So…. I bought a BMW 328i GT (8 months ago)

BMW 328i GT

I must apologise for this post taking SOOOOOOOOOO long. It was way back in August 2022 that I appealed to the collective wisdom of this website’s occasional readers, to suggest vehicle options for our upcoming move to Sweden. We arrived here late-October 2022 and I’ve been driving this BMW 328i GT since Day 2. That was 8 months ago! Some follow-up is WELL overdue.

The criteria I set at the time:

  • There are going to be a lot of furniture and appliance purchases in my near future, so the ability to cram a lot in the back makes some sense.
  • Fuel economy – have you seen Swedish fuel prices?
  • Automatic – Yes, I’m finally succumbing to age and I’m a bit tired of rowing my own gears in traffic. Plus, it’ll be easier for Caro (who’s already going to be challenged by the steering wheel being on the wrong side of the car, and the car being on the wrong side of the road).
  • Heated seats.
  • Carplay – or the ability to integrate Carplay. This has become a non-negotiable for us. It pretty much rules out all button-dash Saab 9-3s, but everything else can be converted, it seems.

The budget was 150,000 to 170,000 SEK.

——

There were a lot of great suggestions in the comments section, and some cautionary tales. You all might get bit mad at me as I followed my own road on this (thanks Saab USA) and overlooked many of those recommendations and cautionary tales.

I ended up passing on the Saabs because the fuel prices are so high here, and from previous experience, running a 9-5 costs about 30% more in fuel than a more modern 4 cylinder.

I passed on the Volvos because I’m just not that evolved yet. It’s a tribal thing that I’ve simply not been able to swallow the idea of. And they’ve simply not been of historical interest for me.

My interest was piqued by the idea of a Citroen, and that continues to be an itch that I might have to scratch one day.

But I didn’t get any of those.

What did I get? – BMW 328i GT

I bought one of these…..

It’s a 2014 BMW 328i GT.

More than that, it’s actually the very BMW 328i GT that I featured in my original post, last year.

To its credit, it does fulfil all of the criteria that I set out. Absolutely.

There was (and still is) a bit of that tribal resistance to accepting the idea of being a BMW owner. It doesn’t feel like a natural fit. I eased my way over that mental hurdle when talking about the purchase with a friend, who suggested that in some ways, this is the sort of car that many of us hoped Saab would have made in that era, if they survived.

It’s a two-litre, turbocharged 5-door hatchback. That’s very much a Saab-like recipe. It’s well equipped, with a leather interior, 7-speed auto, and most of the bells and whistles you could ask for. It’s also AWD, which we thought might be helpful navigating a Swedish winter for a first-time Nordic driver like Caro.

So what’s BMW 328i GT like?

Well, it’s extremely competent.

It does everything I bought it to do. It eats up miles on a long drive. It can swallow a whale of a load. It’s economical for its size. The seats are comfortable. It has power-everything (including moonroof, but not including seat adjustment) and everything works. I haven’t converted it to Carplay yet but I can, and in the meantime it works fine through Bluetooth.

I have no reasons whatsoever to complain.

The problem is, I have no reasons whatsoever to be excited, either.

As a car guy, that’s somewhat of a problem.

I’ve not had a BMW before and while I’ve never envied those who have, I guess I’ve been curious as to why BMWs were so revered. A BMW 328i GT is probably (definitely, actually) NOT the car to explain that mystery but I hoped to at least get an insight.

So what do I think of it?

Well, I have to say, I’ve become a little bit fond of it over the last few months. It really is quite comfortable and capable. It runs on very little fuel at highway speeds for a car of its size – I can do the Helsingborg-Gothenburg run on just a quarter of a tank if I’m disciplined and cruise at 110km/h. And it really does have some size, with an extra 200mm space in the back compared to a regular 3-series. The controls take a little getting used to (for fans of weird things like me) but the ergonomics are actually quite good and controls are all logical and well laid out.

But….

Instead of an insight into the mystique of BMW, I think I’ve got confirmation of a thought that first emerged when I had my Porsche 968 Clubsport: German cars are engineered to a very high standard. They’re precise. They do what they say they’ll do. Consistently. But they lack some…… panache. At least according to me.

Let’s not include the 911 in that, eh? But otherwise….

I think I’m just doomed to like ‘stupid’ cars. Flawed cars. Slightly ugly cars. Oddballs. Mutts. Cars you have to wrestle with a little.

This is my 30th car. If I were to list my favourite 5 from that group (in no particular order), it would be:

  • Saab 9-3 Viggen
  • Saab 99 Turbo
  • Alfa Romeo 33 16V
  • Saab 900 Turbo (LPT from 1990 or so)
  • Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV

Honorable mentions go to the Alfa GTV6, the Subaru Brumby, the Jaguar XJR, and an AlfaSud Sprint that I didn’t own, but looked after for a friend for 6 months.

That’s an acceptable list for this website and its typical reader but it’s a reasonably ragtag bunch of automotive conveyances for your regular car geek. I could add another 10 cars to that list before I’d even consider adding the BMW, competent and comfortable as it is.

Will I keep it?

While it’s done the job that I asked it to so far, I always figured that I’ll only keep it as long as that job needs doing. That’s basically now. Our apartment is furnished and the need to carry big things has been overtaken by the need for a bit more character, a return of some cash to our bank account, and easier parking in small spots.

I really think it might be time to explore something a little more….. French.

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15 Comments

  1. You certainly are keeping the practicality side of the Saab spirit alive with this choice, Swade. Appreciate the update, and looking forward to seeing what tasty little French morsel comes next!

  2. OMG, BMW! I do like their beautiful dashboards. My brother has been driving BMWs since 1996 328i and 2004 M3 and I did find both of them to be very nice. Enjoy.
    I think I understand your feelings a bit. We’re two months into a 2023 Subaru Outback (2.5 Onyx) and it’s the quietest, smoothest, best build quality of any car I’ve ever owned. However, I just don’t get any vibes from it. But, at age 80, it will probably be the last car for us; I expect it will last till they take my keys away. I think you’ll have a few more cars in your future. 🙂

    1. Hey Ted.

      The Suuby’s are great. My sister has an XV and a former work colleague in Tassie had one, too. Fantastic cars. I’m glad you’re enjoying yours and I hope you bond with it a little more as time passes. Maybe you need an adventure with it?

      A massive yump, perhaps? 😛

  3. Gee, knock me over with a feather, a banker’s car? What would Clarkson say, does he get a vote, who cares as long as you are happy? Looks the duck’s guts, enjoy. We won’t mention the war or the footy.

    On another note, the second son of a friend of mine got his first car for his learner license, a sharp SAAB Monte Carlo 4 door manual. Didn’t you have a 2 door? It was bought from a mature gent from Bridport who collects SAAB’s and runs a SAAB car museum. The car was originally from Hobart. Cheers.

    1. G’day Richard,

      Yes, I had a 3-door Monte. Number 9 out of 50. It actually came up for sale a few weeks ago (for a tidy sum, too. About 3 times what I sold it for). I know of the collector in Bridport. He’s been selling quite a few cars over the last 12 months. I don’t know him, though. I hope your young mate’s enjoying it.

      Definitely don’t mention the footy….. 🙁

  4. Citroen? I’d advise buyer beware. On the plus side it could provide lots of copy lol

    1. It’s all about the story, Stephen!

      I bought a BMW and didn’t write about it for 8 months. Says it all, really!! 😛

      (Actually, I wrote 90% of this back in January. I just couldn’t get decent photos because cars are unavoidably and perpetually dirty here in Winter)

  5. 2014 BMW 328i GT….. You can’t help yourself dude, even when you go mainstream, its quirky 🙂

    As a 2 car car house hold one 1/2 is a BMW zone. We have run 3 series back as far as 2006 and in fairness that generation wasn’t the best of the breed – the generation before or the one after in M Sport are probably closer to the ‘BMW’ DNA. We never bonded with that generation and interior quality took a bit of a dip too. Please take that in the context of its still a nice car but your criticism’s of it are correct.

    Based on your history I don’t think you’d enjoy a Citroen, a Peugeot would probably be a better fit but they didn’t start getting really good again until the current generation – I suspect you’d bond with the 508 estate.

    Given your love of SAABs the A5 Sportback has a longitudinal 4 cylinder driving the front wheels, a hatchback and a turbo. But also has the downside of the German ‘boringly competent’ disease.

    Not sure of supply out there but I think a tidy Focus ST or Mondeo with the 2.5 Volvo Turbo would be cars you’d enjoy – fast, well sorted handling and fun in way the BMW isnt

    1. I looked at a lot of A5s online before settling on the BMW, Jon. It was very tempting. They’re a stylish car. The bigger carrying capacity of the GT won us over.

      But now, we’re looking to go smaller and more efficient.

  6. Always good to hear from you Swade!
    Glad you two are doing well in Sweden. I can’t wait to find-out what happens next. Are you going to talk a bit about your new employer?

    1. Not a lot to say at this point, Bernard, but we are building.

      The company is called Abtery. It is an electrification consultancy based in Gothenburg.

  7. The only BMW’s I have driven are scruffy loaners (various 3, 5 & a 7 series from 80s-2000s) from the garage who service my old Bravo HGT (they mostly fix Beemers). While ok haven’t ever seen what was so special. Same for an Audi S3 which was objectively a far better car in so many ways than my Abarth, but I wouldn’t swap. No ‘makes you grin’ factor.

  8. I had a well-used Shark some years ago and was glad when a tree fell on it. My only other was a lowered 525i. The style and handling were phenomenol but repair costs were high.

    We currently have a modest Mercedes-Benz C240 which has been very reliable until recently. Our backup is a bright red SAAB 9-3 convertible. That is definitely a maker of smiles.