After originally owning a normal 328i coupe and regrettably selling, I couldn't wait to find a good 328i Sport.
Having placed my 99 306 GTi6 up for a part exchange on a website, I almost instantly had a call for a straight swap on a 96 genuine 328i sport, completely standard with 151000 miles on the clock! I was a bit dubious about this offer, but still drove 180 miles to view it.
On first impressions, the bodywork was pretty rough in places, but mechanically A1. The reason for the sale was the young chap who owned it couldn't afford to run/maintain it! So away I drove with a huge smile on my face with a car considerably more valuable than the 306 GTi6 I straight swapped it with! What a deal.
I have had no trouble with the car, and have also traced all the history and found the engine was replaced by BMW due to the nickasil issue, and had only done 83000 (look into the nickasil issue if you are buying a 328i).
The bodywork can easily be sorted out for around £500. Overall though, if you want a true M3 alternative get a genuine 328i Sport. When I say genuine, it will definitely have a black headlining, BMW sports seats with the pop out leg cushion at the front, a LSD, a thicker steering wheel, full M body kit, 17 inch BBS split rims and Bilstien suspension (look under the car it will have yellow struts). If the Sport you have gone to look at doesn't have these things, walk away as 80% for sale are Sport/M3 replicas and the sellers know it. It will also say 328i Sport on the logbook, no exceptions!
Overall, if you are thinking of a 328i, get a Sport - the handling is so much more responsive than the stock 328i, which is a straight line cruiser. The 328i Sport is most at home on twisty fast roads, it has no body roll to mention, and goes when you point it. It's also easy to use every day as a cruiser, and you should be getting 30mpg.
The acceleration figures for the Sport were never published; the ones with LSD accelerate the fastest, and it is set up for launch control as standard. I have had this timed at 6.1 to 60 on proper timing equipment, compared to the 6.9 I managed in the stock 328i, and it will hit 153mph on a private road. So half a second faster than a e36 M3, and 2 mph of the top speed and about a £1000 a year cheaper on the insurance for me!
So all in a truly awesome car that I will be restoring and keeping for a long long time.