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2013 Detroit Auto Show: Sure the BMW 320i is cheap German luxury, but what is it missing?

German cars have been getting more and more expensive, it would seem. It makes sense, as sad as it is. If you’re selling a lot of something, keep raising the price until people react. It’s basic economics: supply and demand.

German automakers must realize they’re pricing themselves out of some potential sales, however, because they keep offering new entry-level models. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, will sell its new 2014 CLA for around $30,000.

Now BMW has follow suit. At the Detroit Auto Show, BMW unveiled the new entry-level 3 Series: the 320i, which is the last model to hit Stateside from the new 3 Series lineup. Internationally the 320i is powered by either a turbocharged 1.5-liter or a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline engine. Here in the states, however, we will only receive the 2.0-liter mill.

The Americanized 320i with the 2.0-liter will produce 180 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. If we’re honest, that’s not really much. The new Ford turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine produces 240 horses and 270 pound-feet. In terms of acceleration, the 320i will hit 60 from a standstill in 7.1 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph.

The new 320i gets even more curious when you hear about its fuel economy ratings. With the eight-speed automatic, the 320i will achieve 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, which is exactly the same as the 328i with the eight-speed. But wait, it gets worse. Those 320i fuel economy scores are lower still than the 328i with the manual transmission.

After learning all of that, what might entice someone into the new 320i? Well how about getting the outward appearance of bespoke German luxury without having to pay the price? The 320i will start at $33,445 (not including the $895 destination charge).

We know who will buy the 320i: the person who doesn’t care about power of fuel economy but who simply wants a 3 Series and can’t afford to pay much more than $35,000 for one. This kind of buyer might be onto something, though. How many people really look for the badging when they see a German car pull up? All you really see is someone confidently rolling out of a 3 Series. You don’t think about how little they paid or how puny on power their German luxury sedan might be.

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