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      06-16-2012, 02:37 PM   #1
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Car & Driver: BMW 128i vs Mazda RX-8 R3

Haven't seen this posted yet, so I'm sorry if it's a repeat. Just great that the 128i won over a more "focused" sports car.

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The least-expensive BMW, the 128i, isn’t new, either. It represents a different genre of sporty coupe altogether. It’s an upright two-door notchback with its wheels pushed out to the corners. It is, basically, a 3-series left too long on tumble dry.

And, like the RX-8, the 128i has an uncommon engine, a 3.0-liter inline-six of hybrid aluminum/magnesium construction. The specs on paper scream modesty: 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, which pushes the 0-to-60-mph time on this 3200-pound car up near six seconds. In these impatient times, that qualifies as merely “peppy.”

BMWs aren’t about the quarter-mile. Both the charm and the justification for the high price lie in the everyday delivery of excellence, from the pleasing heft of the wheel to the enchanting lightness of every other control and sensation. The 128i is a hole-jumping minx in traffic when you want it to be and a fortress of mile-eating tranquillity when you don’t.

True, we haven’t met many who think the 1-series is handsome. The ride is firm, the back seat penny ante. The 328i coupe would lease for not many more bucks a month. This BMW may be small, but driving it is a bona fide occasion. It’s our pick. What else do you need to know?
They didn't say too much about either car, but the 128i came out on top as their pick for coupe under $35k
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      06-16-2012, 05:18 PM   #2
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Cool article. I recall reading it way back.

I like that they get that the car's appeal can't be understood by just looking at the numbers. It's about how it all comes together, and the feeling you get in the driver's seat.
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      06-16-2012, 06:09 PM   #3
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If you want to ride a fun little NA 6 cylinder engined car, get the 128i. 328 is a fat boat compared to the little 1er
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      06-16-2012, 09:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garduna View Post
If you want to ride a fun little NA 6 cylinder engined car, get the 128i. 328 is a fat boat compared to the little 1er
Nothing is worse than the 328 AWD Auto loaner I got the last time I had my car in for warranty work. I wanted to run that thing up a tree.
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      06-16-2012, 10:42 PM   #5
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I can't believe the 128i is faster 0-60 AND gets better fuel mileage. But I know the RX-8 isn't about the numbers and have to admit I'm curious to wring its engine out at the limit just to see what its like. I remember seeing an episode of Top Gear with it and recall it was pretty wild in the corners too.

Anyone care to weigh in on which car would do better on a track like Laguna Seca?
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      06-17-2012, 01:02 AM   #6
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Probably the RX-8.

-Supercar-like torsional rigidity (30,000+ Nm/deg).
-Relatively low curb weight (slightly over 3k lbs).
-Very low polar moment of inertia.
-Engine not only fails to punish you for maximum RPM usage, but positively rewards you for it.
-Engine incurs much less parasitic loss than a reciprocating piston engine, particularly at high RPMs; thus, despite the low torque, it is incredibly responsive.
-More mid engine than 95% of mid engined cars-- ferraris, lambos, caymans etc. (for clarity, by "more mid engined" I mean the entirety of the engine and the trans is between the axels. This is true of almost no other cars... and none anywhere near this price point).
-More torsionally rigid than any BMW ever made except one. Absurdly more rigid than any car anywhere near it's price point.
-Forgiving to drive
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      06-17-2012, 04:03 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheSt|G View Post
Nothing is worse than the 328 AWD Auto loaner I got the last time I had my car in for warranty work. I wanted to run that thing up a tree.
LMFAO, I had the same feeling. It was simply terrible. Don't get me wrong, it is a good car for the typical family man but I've always been a more spirited driver >_>
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      06-17-2012, 07:33 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garduna View Post
LMFAO, I had the same feeling. It was simply terrible. Don't get me wrong, it is a good car for the typical family man but I've always been a more spirited driver >_>
It just felt sluggish, disconnected, heavy, slow, and worse made.
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      06-18-2012, 04:59 AM   #9
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i test drove rx-8's (well, a 2008/2009 one) before getting my 130i... it was surely a bit slower in the sprint off the line, but sorta... smoother feeling in acceleration as it screamed to 9000rpm.. too-small back seats was a letdown, and the horribly unified dash was a turn off for my stereo-side too. if it didn't sound like a cheap kitchen blender i may have considered it more highly for modifying, though >_<
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      06-18-2012, 07:17 AM   #10
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I test drove the Rx8 both before buying a used Z3 coupe and again when I bought my 128i. I came to the conclusion that while it was an interesting car, it did not give me the same feeling as the BMWs. It's not all about 0-60 times, screaming exhaust (I had no trouble at all revving the snot out of the Rx8, shifting was soft, but not bad for a ricer). It is all about what you feel every day when driving, and ultimately what happens at 80mph when you hit a telephone pole. BMWs, hands down are safe, which makes them great daily drivers. Plus they have their own, much copied style, and are good all round cars. The Rx8 with its funky doors, not so great economy and handling that was just ok, not quite what I wanted, just didn't do it for me. I am surprised Mazda has not done something new given the slow sales.
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      06-18-2012, 02:06 PM   #11
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Rather spartan review, though I like the final verdict

Wonder if the print copy is more detailed/comprehensive.
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      06-18-2012, 08:05 PM   #12
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2009 135i  [3.25]
My previous car was an RX-8. I had to spend thousands on suspension upgrades to make my 135i as much fun to drive. RX-8 has great steering, great shifter, excellent brakes, comfortable seats, excellent sound system, and amazing handling. Downsides compared to 128i are poor vision out the sides, whiny exhaust note, lots of road noise, and pita dipstick location.
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      06-21-2012, 05:23 AM   #13
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2009 128i  [3.48]
It's funny because it came down to these two cars before I choose the 128i
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      06-21-2012, 06:38 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by derekL
It's funny because it came down to these two cars before I choose the 128i
Mine also included 350z and golf r32 lol
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      06-22-2012, 03:47 AM   #15
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2009 128i  [3.48]
ahhh yesss and the r32
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      06-24-2012, 07:53 PM   #16
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The M-seats sold me; I never get tired in them.
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      06-24-2012, 10:15 PM   #17
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I still regret not getting a manual : (.

Anyone have weird shifts from 1st to second or second to first in automatic 128i? It feels different then the other gears
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      05-01-2014, 05:38 AM   #18
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Just saw this post. My previous enthusiast car before the 128i was an RX-8. It was a fabulous car. Fantastically revvy and smooth engine, more torque than you'd think, supremely balanced, fun handling - Miata-like but with a lot more power, and a surprising amount of usability and utility. Very well executed; there wasn't anything to do to car to make it better, unless one would want more power. If the car had delivered with the originally announced 250HP it would have been a greater sales success and garnered even more love, IMHO.

My only complaints would be a slight lack of steering feel due to its electric steering (though surprisingly good, just not as good as BMW or Porsche hydraulic steering of the same and earlier eras), and an issue I've never heard from other RX-8 owners or reviewers: the cabin gets too hot due to exhaust routing - I had to run the AC even when outside temps were in the low 60's if I wanted to drive with the windows up. Everything else I've owned would stay cool inside with windows up when outside temps were in the low 70's and 60's without using AC.

I had an '83 RX-7 GLS-SE many years ago and for the rotary lover the RX-8 was nirvana. Don't worry about the modest low end torque - keep that engine spinning - it loves to rev and feels "happy" and unstressed all the way up to redline. Running mountain twisties with its tossability and free revving engine was sublime; you could hang the tail out forever, keeping the engine turning from 5000-9000rpm the whole time, an angry hornets nest sound adding to the experience.

A great car. The RX-8, like the Miata, was never about raw performance numbers; it was about having fun, and Mazda does this as well as anyone, in my opinion. Mazda uses a trick on its sports cars that is neglected by other manufacturers, Toyobaru BRZ/FR-S excepted; don't put too much tire on the car! Less tire is more fun on the street - you can get the car sliding around at lower, safer speeds.

My RX-8 got hit in the left rear quarter by a drunk guy and sustained about $8k in damage (luckily no damage to me - I saw the parking lot T-Bone just before it happened and accelerated, getting hit at the left rear corner and not in the door.

I got the car fixed but never felt "safe" with all of that rebuilding. Along with my daughter being born and work needs I guilted out and bought a minivan to haul family and work equipment. It was a great decision in the end as I got the Odyssey paid off (these are actually great driving vehicles for what they are) and came back to BMW last year. I've never had a DD/family/work car and a "play" car before - it's really the best of both worlds.

I love my 128i - inline sixes are my favorite engines, their soundtrack is glorious and multi-dimensional - but I'm still trying to make it to handle like my RX-8. I'm getting there by going "square", M3 front arms, aggressive alignment, and likely a few more changes... it's far more fun than it was from the factory.
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      05-01-2014, 07:56 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2tonik View Post
I love my 128i - inline sixes are my favorite engines, their soundtrack is glorious and multi-dimensional - but I'm still trying to make it to handle like my RX-8. I'm getting there by going "square", M3 front arms, aggressive alignment, and likely a few more changes... it's far more fun than it was from the factory.
Add struts and subframe bushings to that list.
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      05-01-2014, 05:15 PM   #20
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Rotary engines have apex seal issues, they are very tempermental in cold weather (plugs and lubrication). Oil change intervals are very short and gas efficiency is very poor. If they did a turboed rwd 4 cylinder I think the car would have had a longer model life.

With that said the chasis and suspension is very solid.
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      05-01-2014, 05:49 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2tonik View Post
I love my 128i - inline sixes are my favorite engines, their soundtrack is glorious and multi-dimensional - but I'm still trying to make it to handle like my RX-8. I'm getting there by going "square", M3 front arms, aggressive alignment, and likely a few more changes... it's far more fun than it was from the factory.
I'm running DA Suspension and while I never owned a RX8, it out handles my Z4M
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      05-01-2014, 06:05 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2tonik View Post
- but I'm still trying to make it to handle like my RX-8. I'm getting there by going "square", M3 front arms, aggressive alignment, and likely a few more changes... it's far more fun than it was from the factory.
Good luck with that! I've been working towards getting my 135i convert to be more like my road course prepped S2000.

Camber plates, DA coilovers, M3 arms F&R, big wheels & tires, and rear subframe bushings, and aggressive street alignment did alot. Now if it could just loose 800lbs
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