize, I still love the 8, but at the advanced age of 30+ my daily driver priorities have slightly changed and the F30 is the perfect car for that.

        P.S. I love cruising at 35+mpg and having enough juice to put the car where I want when I want.
      1. Sticky's Avatar
        Sticky -
        Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by morkusyambo Click here to enlarge
        I have read countless (as I'm sure most of you also have) articles comparing the demerits of the F30 vs past 3 series. I have driven several of those cars, as well as every model porsche and audi make due to a past life working at a dealership. My personal daily driver used to be a modified RX8 making 300+whp. I still own the 8, but the F30 is my favorite, particulary the 328i. I mention the 8 because neither the bmw nor most of the aforementioned audis and porsches could subjectively beat it when it comes to handling, steering, braking, or general road feel.

        I didn't buy the 3 to replace the 8, or because I felt that it should be as sporting. I bought it because it was an amazing combination of comfort, luxury, economy, and good-enough performance for most "passing" situations. I have taken several corners faster than I prefer just to push the limits on the street and my luxury line run flat laden car handled them with no issues.

        I can understand those that are frustrated due to the 3 no longer being as "edgy" as previous generations, but I closely shopped several E90s and didn't pull the trigger because the lack of comfort and economy combined with sportiness that couldn't match my 8 didn't seem worth it for a 40k+ vehicle.

        To summarize, I still love the 8, but at the advanced age of 30+ my daily driver priorities have slightly changed and the F30 is the perfect car for that.

        P.S. I love cruising at 35+mpg and having enough juice to put the car where I want when I want.
        Your perspective is appreciated.