Since I was already out in Chantilly, it seemed natural to take a run out to BMW of Sterling to actually drive the 228i and the 235i. Since in Fairfax I only had the chance to drive the 428, I wanted to be sure about how the 228 compared. While the salesman at Fairfax said "it's the same engine" and should feel the same, I'm admittedly a touch distrustful. Acura said the ILX was the same too -- and it's clearly not.
I called out to the dealership, and Mo, who I think was the sales manager, answered. He said they had some on the lot, and would be happy to have me take a test drive.
When I arrived, I was introduced to Zouhair (Zu) Ghars, who would be my advisor on this run. I let him know what I wanted to see -- a 228, then a 235. I wanted to start with the smaller engine, so I wouldn't be spoiled by the feel of the 235 being more powerful.
The 228 was a xDrive model, so AWD. It was well loaded, with the tech package and premium audio system. It felt tight, and particularly in sport mode, was great in the corners. The test drive loop was pretty good, including high speed on Route 28, some back roads, and a couple of exit ramps that were fun to take fast. While it may have a 4-cylinder engine, I couldn't tell.
I then took out a 235. Also xDrive, it wasn't loaded on equipment, but since it's the same chassis, I get a clear sense of the car. The bigger engine is notable -- but not so much that I really cared. Yes, it's a touch faster, and yes, a touch louder, but gunning it from the line on the 228 was just as much fun as the 235, and since i live in Virginia, where if you go over 79 you're looking at possible jail time, how much engine do you need? If it's fast to accelerate, and fun in the corners, isn't that good enough?
Back to the dealership. Now here's where things get interesting for me. I didn't call this out in Fairfax, but the sales process there was just too laid back. Frankly, I didn't feel they wanted my business. I was hoping for a better experience in Sterling.
Alas, not to be the case. I laid out my parameters, giving some guidance on what I was looking for price wise. While I suspected the deal couldn't be done (and think the car I want isn't on their lot anyway, so I wouldn't be driving home with it), I was actually rather hoping he might try and close me. I was rather tempted to go home with a 228 that day -- or put money down and start the order.
He showed me the MSRP from the website, and their calculator for the lease. We all know NOBODY pays that. He then showed me the straight special from the BMW USA website. Again, that's the starting point.
I felt like I actually opened the door for him to try and close me, with the "Well, what would happen if I wanted to proceed today?", but he didn't give me anything. A "well, you would put $1K down, and we would then agree on price." Yeah, that was my lead question to try and close me, buddy.
So the lead BMW is the 228. I've been told on Facebook I should buy the 235, but frankly, I'd rather load up a 228 and enjoy that for the price difference. The 235 is nice, but the 228 has an awesome little engine and was a blast to drive. I'm not seeing what the 235 gets me.
Ideally, the car is the M Sport package, Estoril Blue Metallic, Black interior.
Features, as best I can tell (because you have to assemble the thing yourself, it seems):
- Enhanced USB and Bluetooth plus smartphone integration
- Heated front seats
- Premium Sound
- Xenon lights
- Driver Assist
- Premium Package
- Tech Package
I'm currently inclined to go with the RWD option to save money and go with the M Sport, as I don't need AWD. When it snows, I just stay home. If I'm crazy, someone speak up.
Of course, the 228 needs to pass the Sharon test -- and we have to get pricing right. But it's stuck with me so far in terms of the one I was interested enough to see if I'd get sold.
Still two other brands to look at, and it seems more BMW dealerships to talk to as well. BMW of Alexandria isn't that far, and BMW of Silver Spring isn't out of the question. Hell, I'll drive to Richmond if they want my business -- I can have it serviced locally. I've never actually had a dealer -- and in this case two -- be so casual they don't make me feel like they actually want to sell me a car. That's off putting on it's own! Wondering if I should just send them this post -- maybe someone will court me. Hey, BMW! Are you listening? I like your car! Maybe you could consider trying to sell me one!