Comfy and cocooned inside a shell of technology is rather the norm for drivers these days with some automakers taking it up a notch with each iteration of a model.
So it is with the latest generation BMW 330i. Although the German carmaker likes to believe and promote the idea the 3 Series sedan epitomises the concept of sporty driving in the global premium midsize class, it does not.
The car is just too good.
For the average user, the car does the daily run to the office, sometimes a bit of shopping, occasionally picking up kids and then there is the annual holiday run. Chances are, a goodly portion of those will never switch it into Sport mode, let alone Sport+.
Everything he or she could possibly need is packaged in from camera angles that would make a porno moviemaker green with envy to a sound system that can emulate a metal concert at its loudest – while behind the scenes the driver safety, or nanny, systems integrate seamlessly to keep the car from straying.
For those with petrol in their veins it does still have that wickedness that makes driving a car so much fun and in Sport+ mode will eagerly demonstrate why it such a good car.
Sadly, it is that good the person behind the wheel does not really have to know how to drive – and, very often they do not, simply believing whatever they do, the car will sort it out except when physics wins (and it always does) and then it becomes a massive crash.
It is sad new drivers are losing out on learning the true art of driving and it is getting worse the closer we get to fully autonomous automobiles. They simply do not get to enjoy the thrill of a responsive car and the challenge of taming the power to make the car do what you want it to do.
That, however, is not BMW’s fault and the 330i sits in both worlds just waiting for the desired switch to be pushed.
The four-cylinder in-line petrol engine drives through an eight-speed Steptronic transmission and the 1 998 cc mill cranks out 190 kW at 5 000 r/min with maximum torque of 400 Nm coming in from 1 550 r/min.
It rips from 0 – 100 km/h in 5,8 seconds and top speed is governed at 250 km/h. Fuel consumption in normal driving conditions averages around 6,1 l/100 km and the CO2 emissions between 132 g/km and 139 g/km do not raise too many ‘greeny’ eyebrows.
The sedan represents the core of the BMW 3 Series range (of which over 15-million units have now been sold worldwide) but is also its most successful model – a status it retains to this day. Over the course of its six model generations to date, the BMW 3 Series has been ranked the world’s biggest-selling premium car.
The exterior design of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan uses a combination of precisely drawn lines and contoured surfaces to create a modern interpretation of the sporting aesthetic.
The new 3 Series Sedan is 76 millimetres longer than its predecessor (at 4 709 mm), 16 millimetres wider (1 827 mm) and just 1 mm taller (1 442 millimetres). The car’s 41-millimetre longer wheelbase (2 851 mm) and increased track widths (front: + 43 mm, rear: 21 mm), meanwhile, have a direct and positive influence on its poise and agility.
A smaller interpretation of the customary BMW twin headlights gives them a road-focussed stare and the optional Adaptive LED headlights with BMW Laserlight stand apart with their hexagonal daytime driving light rings and blue, L-shaped elements in the inner and outer light sources.
At the rear, the slim light units housing L-shaped taillights give the rear a wide and robust stance. All of the light functions use LEDs as standard.
Inside, the newly designed instrument cluster and Control Display form a large-surfaced screen grouping, while the controls not included in these units are clustered into function panels. In the centre of the instrument panel, the displays and buttons for the air conditioning and the central air vents form a sharply designed unit, while the light functions are operated from a panel of buttons next to the steering wheel.
The start/stop button for the engine is now positioned in a control panel in the centre console, where the selector lever is joined by the iDrive Controller and the buttons for the Driving Experience Control switch unit and electromechanical parking brake.
The range of standard and optional interior trim elements available for the instrument panel and centre console has been replaced almost in full. As usual with BMW, there are several optional décor packages such as Sport Line of M Sport.
As well as elegant open-pore fine wood options, customers can choose from finishes including Aluminium Mesh Effect.
The engine in the BMW 330i Sedan generates more spirited performance than ever. Boasting numerous detail upgrades and the 5 kW increase in output and extra 50 Nm of torque compared with the predecessor engine are the result of the focused optimisation of the BMW TwinPower Turbo system – which comprises twin-scroll turbo-chargers, direct petrol injection, VALVETRONIC fully variable valve timing and Double-VANOS variable camshaft timing.
On the private road I use for high-speed handling runs the 330i refused to become bothered, rather taunting me to go harder at the corners. Even the three passengers introduced for one run said they need to check the speedometer because there was little sensation of speed, no body roll and they were held firmly in their seats even under harsh cornering.
Does this make it boring? Hardly. This ‘bahnstormer’ can make long journeys short given decent road conditions and will deal with most ‘moments’ without even having to resort to pulling in all the technology to resolve the issue.
The foundations for these attributes are provided by weight optimisation, a low centre of gravity, 50 : 50 axle load distribution and, above all, by the increase in the front and rear track compared with the predecessor model.
Overall body rigidity is up by some 25%, and the lift-related shock absorber dampers are part of the car’s standard chassis and make a major contribution to the unique balance of sportiness and comfort.
The functions provided by the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system include not only anti-lock braking and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), but also a variety of stabilising functions and the Start-Off Assistant.
Also fitted as standard, Performance Control heightens the agility of the new BMW 3 Series Sedan by distributing the power to the rear wheels as the situation demands. In order to optimise directional stability during heavy braking on surfaces offering differing levels of grip for the right-hand and left-hand wheels, a steering impulse is applied to help the driver correct the car’s line.
The new BMW 3 Series Sedan’s boot has a capacity of 480 litres, and its new partitioning into primary luggage compartment and separate storage compartments has created an additional 36 litres of space for loading items of luggage.
So, yes, the requisite two golf bags will fit in nicely.
It is a car of two characters – you choose yours!