Buyer’s Guide to the BMW F30: Performance, Technology, and Common Issues

The moment my backside graced the business end of the BMW F30’s sports seat, roughly a decade past, it was as clear as a tolling church bell that this Bavarian bombshell had earned its rightful spot in the sacred scriptures of automotive greatness.

The F30 played the role of the E90’s therapist, soothing every tiny niggle that got under my skin during my tenure with the latter. Couple of miles in, and I was convinced that this new model was the answer to my Beemer-related existential crisis. However, after a few sunsets spent caressing its leather-wrapped wheel, a wave of nostalgia for the E90 washed over me.

Sure, the F30 had the speed to leave the E90 in its dust, it was more fuel-efficient than a caffeine-powered hamster, the comfort was akin to cruising in a cloud, and the ease of driving? Well, that was akin to taking candy from a baby. But when the rubber hit the road, and the primal urge to drive like a man possessed took over, it was then that the veil lifted. The trade-off for all that cloud-nine comfort became painfully clear.

And therein lies the rub, my friends. That’s the price we pay.

Today, dear Bimmerists, we embark on a thrilling journey into the heart of the ultimate driving machine, delving into the intricate nuances that make the F30 a truly remarkable piece of machinery. I am your guide, Georg Meier, and together, we will explore the fascinating intricacies of the F30 in this special edition of BIMMERIST’s BMW F30 Buying Guide.

BMW 3 Series F30 LCI Sedan, M Sport (05/2015) BMW Individual color Champagne Quartz metallic. BMW Group

As we all know, the F30 is the sixth iteration of BMW’s iconic 3 Series lineup, produced from 2012 to 2018. It represents a defining moment in the brand’s history, as it bravely ventured into the era of turbocharging, bidding adieu to the naturally aspirated engines that had long been the cornerstone of BMW’s performance philosophy.

The F30, thus, serves as a testament to the automaker’s unwavering commitment to technological progress, while still remaining true to its roots of delivering unparalleled driving pleasure.

Throughout this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we will meticulously dissect each aspect of the F30, shedding light on the engine options, performance figures, and handling characteristics that have made it the object of desire for countless automotive enthusiasts.

Furthermore, we will delve into the common issues and quirks that have surfaced over the years, arming you with the knowledge required to make an informed purchasing decision.

So, buckle up, Bimmerists, as we embark on an exhilarating adventure into the realm of the F30, taking you one step closer to experiencing the sheer driving pleasure that only a true BMW can offer. Welcome to the BMW F30 Buying Guide, your ultimate roadmap to owning a piece of Bavarian automotive history.

The F30 at a Glance

The BMW F30, which represents the sixth generation of the venerable 3 Series, was produced from 2012 to 2018. This generation marked a significant departure from previous iterations, as it embraced turbocharging technology while maintaining the legendary driving dynamics that had always been synonymous with the 3 Series. BMW also introduced a separate model designation, the F31, for the Touring (wagon) version of the 3 Series, and the F34, for the Gran Turismo (hatchback) version.

BMW F30 LCI 3 Series Sedan, Edition M Sport Shadow and BMW F31 LCI 3 Series Touring, Edition M Sport Shadow

Design and aesthetics

The exterior design of the F30 was spearheaded by BMW’s in-house designer, Christopher Weil. It featured a more aggressive and modern look, with sharp creases and sculpted lines that gave the car an athletic and dynamic appearance. The signature kidney grilles were larger and more pronounced, while the headlights extended to meet the grilles, creating a distinctive and bold front end. The rear featured L-shaped taillights and a subtle lip spoiler on the trunk, which further emphasized the car’s sporty character.

BMW F30 LCI 3 Series Sedan, Edition M Sport Shadow 

The interior of the F30 was designed with driver-focused ergonomics in mind. The dashboard and center console were angled towards the driver, making it easier to access the controls and infotainment system.

2012 F30 pre-LCI model.

High-quality materials were used throughout, including soft-touch plastics, leather, and brushed aluminum trim. The F30 also offered more rear legroom and trunk space compared to its predecessor, the E90, making it a more practical choice for families and daily commuting.

Key features and advancements

The F30 was engineered with several significant advancements and features that distinguished it from previous generations. Some of the key highlights include:

  1. Turbocharged engines: The F30 introduced turbocharging across the entire model range, resulting in increased power output, improved fuel efficiency, and reduced emissions.
  2. Near-perfect weight distribution: The F30 maintained BMW’s signature 50:50 weight distribution, providing exceptional handling and balance.
  3. Electric power steering: The F30 was the first 3 Series to feature electric power steering across the range, which offered greater efficiency and a customizable steering feel, more suited for “normal” than for spirited drivers.
  4. EfficientDynamics: This suite of technologies, including regenerative braking, auto start-stop, and an Eco Pro driving mode, contributed to improved fuel economy without sacrificing performance.
  5. Optional adaptive suspension: The F30 offered an optional Adaptive M Suspension, which allowed the driver to adjust the suspension’s firmness, providing a more comfortable or sportier ride depending on the driving situation.
  6. Advanced safety features: The F30 was available with various advanced safety and driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and forward collision warning with automatic braking.

Overall, the F30 was a significant evolution in the 3 Series lineage, offering a harmonious blend of performance, efficiency, and modern technology.

Engine Options and Performance

Base models: 320i, 328i, and 330i

  1. Turbocharged inline-four engines

The base models of the F30 lineup were powered by turbocharged inline-four engines, providing a balance of performance and fuel efficiency. The entry-level 320i featured a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo engine, which produced 180 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. This engine allowed the 320i to achieve 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while also offering impressive fuel economy ratings of 24 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

The 328i, on the other hand, utilized a more powerful version of the 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo engine, delivering 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque. As a result, the 328i could reach 0-60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. Despite its increased performance, the 328i still maintained commendable fuel efficiency, with EPA-estimated ratings of 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Finally, the 330i boasted an even more potent 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo engine, generating 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain allowed the 330i to sprint from 0-60 mph in a brisk 5.5 seconds while retaining fuel economy figures similar to the 328i.

Performance models: 335i and 340i

  1. Turbocharged inline-six engines

For enthusiasts seeking more exhilarating performance, the F30 offered the 335i and 340i models, both equipped with turbocharged inline-six engines. The 335i featured a 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo engine, which produced 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. With this powerplant, the 335i could achieve 0-60 mph in a mere 5.1 seconds.

The 340i, introduced in 2016 as a replacement for the 335i, was powered by an upgraded 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo engine, now outputting 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. This improvement allowed the 340i to reach 0-60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.

  1. M Performance upgrades and power output

For those craving an even more aggressive driving experience, BMW offered M Performance Power Kits for the 335i and 340i. These upgrades, which included optimized engine software and a higher-flowing exhaust system, increased power output, and enhanced the vehicles’ already impressive performance figures.

Diesel options: 328d and 330d

  1. Turbocharged diesel engines

The F30 lineup also included diesel-powered options, providing excellent fuel efficiency and ample torque for spirited driving. The 328d utilized a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo diesel engine, producing 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. This engine enabled the 328d to achieve an impressive 0-60 mph time of 7.4 seconds and remarkable EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway.

The more powerful 330d, available in select markets, was powered by a 3.0-liter inline-six turbo diesel engine, generating 255 horsepower and a substantial 413 lb-ft of torque. With this powerplant, the 330d could accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, while still delivering exceptional fuel efficiency.

In summary, the F30 offered a wide range of engine options catering to various performance preferences and requirements. From the efficient turbocharged inline-four engines to the exhilarating turbocharged inline

Transmission and Drivetrain

The BMW F30 was available with a choice of manual and automatic transmissions, depending on the specific model and market. A 6-speed manual transmission was offered as standard equipment on the 320i, 328i, and 335i in the United States, while other markets also had the manual option for the 330i and some diesel models.

The manual transmission was highly regarded for its precise and engaging shifting experience, which added to the F30’s driver-focused appeal.

An 8-speed automatic transmission, known as the ZF 8HP, was available as an option on most F30 models and became the standard transmission for the 330i and 340i. The ZF 8HP was praised for its quick and smooth shifts, as well as its ability to optimize fuel efficiency.

The automatic transmission also featured steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, allowing drivers to manually control gear changes for a more engaging driving experience.

Rear-wheel drive and xDrive all-wheel drive

True to BMW’s heritage, the F30 was initially offered with a rear-wheel-drive configuration, which provided the signature driving dynamics and handling characteristics that enthusiasts had come to expect from the brand.

The rear-wheel-drive layout, combined with the near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, ensured a balanced and nimble feel on the road.

For drivers who required additional traction and stability, especially in inclement weather conditions, BMW also offered the xDrive all-wheel-drive system on select F30 models.

The xDrive system was capable of distributing power between the front and rear axles as needed, providing enhanced grip and control on various road surfaces. While the xDrive system added some weight to the vehicle, it still maintained the F30’s balanced and engaging handling characteristics.

Suspension and handling characteristics

The F30 featured a MacPherson strut front suspension and a five-link rear suspension, which provided a balance between comfort and sporty handling. The standard suspension setup offered a compliant ride, while still delivering the responsive and precise handling that BMW enthusiasts sought.

For those who desired a sportier driving experience, BMW offered the optional M Sport suspension, which featured stiffer springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars, resulting in a firmer ride and improved handling capabilities. Additionally, the Adaptive M Suspension allowed drivers to adjust the suspension’s firmness based on their preference or driving situation, providing a customizable driving experience.

In conclusion, the BMW F30’s transmission, drivetrain, and suspension options catered to a wide range of driver preferences and requirements, ensuring that each F30 owner could enjoy a tailored driving experience that met their unique needs and desires.

Interior and Technology

The interior of the BMW F30 was designed to provide both comfort and luxury while maintaining the driver-focused ergonomics that the brand is known for.

High-quality materials were used throughout the cabin, including soft-touch plastics, leather upholstery, and brushed aluminum or wood trim options. The seats were supportive and comfortable, with available power adjustments, heating, and ventilation features to further enhance the driving experience.

Additionally, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power moonroof, and ambient lighting were available to create a pleasant and inviting atmosphere inside the F30.

iDrive infotainment system and connectivity

The F30 came equipped with BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, which featured a high-resolution display mounted atop the dashboard. Depending on the model year and specific trim level, the display size varied between 6.5 and 8.8 inches.

BMW F30 iDrive 4 (NBT) Navigation Professional 8.8” display. BMW Group

The iDrive system allowed drivers to access various vehicle settings, navigation, audio, and smartphone integration features through a central rotary controller or, in later models, an optional touchscreen interface.

Bluetooth connectivity, USB ports, and a high-quality audio system were standard features, while options such as satellite radio, Harman Kardon premium audio, and wireless smartphone charging were available to further enhance the F30’s infotainment offerings.

Apple CarPlay compatibility was added to the iDrive system starting from the 2017 model year, while Android Auto was not officially supported by BMW during the F30’s production run.

Driver assistance and safety systems

The F30 was available with a variety of advanced driver assistance and safety systems designed to provide increased convenience and peace of mind on the road. Some of the available features included:

  1. Adaptive cruise control: This system could automatically maintain a set distance from the vehicle ahead, adjusting the F30’s speed as necessary.
  2. Lane departure warning: This feature alerted the driver if the vehicle began to drift out of its lane without signaling.
  3. Blind-spot monitoring: This system used radar sensors to detect vehicles in the F30’s blind spots, providing a visual warning to the driver.
  4. Forward collision warning with automatic braking: This feature could detect an imminent collision with a vehicle or pedestrian in front of the F30 and automatically apply the brakes if the driver failed to take action.
  5. Parking sensors and rearview camera: These features assisted the driver in parking maneuvers by providing visual and audible alerts when obstacles were detected nearby.

In summary, the BMW F30 combined comfort, luxury, and advanced technology to provide a driving experience that catered to both the performance enthusiast and the daily commuter.

F30 Driver Experience Switch at the center console.

With its high-quality interior, intuitive infotainment system, and cutting-edge safety features, the F30 set a benchmark for the modern sports sedan.

Common Issues and Maintenance

While the BMW F30 is generally considered a reliable and well-engineered vehicle, it is not without its share of mechanical issues and concerns that potential buyers should be aware of. Some of the most common issues reported by F30 owners include:

  1. Timing chain issues: Some early F30 models equipped with the N20 and N26 engines (320i and 328i) experienced premature wear or failure of the timing chain and associated components. In severe cases, this could lead to catastrophic engine damage. BMW addressed this issue in later production models, and a revised timing chain design was introduced.
  2. Electric power steering failure: Some F30 owners have reported failures of the electric power steering system, which could result in a sudden loss of power steering assistance. BMW issued a recall for certain F30 models to address this issue, replacing the affected steering components as necessary.
  3. Cooling system issues: The F30’s cooling system, particularly on models equipped with the turbocharged inline-six engines (335i and 340i), has been known to develop leaks and require component replacements, such as the water pump and thermostat.
  4. Fuel system issues: Some F30 models, particularly those with diesel engines (328d and 330d), have experienced issues with the fuel system, including fuel injector failures and high-pressure fuel pump malfunctions.

Cost of ownership and maintenance

As with any luxury vehicle, the cost of ownership and maintenance for a BMW F30 can be higher than that of a more mainstream brand. Regular maintenance items such as oil changes, brake pad replacements, and tire rotations are essential for keeping the F30 in good working order.

BMW recommends following a condition-based service schedule, which uses onboard sensors to determine when maintenance is required based on actual driving conditions.

It is also important to note that certain F30 components, such as turbochargers and high-pressure fuel pumps, can be expensive to replace if they fail outside of warranty coverage.

Prospective buyers should consider the age and mileage of the F30 they are interested in and budget accordingly for any potential repairs or maintenance costs.

Tips for purchasing a used F30

When shopping for a used BMW F30, it is crucial to do thorough research and ask the right questions. Some tips for purchasing a used F30 include:

  1. Obtain a vehicle history report: This can provide valuable information about the F30’s past, including any accidents, title issues, or service records.
  2. Inspect the vehicle thoroughly: Look for any signs of damage, leaks, or wear that could indicate potential issues or neglect by the previous owner.
  3. Test drive the vehicle: Pay attention to how the F30 drives and handles, and listen for any unusual noises or vibrations that could signal a problem.
  4. Consult a BMW specialist: Have a pre-purchase inspection performed by a qualified BMW technician, who can identify any potential issues or maintenance needs.
  5. Consider an extended warranty or service contract: This can provide peace of mind and financial protection in the event of unexpected repairs or component failures.

By being diligent and well-informed, prospective F30 buyers can find a used example that offers the performance, luxury, and driving enjoyment that the 3 Series is known for while avoiding potential pitfalls and costly repairs.

In Conclusion

The BMW F30 represents the continuation of the iconic 3 Series legacy, offering a harmonious blend of performance, luxury, and technology in a well-rounded sports sedan package.

With its diverse range of engine options, transmission, and drivetrain configurations, and advanced technology features, the F30 caters to a wide variety of driver preferences and needs.

However, as with any used vehicle, it is essential for potential buyers to be aware of common issues, maintenance costs, and the importance of conducting thorough research and inspections before making a purchase.

By doing so, one can enjoy the driving pleasure and prestige associated with the BMW brand while minimizing potential risks and expenses.

In conclusion, the BMW F30 is an excellent choice for enthusiasts seeking a dynamic and engaging driving experience, combined with the comfort and technology that modern drivers demand.

With its timeless design, impressive performance capabilities, and well-appointed interior, the F30 is a testament to the 3 Series’ enduring appeal and will undoubtedly continue to attract drivers who appreciate the ultimate driving machine.

Georg Meier

BMW technician since 1996. I began my automotive journey in 1993 as an apprentice mechanic at Automag, the world's oldest BMW dealership in Munich. With years of experience and dedication, I garnered a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of BMW and MINI vehicles. The love/hate relationship with the brand led me to found BIMMERIST where I share expertise and insights with fellow enthusiasts.

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *