BMW 330i carrying on the legacy
Hands down, my favourite BMW of all time is the 1988 E30, which was a star in the midsize sedan market. Its boxy exterior, painted in cherry red, was an eye candy for auto enthusiasts, and as such, the model went on to become a cult classic. The brand has constantly been trying to top itself, in this category, with a few misses along the way, while still remaining BMW’s best-selling model.
Production for the 3 Series started in 1975, with the E21, that had a bonnet which opened in a reverse manner and was a headache for a lot of mechanics to manoeuvre. Many opted to remove the bonnet entirely, when doing maintenance work. Nonetheless, drivers loved how quick and nimble the car was, with dimensions of about 14 feet long and 5 feet wide, while having an average kerb weight of 2400 lb.
Now in its seventh generation, it has stretched to 15 feet long and 6 feet wide, with a much heavier weight of 3,686 lb. My test unit was the 330i with the M Sport exterior to give it an edgy appearance.
The overall shape looks very muscular and aggressive, as there are two prominent character lines on the bonnet and a more narrow front fascia, designed for speed. The look is definitely an upgrade from the previous model, rather than a redesign.
One thing that has always stood the test of time with the 3 Series is the driving experience, and the 330i doesn’t disappoint. The 2-litre engine is extremely quiet and at points I felt as though I was driving an electric car. They definitely used a lot of sound absorption material to smooth out all vibrations and noise.
Before I could move off, I had to find the right seating position, and German cars will always give as many options as possible. The steering can be adjusted for height and reach and the seat, which is well stitched and padded, has a thigh extender along with the regular options. To save myself from doing this all over again, I used the seat memory option, so the car could remember my preference.
The start button is on the centre console, right next to the gear lever, where the driving modes are also located. These options are: Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro and Auto. Because of how congested the road was, I opted for Eco Pro.
The first thing I noticed was how the steering had a nice weight to it, as it uses a rack and pinion ensemble with electric assistance. Then there was the smoothness of the 8-speed transmission, which felt like a CVT at times. Being in Eco Pro mode, the engine is not pressured, as the RPM remains low at all cost.
However, once I was on the highway, I switched to Sport and that’s when the turbo got excited, as it came on fast and convincingly. It’s easy to feel the 255 hp, as it moves from 0-100 km/h in six seconds. It being a sedan also helps greatly with the overall performance, as it sits lower to the ground. So I felt comfortable weaving in and out of traffic. My main gripe is with the turning radius, which requires a three-point-turn for too many scenarios.
The interior keeps up to BMW standards, with leather throughout and a thorough IDrive infotainment system that comes with a learning curve. Navigating it on the 10-inch screen isn’t hard; however, there are a lot of layers for each option.
There is a USB port in the centre console and a USB-type C port in the armrest, which is a logical move, given most phones now have this. What surprised me was the standard sunroof, as German automakers usually nickel and dime drivers out of everything. The same can be said about the Standard digital instrument cluster.
The 3 Series is still one of the best designed vehicles, with its power-to-weight ratio and overall ride quality. It will definitely give a distinguishable driving experience from its competitions. The question is, will that be enough to convert the Mercedes-Benz and Audi loyalists?