Do you pay for just a name when buying a luxury car? Lets find out.
It can be said that the 330i is a model that is often forgotten because of the astonishing success of the 335i. Its the last 3.0 litre naturally aspirated straight six engine to bless the 3 series and its very likely we will not see any more naturally aspirated engines in the BMW lineup in this era of forced induction engines.
Starting at $105,000 on road this is not the most affordable car therefore it must live up to its asking price. As a second hand choice it represents great value with current asking prices of $20-25k.
Standard equipment include bi-xenon headlights, satellite navigation, 10 speaker stereo, 17 inch alloy wheels, electric seats for driver and passenger with memory, 6 airbags, dynamic stability control, front & rear parking sensors.
This particular vehicle is fitted with plenty of expensive options ; BMW Individual Paint & Interior, comfort access keyless access + start, Logic 7 Premium 13 speaker sound system, sunroof, professional wide screen navigation, 6 stack CD and Ipod connectivity, digital TV tuner, M suspension 18 inch alloy wheels.
On the road it is firm but stable with some discomfort felt over larger potholes. We can thank the runflat tyres for this. The suspension can get noisy when its cold and gives the impression that there are some worn bushings. The noise disappears after driving for a few minutes or when the weather warms up.
Its on winding mountain roads where the BMW really shows off its engineering. The M sport suspension keeps the car flat through corners even at high speeds, with plenty of feedback through the chunky sports steering wheel. At low speeds the steering feels heavy which requires significant effort when parking. The benefits are realised at higher speeds where the steering is beautifully weighted and makes the driver feel in complete control. The steering response is very quick which has been further improved by the Michelin PS2 tyres fitted to the test car.
For a car weighing less than 1,500kg the engine outputs of 190kw and 300NM are impressive. The engine delivers plenty of performance that can certainly put a smile on your face. The 0-100km/h time of 6.3.seconds can be understated because it certainly feel faster than that. The sweet revving straight-six engine pulls like a train from low rpms for a naturally aspirated engine and maximum torque arrives at 2,500rpm. The six speed ZF auto always keeps the car in the right gear and when necessary it will rev match and downshift a few cogs. The sports mode downshifts quickly into corners and makes the manual mode redundant because it is actually that good. The 330i has an upgraded exhaust system to its smaller brothers. It makes a deep throaty sound under mid to full throttle and produces a crisp sound that its big brother the 335i lacks.
For a car with this sized engine, the fuel consumption is acceptable with real world figures of 11-12L/100km in Sydney's traffic and 8-9L/100km on the highway. It is mostly the stop start traffic that results in the higher figures whereas a high speed drive through a mountain road will only see figures averaging 10.5l/100km.
The interior of this specific vehicle stills feels upmarket as it is lined with BMW individual leather with burr walnut trim and anthracite roof lining. There are some practicality issues with the interior. The cupholders are in the worst position and often bumped which at the worst times can see coffee spilt on the carpet. BMW must have predicted that they would be bumped and have engineered them in a way that they unclip when bumped rather than snapped. Still annoying for the front passenger to have two cupholders in the way of their knees. Thankfully the latest 3 series has addressed this issue.
Storage in the cabin is minimal with the centre console being taken up by the smartphone cradle and door pockets not able to fit a water bottle. Rear legroom was on par with the C Class of its era and more than the IS 250 but still not adequate to classify the 3 series as a family car.
Myth: Are BMWs high maintenance, NO!
This car has been extremely reliable with one service every year at an average cost of $500.
The 3 series has always been the benchmark for compact sports sedans and this car lives up to its heritage and ultimately its price.
One word to describe this car: INSPIRING.