BMW 330i is a lot of car for the money

BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (8)

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BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (7)BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (9)

Likes: Loaded with standard features, precise drive feel, well designed interior

Dislikes: Still a long list of options

Each new model raises the bar. Like the other prestige German car makers, BMW has given their range a corporate look so the 3, 5 and 7 series has a common look both inside and out. Even the magnificent i8 has that familiar interior.

The look is crisp, clean and elegant and continues the theme of the last decade in a steady linear progression. The headlights feature the rings and lines that have become a byword for cutting edge. The trick now seems to be finding new and unusual ways to use them. A close inspection of the cluster reveals something looking like a miniature Sci-Fi movie set. Each car maker is trying to outdo the other so who knows what we will have next year. The tail lights are LED too but are far less daring with red outlines traced through the lens giving a slightly neon sign affect.

BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (14)BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (12)

BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (13)BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (11)

Even with the M pack, the exterior feels conservative enough to appeal to a wide cross section of buyers. I wondered if the boat mightn’t have been pushed out a little more.

BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (4)Inside the story continues with smart entry/start allowing you to secrete the key about your person for use only in emergencies. The cabin is a modern take on a Bauhaus art gallery. Everything has a purpose and is thoughtfully placed to be both useful and attractive. The eye for detail sees precise stitching and panel fit that gives an impression of carefully considered luxury. Most people know that some of what appears to be leather, wood or metal is actually man made. You have to touch the metalised plastic to check if it real or simulated, but the leather is indistinguishable from its manmade sister.

The tablet style LCD monitor looks as if it has just risen from the dash leaving plenty of real estate below for other functions. The asymmetrical centre console has a high edge on the passenger’s side suggesting a cockpit very firmly aimed at the driver. The I-drive dial and other switches are proudly displayed gallery-style further emphasizing that Bauhaus ethos. I’m slightly surprised to see conventional dials conveying speed and other info to the driver. I’d expect a single LCD which could be tailored to an individual owner’s preferences via menu options.

The control/info zones are clearly laid out with I-drive, gear selection, driving mode options, climate control and entertainment as you move along and up the console and centre stack. There are auxiliary controls on the steering wheel which are handy if you want to change radio stations but the tablet is in Satnav mode. Pressing those buttons brings up the radio station detail in the HUD (heads up display) where you can flip through the station menu. Even so, I’d like to see 6 or 8 direct select buttons on the dash. It’s a bit old fashioned but whenever I drive a car that has those buttons, I find the radio much easier to use.

BMW has put a lot of thought into the reversing camera. It has modes for reversing, side view, and top down 360° which is nifty for tight spots. Mr. DeMille would be proud with every close-up being a good look. The automated parking uses the all-round sensors to steer the car into parking spots, often better than a human can. Watching on the camera can be unnerving as the tolerances seem much finer than an experienced driver could manage. Eventually you learn to trust it like a proud dad finally acquiescing to his favourite son driving him to the pub for the first time. You get to like it, and eventually you depend on it. The same goes for the other driver aids. The forward collision is a particular favourite especially with active emergency braking.

While the only 340i gets smart cruise control with queue assist, our 330i will still brake to maintain speed downhill but relies on the driver keep a safe distance from the car in front.

BMW no longer uses the nomenclatures to denote what’s under the bonnet. The 381i gets a 1.5L 3 cylinder turbo, there is a 2.0L turbo in the 320i and 330i, and a 3.0L turbo in the 340i. The 320d gets a 2L diese,l so the numbers are merely trim levels. The engine capacities change with the wind. Next year you might find a 1.8 twin turbo 4cylinder petrol in the 340i and a 1.0L in the 318i you just never know.

Although power/torque is down on the previous 3.0L naturally aspirated straight 6, the twin turbo 2.0L is 0.3 seconds faster with a 0-100 time of 5.8 seconds. That’s progress for you. Despite this faster time, the 4 cylinder lacks the sparkle and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it is more the resistance to change of the driver than the ability of the car, or maybe it is the slight turbo-hesitation that comes from turbo 4’s.

BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (10)The drive is as you’d expect it to be. The steering is electric which allows for the auto parking function. It has plenty of feel and the brakes have just the right amount of grip. The 8 speed auto is superb even in sport mode. It discretely searches for exactly the right gear to get the most economical performance while still managing that 5.8 second 0-100 mentioned earlier. If you press the “P” button, the gear lever will slip across the normal mode position as it goes into park. It is the thought little touches that make the difference.

The user interface for the infotainment system is via I-Drive. The I-drive controller does most of the hard work because the LCD isn’t a touch screen. You can use voice control instead but it takes a little getting used to get the most out of it. It became easier with practice, and doing things like entering Satnav directions was a doddle. This can also be done using the rotary dial to select letters, or you can simply sketch each letter on the top of the controller which works like a scratch pad. It functions beautifully but you have to be patient when writing with your left hand, something I’m not known for.

A large part of owning a BMW is the way it makes you feel whether you’re behind the wheel or admiring it from a discrete distance. The 330i is quick but not neck-snappingly so. It is very comfortable and looks great. Guests pass generous comments even though the rear accommodation can be snug for the taller passengers. For me, the true test is whether or not I could imagine myself traversing the state in a single bound, and yes I could imagine doing that. The engine note sounded reminiscent of a small throbby V8, and I really got to love it. It added to the pleasure of having the windows down while driving leisurely down those country lanes I’m so fond of.

We took the chance to take the Kangaroo Valley route from Bowral to the coast and for a change there wasn’t a truck in sight. The sporting pedigree is in hiding most of the time but comes out to play the second things get challenging. You’re tempted to throw the BMW into tight corners just because you can. It is very forgiving with a dab of brake mid corner to avoid an animal hardly upsetting the stance. The safety suite takes care of any minor mistakes insuring a noticeable air of security.

BMW 3 Series range vehicles gqaycarboys overseas model shown (16)

The M pack adds pretty skirts and some badges and other bits and bobs all of which adds a certain verisimilitude. The 340i would be my choice despite the fact that the 330i figures say that it is quicker than it feels.

The industry is moving towards smaller more efficient less thirsty engines. Hybrids and diesels, as well as smaller petrol engines, are the norm because of the high price of fuel. There is little trade-off to be made because the power and torque from a modern 4pot is usually more than an old straight 6. The only problem is even with a twin blower, there is still that tiniest bit of lag where nothing much happens, then BOOSH you’re away in a flurry of dust.

Conclusion: The BMW 330i is quiet, comfortable and classy. It is also reasonably powerful, reasonably economical and very easy to drive. BMW has cunningly added loads of standard while still being able to have an enormous list options. You could add many thousands for those who want to personalize their car and have deep enough pockets.

The pick of the range would be the 6 cylinder range topper, and of course anything with an M badge.

Would I buy one? Yes

MODELS. Model code

MRLP*

incl. GST incl. LCT

Trans

Cyl/Cap

cm3

Power / Torque

Combined fuel consumption

l/100km

Acceleration

0-100km/h

Petrol Models

318i

$54,900

8-speed automatic

3-cylinder

1,499

100kW

220Nm

5.4

9.1 sec

320i

$61,900

8-speed sport automatic

4-cylinder

1,998

135 kW

270 Nm

5.8

7.3 sec

330i

$69,900

8-speed sport automatic

4-cylinder

1,998

185 kW

350 Nm

5.8

5.8 sec

340i

$89,900

8-speed sport automatic

6-cylinder

2,998

240 kW

450 Nm

6.8

5.1 sec

Diesel Models

320d

$63,800

8-speed sport automatic

4-cylinder

1,995

140 kW

400 Nm

4.4

7.2 sec

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