Ultimate BMW F30 Buyer’s Guide: Reliability & Performance
Zach is a BMW enthusiast with a passion for performance. With over 10 years of experience modifying and performing DIY work on BMWs, he’s developed a deep understanding of virtually every BMW engine. He’s also the proud owner of a 600whp N54 with upgraded twin turbos and an E30 325i drift car and has a particular affinity for the S58 engine. Zach is highly knowledgeable about all things BMW, but his expertise in tuning and performance mods sets him apart. His experience as an enthusiast, combined with his technical knowledge, makes him an essential resource for anyone looking to improve the performance of their BMW.
BMW’s F30 generation includes the F30, F31, and F34 produced from 2011 to 2019. Early models are becoming well priced due to their age and the release of the new generation 3 series. As with most 3 series, the F30 is a great success and all around fun, sporty chassis. Notably, the F30 generation was the first 3 series to ditch coupes as they receive the 4 series badge. In this article, we’ll examine the various F30 models and the performance, reliability, and driving experience of each.
BMW F30 3 Series Overview
Again, the F30 generation includes a few different chassis codes. We will mostly refer to them as F30. However, the breakdown of specific chassis codes is as follows:
F30 BMW – Sedan
F31 BMW – Touring/Wagon
F34 BMW – Gran Turismo (GT)
There’s also the F35, which is a long wheel base version of the F30 sedan. However, we won’t cover the F35 since we’re focusing on US models in this post and the F35 was produced for the Chinese market. That said, we’ll discuss the following F30 models in this post:
Also note we’re skipping over the M3 in this post. It sits upon the F80 chassis, which is a bit of a new direction. The M3 previous shared the same chassis as the standard 3-series. However, starting with the F generation BMW designed a new chassis for M cars. We wrote a separate post dedicated to the M3 generations here.
F30 Background Info
The F30 generation delivered a fatal blow for fans of naturally aspirated engines. It marked the complete turn to BMW’s new direction. If you’re looking for an F30 BMW then you’re stuck with turbocharged engines. It’s a bad thing in the opinion of some, but we don’t have an issue with the change. Currently, it seems turbocharging may be the final hope for gasoline powered engines. Fortunately, we believe BMW is building some of the best turbo engines in the world. You also have quite a few engine selections in the F30 generation.
BMW F30 Engines
- N20 2.0L inline 4
- B48 2.0L inline 4
- N55 3.0L inline 6
- B58 3.0L inline 6
First, BMW’s beloved inline 6 engines remain. The N55 is featured in 335i models for the F30 generation and late E90 335i models. In 2016, BMW switched to the modular B58 engine and badged it the 340i. A similar trend occurred with the N20 and B48 4 cylinder engines. The N20 powers 328i models while the 330i receives the modular B48 engine. The 320i badge remains and carries the N20 and B48 depending on year. Don’t worry – we’ll circle back to all of these engines and discuss them in-depth as they’re the primary differences in the F30 BMW’s.
BMW F30 Handling
We hate to do it, but unfortunately it must be done. What, you ask? It’s time to knock the F30 generation. Let’s start with the good part, though. In general – compared to the previous E90 generation – the F30 chassis handles better overall. If you simply look at the numbers on paper the F30 is better. It’s also better in the real world.
However, and this is a big however. In our opinion, the F30 handling and steering feels dead compared to the E90. As with the industry wide trend towards turbo engines, there is a trend towards electronic steering. Somehow it’s emissions related. We’re not engineers; we don’t really know why electronic steering helps emissions. However, we do know the F30 doesn’t feel as exciting. BMW’s power steering is excellent and provides impeccable steering feel. You get a sense of what the car is about to do, and you have time to react accordingly. The BMW F30 electric steering seems to tell you what just happened. It’s simply less exciting, in our opinion.
Many have dubbed the 3 series as an industry benchmark for decades. Something every other car manufacturer wants to achieve in their own sporty models. And something those manufacturers never seemed to one up, let alone even catch the 3 series. However, the gap is closer than ever with the F30. We believe the electronic steering is largely to blame.
BMW F30 Models – Which Is the Best For You?
Below we’ll dive into the BMW F30 models we mentioned earlier. Again, we will primarily focus on engines since that’s likely one of the biggest deciding factors in which F30 is best for you. There are minor differences outside of just the engines. However, most of the F30 generations shares a similar interior, exterior, etc. The newer 330i and 340i models with the modular B-series engines did however receive a face-lift (referred to as LCI).
1) BMW F30 320i
The F30 320i is BMW’s entry level 3 series. Earlier models through 2015 receive the N20 engine while later models receive the updated B48 engine. However, the 320i uses de-tuned versions of each engine. Both also share the same 180 horsepower. The B48 320i, however, produces 214 torque as compared to 200 torque from the N20. However, a tune is able to boost the 320i power and torque to similar numbers of the 328i and 330i. The 320i does use slightly different pistons and a smaller exhaust. Though they’re still capable engines that can achieve nearly 300 horsepower with a tune and simple bolt-ons.
Overall, expect the 320i to be a fun, sporty car. As compared to the 335i and 340i with the larger 6 cylinder engine the 320i carries less weight. Most importantly, a lot of that weight is saved over the front axle. This helps make the F30 320i a well balanced, nimble car. The low stock power figures may subtract from the experience, but the N20 and B48 are torque happy engines that perform well on the lower-end and mid-range. Of course, you can opt for a tune and bolt-ons and turn the 320i into a completely different experience.
*We will go further into the N20 and B48 engines below in the 328i and 330i sections.
2) BMW 328i F30
The F30 328i was produced from 2011-2015 and features the 2.0L single turbo N20 engine. With 240hp and 260tq from the factory it’s no slouch for a small 4 cylinder engine. The small engine also helps with a respectable 23mpg in the city and 35mpg on the highway. However, those who use the power frequently will likely return less appealing results in the real world.
As with the 320i, the 328i is a fairly light car coming in around 3,400 lbs in RWD configuration. It might not sound like a light car, however it’s a respectable weight in a world where cars are getting bigger and bigger. Expect the 328i to be a fun, nimble car with plenty of power and torque for moderate enthusiasts.
BMW 328i Reliability
Overall, the N20 powered 328i is a pretty reliable engine. Earlier models suffered issues with timing chains, which were re-designed and fixed in later models. Otherwise, expect the common BMW oil leaks like valve cover gaskets and oil filter housing gaskets. These issues typically pop up around 100,000 miles, which may be right in the ballpark of many older F30 328i’s on the market. For more information on reliability check out our post about common N20 problems.
328i Tuning & Mods
With a tune and basic bolt-ons the 328i is capable of achieving 300+ horsepower and torque. A few popular bolt-ons for the 328i include tunes, downpipes, intakes, and intercoolers. With the right tune you can also mix in some E85 fuel for even more impressive results. Some also opt for meth injection on the 328i. However, there are some concerns with N20 328i longevity when pushing things too far. It’s best suited to peak boost of about 22psi and power up to 350hp. Some are known to begin having internal issues when pushed further.
How much power can the 328i N20 handle?
350hp 328i for less than $1500
3) BMW 330i F30
BMW’s F30 330i replaced the 328i from 2016 to 2019. Notably, the 330i receives a minor face-lift (LCI) and features the new B48 2.0L single turbo engine. It puts out numbers similar to the outgoing 328i N20. Power comes in at 248 and torque sees a tiny drop to 258. 0-60 also drops to 5.4 seconds which is down a few ticks from the 328i.
Weight and handling are all around similar to the N20 powered 328i. They’re both nimble cars that keep a bit of weight off the front axle compared to the larger turbo inline 6’s coming up next on the list.
F30 330i Reliability
The 330i and B48 are still fairly new engines. Many are still under warranty, so reliability is tough to discuss with confidence. However, in the early days of the B48 and 330i they seem to be solid engines. We’re not aware of any significant problems that affect a large number of cars. Though, we suspect they will suffer some basic common BMW problems down the road. This may include oil leaks from gaskets, electrical issues, etc. We’ll link to a post below where we wrote about the reliability a bit. However, fair warning, it’s also a big vague.
F30 330i Tuning & Mods
The BMW F30 330i is also a very tuning and mod friendly platform with respectable gains to be had. A tune and basic bolt-ons can push the B48 powered 330i into the 300+ horsepower and torque ballpark. The B48 is also a stronger engine on paper as compared to the previous generation N20. It’s got a closed-deck block which is excellent for strength. Again, the 330i is still a rather new car with a new engine. Many are under warranty so not too many are modded and tuned yet. Time will tell how well the B48 holds up with mods. Though, it’s safe to assume it will hold up at least in the low 300 horsepower range.
BMW B48 330i 300whp for under $1,500
4) BMW F30 335i
The F30 335i began rolling out in 2012 in the United States and remained throughout 2015. 2012 335i models were also produced on the E90 chassis so there was a bit of overlap. It features the 3.0L single turbo N55 engine that manages 300hp and 300tq from the factory.
The 335i model does however come in at 3560+ lbs in RWD form. It’s a pick up of about 150 pounds as compared to the 328i and 330i. Additionally, a lot of the extra weight lies over the front axle due to the larger engine. It’s still an excellent handling car but the added weight makes it ever so slightly less nimble. However, the 300hp and torque allows for plenty of acceleration out of corners.
BMW 335i Reliability
A lot of people have heard of disastrous stories about the older N54 powered 335i’s and their reliability. The N55 335i took a slight step back in the performance department in favor of greater reliability. It was definitely a success in improving reliability. However, the BMW F30 with the N55 still suffers quite a few common problems. VANOS solenoids, valve cover gaskets, oil filter housing gaskets, and water pumps should basically be considered standard maintenance. Many of these issues pop up around 100,000 miles. In general, expect F30 335i models to be pricier to maintain and repair when compared to the 320i, 328i, and 330i.
F30 335i Tuning & Mods
As we stated, when compared to the N54 the N55 took a bit of a step back. They both make 300hp and torque from the factory. However, when it comes to mods the N55 isn’t quite as potent. That’s not to say they’re at all bad. N55’s are capable of making roughly 400whp and 450wtq with a tune and bolt-ons. There is a catch, though. The F30 335i went through a design change in late 2013 to use electronic waste-gate (EWG) control rather than pneumatic waste-gate (PWG) control. Check out the linked post for additional information. EWG models are generally more capable than the PWG on stock turbos. However, the less capable PWG models can still make 375+whp and 450wtq. Nothing to be ashamed of.
5) BMW 340i F30
As the F30 330i replaced the 328i, the 340i also replaced the 335i in the same year. The F30 340i is powered by BMW’s modular B58 3.0L single turbo engine. Fortunately, BMW’s famous inline-6 engines live on through the generational and engine changes. The B58 sees a bump up to 320hp and 330tq. Automatic versions also come with a ZF 8-speed transmission. The automatic RWD 340i is capable of reaching 0-60 in a mere 4.4 seconds.
As with the 335i, the 340i comes in a bit heavier. Weight is similar to the 335i at 3,555 lbs. Again, compared to the 4-cylinder engines a lot of the extra weight sits up front. However, the F30 340i is no slouch when it comes to handling. It’s an all around fun car with plenty of power and torque for most. Those who want more will find the B58 340i is very receptive to mods.
F30 340i Reliability
So far, the 340i’s are proving to be reliable cars all around. Of course, when we say reliable we’re making that comparison to other modern BMW’s. A 340i is still a mid-range performance car so higher maintenance and repair costs should be expected. It’s no Toyota. However, the B58 powered 340i appears to be an excellent improvement over the N54 and N55. It’s still early so time will tell if common problems pop up down the road.
340i Tuning & Mods
When it came to tuning and modding we suspected the B58 would be an improvement over the N55. However, what we didn’t fully expect was for it to be just as capable as the older, twin turbo N54. As with the B48 330i, the 340i is still a fairly new car with few off warranty. The aftermarket development should only improve further as more owners look to mod their 340i’s. That said, even in it’s short career the B58 is already proving to be an excellent engine that’s very mod happy. A few have already neared or eclipsed 500whp on the stock turbo. Even with a conservative tune only the B58 340i is capable of nearly 400whp. Add a few bolt-ons and some better fueling and 425-450whp is a realistic goal.
F30 Buyer’s Guide Summary
The BMW F30 generation 3-series offers quite a few different models and a handful of engines for you to choose from. As the F30’s are aging they’re also becoming well priced and within reach for many potential owners. We don’t love the electronic steering when compared to the previous E90 generation power steering. However, the BMW F30 still handle better on paper and in the real world.
For most, the ultimate deciding factors likely come down to a balance of price, reliability, performance, and tuning capabilities. The lighter 320i, 328i, and 330i feel a bit more nimble around corners. All engines are capable with the 4-cylinder options eclipsing 300hp with tunes and basic mods. On the other hand, the larger inline 6 powered 335i and 340i can be tuned to 400+whp. Those who value power and all around performance will likely find joy in the 335i or 340i F30’s. However, modest enthusiasts less concerned with power will find plenty of joy in the 4-cylinder 320i, 328i, and 330i.
What’s your favorite BMW F30? Drop a comment and let us know.
320d b47 engine sound nice for diesel car its relaible and its easy to tune