Having recently completed a long-term stint with a Volvo S60, we thought a 2012 BMW 328i test would be a natural follow up that could help us delve deeper into the hotly contested sports sedan segment.

This isn't the first time we've put the S60 and 3-series back to back. In fact, we previously conducted a brief comparison that pitted the resident Swede against the visiting German, and the experience inspired us to spend more quality time with the Bimmer.

Let's Play Bimmer Roulette!

This time around, we didn't have the luxury of choosing the options on our test car. Instead we relied on BMW to pick the packages and deliver us the tester. Our only stipulation? We politely asked for a 328i with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. And, thankfully, we got what we asked for.

BMW delivered a generously equipped 2012 BMW 328i long-term test car. Starting at $34,900, our test car came loaded with a staggering $11,520 of options. What boxes do you tick to boost the price by nearly 12 large? Our Alpine White 328i comes equipped with a Premium Package ($3,600) that includes keyless entry, a moonroof and power front seats with lumbar support. Premium audio with Harman Kardon surround sound boosts the price by $950, while a $2,550 Technology Package incorporates a navigation system and head-up display. A smattering of la carte options include split fold-down rear seats ($475), heated front seats ($500), park distance control ($750), Xenon headlights ($900), BMW Assist with enhanced Bluetooth and USB ($650) and BMW Apps ($250.) The total MSRP for this white-on-black bad boy? $46,420.

What's the Plan, Stan?

We wanted to live with the BMW 328i because it's often cited as the standard setter in the sport sedan segment, and the new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine intrigues us with its blend of spirited performance and surprising fuel economy (estimated at 23-mpg city, 34-mpg highway). We're also entering this test with a cautious eye towards value. After all, the BMW 3-series has a sterling reputation when it comes to driving dynamics and build quality, but it's also associated with a premium price tag, especially the new-for-2012 model.

How will we put our $46,000 2012 BMW 328i to the test? We plan on doing a little bit of everything: road tripping, hypermiling, city driving and, of course, a decent amount of spirited canyon carving. We'll also see how it handles the daily routines of hauling groceries, transporting people and coping with the practical challenges of a one-year-old baby.

We'll have more insight into this Teutonic sled once we've put some miles on our test car. Follow these updates to see if the BMW 328i is worth the steep price of entry.

author photo

Basem Wasef is an automotive journalist, author, and photographer with two coffee table books under his belt, and is a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics, Robb Report, and Maxim among others. When Basem isn't traveling the globe testing vehicles, he enjoys calling Los Angeles home.

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