2019 BMW 330i
It is what it is
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- 22 May 2019
By James Park
People evolve and so do things. We’ve all witnessed Arnold the bodybuilder transform into an unlikely movie star and then even more remarkably into the ‘Governator.’
Like it or not, people tend to change and find different purposes throughout the stages of their lives.
Similarly, recent iterations of the iconic 3-Series cannot and should not exactly be the same vehicle that mesmerized the enthusiasts with poise and dexterity when it debuted as the 2002 some forty-five years ago.
Yes, the 3 had been put on that lofty pedestal as the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine.’ Then again, Eric Clapton was also hyped as ‘God’ until Jimi Hendrix showed up.
The 3 may no longer be the quintessential sports sedan the eager auto journalists lineup to test-drive. But as an entry-level luxury compact sedan that doles out power, technology, sophistication, safety and yes, agility in equitable measures, the 3-Series still shines brightly.
This admittedly meandering path brings us to the all new, seventh-generation model that has grown bigger in every dimension compared to the sixth-gen. For now, we only have the 330i, the base model. It is, however, available with AWD. The more powerful M340i will arrive soon (if it hasn’t already) and the plug-in hybrid 330e is slated to come ashore early next year. The diesel version would probably stay outside of North America.
As for exterior styling, German manufacturers do not seem to go for drastic changes. From a distance, the new 330i does not appear all that different from the model it replaces. Move in closer to confirm the enlarged kidney grills, as well as the difference in the headlight design. Notice also the new location and the shape of fog-lights.
From the rear, however, the car appears to have more than a passing resemblance to the Lexus IS. Could it be the result of BMW’s recent cooperative efforts with Toyota? On the whole, though, the 3 is a handsome car that looks more mature than before.
Whatever the case, available since March of this year, the 330i gets its motivation from the 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinders that kick out maximum 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of healthy twist, respectively 7 and 37 more than before. The engine mates to an eight-speed automatic. Sadly but unsurprisingly, manual transmission is no longer available.
For its purpose, the 330i displays more than adequate power. According to BMW, this four-door sedan scoots to 100 kph in just 5.6 seconds. As well, the motor remains relatively quiet in Comfort. Switch to Sport and the engine sound becomes little more raucous. Knowing BMW, this writer suspects some of it may be piped in.
No doubt, the electric power steering introduced with the six-gen model garnered much criticism and contributed to the 3 being dragged off from the pinnacle. The new car recovers much of the old steering feel and communicativeness back.
Equipped with optional adaptive suspension, the car also shows more confidence going into fast corners than before. Overall, it is better handling and more fun-to-drive car than before.
This writer would wait until sampling the six-cylinder version before delivering the final verdict. But as for the 330i, it does not seem to get its handling mojo all the way back.
But that’s okay. I seriously doubt if more than ninety percent of today’s 3-Series owners would really care if their cars could go around the Nurburgring faster than a GTI or whatever. They probably care more about being able to purchase a premium German brand that gives them some bragging rights. Many enthusiasts may look on with chagrin at this reality but let’s face it: the 3 has evolved from the quintessential sports sedan into something different.
Make no mistake; it is still an agile vehicle, but that’s just a bonus. Step into the cabin to find luxury touches all over. The leather surfaces are soft to touch; buttons and switch gear gives off that premium tactile feel and the fit and finish gives you the satisfaction of money well spent.
The new 3 also introduces fancier infotainment system with the screen controlled not only by the command dial but also by touch. The voice prompt also works relatively well. You can activate it by saying “hey, BMW” and tell it what you want it to do. If you say “I’m cold,” it’ll turn up the heat and so on. But ask something like “what do you think of the new Mercedes A-Class?” and it’ll pretend not to understand you.
The 330i starts from $49,000 before taxes and other fees. However, German manufacturers have this annoying habit of not offering a long list of standard equipments. So tick the boxes for many of the preferred options and the price can go up pretty fast.
The test-vehicle offered to this writer comes with $8,900 ‘Premium Excellent Package’ that includes remote engine start, heated steering wheel, front and rear heated seats, traffic jam assist, driving assistant, head-up display, Sirius XM, Harman/Kardon audio and so on.
M Sport Package also adds variable steering with paddle-shifters, aerodynamic package, adaptive suspension, etc. pushing the final price over the $60,000 threshold.
For this kind of money, this writer would consider purchasing the more powerful and better handling Genesis G70 with 3.3 litre twin-turbo V6 for $57,000.
Then again, there are lots of people out there who’d be willing to fork over the necessary amount of coins for that BMW prestige. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2019 BMW 330i xDrive Sedan
As tested: $60,500
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo four
Power: 255 hp/295 lb-ft
Transmission: 8 spd auto
Drive: rear-biased AWD
Fuel: 10.2 litres per 100km (city), 7.2 litres (highway)
Best: better handling than model it replaces
Worst: no longer the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’
Competition: Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Genesis G70
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