BMW’s decision to drop the 320i earlier this year saw the more powerful 330i (252bhp/350Nm) go on sale in May 2017. It uses the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged motor that does duty in the 330i GT we reviewed some months ago. For starters, the 330i is targeted at those buyers who prefer a petrol powered ‘3’ with a more shattering performance output than the outgoing 320i.
The BMW 330i spent two days in the CarTrade testing garage and here’s how it fared.
The upcoming 2018 3 Series is still some time away. And until it hits the buyer’s horizon sometime in 2018, this 330i will continue in the model’s present glorious form. Which, in case you didn’t notice, adorns the arrow profile with an unmistakably long hood. Sharp creases grab your undivided attention, and the car purposefully comes shod with large 18-inch alloys with low profile 225-section tyres in the front, and 255-section rear ones.
BMW is selling the 330i in the M Sport trim which benefits from new elements that include a sharper front end thanks to a reshaped front bumper with redesigned air dams. It also comes with a restyled rear bumper. Everything about the 330i’s exterior shouts “where’s the road?”, so we gave it a long stretch of tarmac to see how it held up. Here’s the gist.
The 3 Series’ interiors have begun to look outdated and the competition has clearly taken the game ahead. Although quality, and fit and finish are up to the mark, we were left wanting more in terms of design and ambience. And that’s not all, the brown leather upholstery in the 330i had a tough time trying to gel with the black cabin inlaid with silver textured trim.
As much as the front seats are firm and contoured, they also have electric adjustments for lateral support, and manually adjustable thigh support for that snug seating position. Together with the adequate headroom and ample leg room, you have quite the sporty set of front seats here. The rear seats, on the other hand, have lesser contours and make for a more comfortable proposition overall. These are further complimented by the ample knee room and an appropriate backrest angle.
That said, we would have liked more thigh support, and also felt that headroom at the rear will be tight for taller occupants. Then there’s also the tall transmission tunnel which limits this speedster to being a four-seater. When it comes to the boot, the 3 suffers from the spare wheel taking up a sizeable portion of the usable space. And as a result, this limits baggage to small suitcases and soft bags only.
BMW offers the 330i in the Sport Line and M Sport trim. Our test car was an M Sport variant that came with an aggressive black-gloss finish on the kidney grille, BMW etched on the door sills, an M Sport steering wheel, and the ‘M’ logo on the front fenders and car key. Some of the safety features included in the 330i are ABS, eight airbags, side impact protection, run-flat tyres, tyre pressure indicators and dynamic stability control with dynamic traction control.
Power for the 330i comes from a 252bhp/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that’s coupled to an eight-speed automatic gearbox (with paddle shifters). This motor revs cleanly all the way to the 6500rpm limiter, and as is the case with all BMW petrol motors, this one is equally refined and smooth. While power is transmitted to the rear wheels, the sporty nature of the motor keeps the driver thrilled at all times. And there’s also the added topping of a bag full of aggressive exhaust notes, enough to get you to instantly shut the infotainment system!
At any point, flooring the accelerator pedal turns the motor into a hooligan that rewards your speed-senses as you watch the tacho needle bounce off the limiter. There’s almost no turbo lag, and since the quick shifting gearbox has eight cogs, it always finds a gear at the right time for a seamless power delivery. Plus, it also downshifts to the rev-limiter. What aids the driver extract the best out of this motor are four driving modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. These change the engine/gearbox and steering characteristics.
In Eco Pro mode, the system allows the motor’s output to be the most relaxed. As soon as you lift your foot from the accelerator pedal, the engine free-wheels to increase efficiency. Now while Comfort mode bumps-up the response from the engine considerably, there is no free-wheeling here. But that said, when the driver stops throttling, the gearbox upshifts a few gears in a hurry.
In Sport mode, the best performance is derived out of this motor. Lower gears are preferred for an instantaneous shove as soon as the driver taps the accelerator pedal. So, what’s Sport+ all about? It offers the same performance edge as Sport mode, but as soon as it is engaged, the system shuts down electronic stability control (ESC). And importantly, unlike Sport mode where the gears upshift at the rev-limit, Sport+ allows the driver to hold the gear at the limiter.
The 330i is equipped with a suspension setup that absorbs road irregularities reasonably well at any speed. It can be forgiving especially over the bigger bumps at low speeds where the suspension can only be heard thudding through to the cabin within minimal body movement. However, as speeds increase, there is some pronounced up and down movement while negotiating bumps. That aside, the 330i’s steering is one that inspires confidence and also weighs up appropriately as speeds rise.
With the drive modes altering the steering responses, Comfort and Eco Pro modes get the steering to feel lighter which in-turn eases city driving. Sport and Sport+ modes, on the other hand, make the steering feel heavier and is certainly meant for spirited driving experiences. Around corners, the 330i, with its more forgiving suspension setup, displayed more roll than we would have liked. But having said that, there’s superior grip coming from the wider rear tyres. So it also goes without saying that the braking from this performance sedan was up to the mark. On the whole, we’d like to reiterate that the 330i, with its strong motor and forgiving ride, make for a great long distance sedan.
|Variant||330i M Sport|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||252 @ 5200|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||350 @ 1450-4800|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||57|
|Tyre size||225/45 R18 (F), 255/40 R18|
|18-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels||Yes|
|Sports seats with Dakota leather upholstery||Yes|
|Parking sensors front/rear with rear view camera||Yes|
|ISOFIX child seat anchors||Yes|
|iDrive touch with handwriting recognition, DVD drive and 20GB hard drive with navigation||Yes|
|ABS with cornering brake control||Yes|
|Dynamic Stability control with Dynamic Traction Control||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||330i M Sport||30 TFSI Technology Pack|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||252 @ 5200||150 @ 5000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||350 @ 1450-4800||250 @ 1500-3500|
|Gears||Eight - Speed Auto||Seven-Speed Auto|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||57||54|
|Tyre size||225/45 R18 (F), 255/40 R18||225/55 R17|
What doesn’t work for the 330i is the outdated looks, tight headroom for tall rear occupants, the bouncy ride over bumps at high speeds and the frequent visits to the petrol pump. Plus, it is the most expensive at Rs 53.57 lakhs (M Sport trim), when you can get the Audi A4 30TFSI Rs 50.32 lakhs and the Mercedes-Benz C200 for Rs 49.04 lakhs (all prices on-road Mumbai).
What goes in favour of the 330i is the aggressive power plant, comfy seats, the overall pliant ride, good grip from the tyres and the extra flashy M Sport equipment. If you ask us, there’s no better time than now to plonk for the petrol ‘3’.
Pictures: Kapil Angane