THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: A pleasing mix of technology and road handling in a very attractive package.
- What’s Bad: The very tempting options can lead to wallet anxiety.
Now in no less than its seventh generation, the 2019 BMW 3 Series still defines the essence of the “European sports sedan”.
I owned three, first-generation 3 Series and I miss them to this day, especially a Delphin Grey 320i S with rare factory air conditioning and a custom designed 14-speaker Blaupunkt stereo system, which was unique in that day.
Today, the 330i xDrive tested here is still the most affordable BMW sedan you can buy at $49,000.
Like my original 320 models, the 2019 330i has a four-cylinder engine.
But what a difference.
My 320i was powered by a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder with then new fuel injection putting out 114 hp (if I remember correctly) with a six-speed Getrag manual transmission driving the rear wheels. Back then it was only available with 13-inch wheels.
The 2019 330i’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder with direct fuel injection uses the latest BMW TwinPower turbo technology to produce 225 hp and 295 lb/ft of torque with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission hooked up to BMW’s proven all-wheel-drive system called xDrive.
It hits 100 km/h from rest in just 5.6 seconds, with a top speed of 210 km/h.
And if that’s not enough power for you, there’s the M340i and M340i xDrive with 3.0-litre twin turbo inline six-cylinder pumping out 382 hp and 369 lb/ft of torque with a provisional 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds.
An interesting fuel saving feature is a coasting function that shuts off the gas when the 330i is in Eco Pro or Comfort driving mode and operates between 14-160 km/h.
With standard xDrive all-wheel-drive, torque is rear biased in most driving situations.
Also making the 330i fun to drive is a body weight decrease of 55 kg and a drag coefficient reduction of 0.26 CD, down by 0.03 over the previous 3 Series thanks to air curtains, aerodynamically optimized wheels and an almost completed sealed underbody.
New on the 3 Series are lift-related dampers that add extra hydraulic damping at the front axle with a compression limiting system at the rear.
Optional is the M Sports version of the damping system with more rigid bearings, additional body struts, tauter springs, firmer anti-roll bars, a greater degree of wheel camber and 10 mm lower ride height.
Compression and rebound are 20 per cent greater than the standard suspension and you can really feel it on highway stretches with lots of sweeping curves and elevation changes.
And taking it up a notch is the optional Adaptive M suspension that marries the M Sport suspension with electronic dampers, delivering damping force to each wheel separately.
In the Comfort, Sport or Adaptive drive modes the system monitors driver inputs for best response and it can even factor in data from the optional Professional function in the navigation system to know which bend or junction is ahead and sets up the suspension for it.
The standard lighting on my 330i tester was the full LED headlights with dynamic cornering function; but if it were my car, I’d opt for the Adaptive LEDs with BMW Laserlight.
You’ve got to try them to appreciate how they throw a beam out to 530 metres and the included High Beam Assistant narrows the light so it doesn’t dazzle oncoming drivers.
BMW always claims, and rightfully so, of being a leader in incorporating leading edge technology into its vehicles and the Intelligent Personal Assistant tops them all.
What it does is “learn” the driver’s habits, settings and routines and then applies them in daily driving situations such as seat positions, climate control settings and frequent navigation destinations with a ‘take me home’ function.
You can say out loud “Hey BMW, I’m getting cold” and the AI adjusts the temperature.
But when it’s all said and done it comes down to where the rubber meets the road.
The 330i xDrive tested here is not the eager little 320i I had more than three decades ago.
On my usual back country test route, I could have hammered the throttle, but why?
I much more enjoyed cruising at or just above the posted speed limit and letting the 330i soak up the road for a journey without stress or drama.
The seventh-generation 3 Series is a very sophistication sports sedan that can still mix it up in the corners, but is best as high-speed transportation served up to the driver.