Arguably, the E46 generation of the 3-series is widely regarded as being one of the best generations of the compact luxury car (in particular the M3). The generations that came after were bigger, heavier, and lost some of the character that the E46 and its predecessor had. Now in its 7th generation, dubbed the G20, the 2019 BMW 330i xDrive brings back what the early generations had; comfort, luxury, & fun.
Engine – Two engines are available with the 3-series, a 3.0L turbocharged inline-6 in the 340i or a 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 as equipped in this 330i. The 2.0L engine produces a healthy 255hp and 295 lb-ft of torque at just 1,550 rpms and keeps that peak torque figure to 4,400 rpms. The low and flat torque curve means that this BMW 330i feels like it accelerates faster than what it says on paper. Officially it can do the 0-100km/h sprint in 5 and a half seconds but from behind the steering wheel, it feels faster. Turbo lag is virtually non-existent as the throttle response in Sport mode feels as instantaneous as though it were a naturally aspirated engine. With the Sport mode of course, there is some fake engine noise being pumped through the stereo system. But from the outside, the 4 cylinder engine has some nice tones through the rev range… if you’re close enough to hear it.
Being just recently released, there are no official fuel economy figures at the time of writing this article. But in my week of testing it, I averaged 8.2 L/100km (28.7 mpg) in 50/50 city & highway driving. Not bad for an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan.
Transmission – The manual transmission is dead. At least with the 3-series it is. An 8-speed automatic is the only available transmission here in Canada. But on the plus side, it is a very good transmission. Shifts are smooth as one would expect but they’re also lightning fast. Dare I say, as fast as a dual-clutch? In Sport mode, downshifts are accompanied by a blip of the engine just like dual-clutch transmissions.
Braking – Although this test vehicle has the M-Sport package, it does not have the bigger M-Sport front brakes. However, stopping the 2019 BMW 330i is effortless even with the standard brakes. Very little brake pedal pressure is required to stop the car in everyday driving situations. During a panic stop, the brake pedal is firm and the car feels stable and stopping in a straight line.
Handling – Going around corners is what made BMW cars famous and the envy of others. The new G20 generation has brought back the enjoyment of driving around a twisty mountain or canyon road. The steering is precise and unbelievably quick. The front end darts to wherever you turn the wheel like a mosquito. Unfortunately there isn’t much feel through the steering but it stiffens up nicely at higher speeds for better stability and lightens when maneuvering around a parking lot. The steering wheel itself is contoured and is on the thicker side. Some drivers with smaller hands may not like the size but for me, it’s a good size thickness.
Ride Comfort – This being a sports sedan, the ride is on the firmer side. On smooth roads, it’s barely noticeable but once the roads become cracked or badly potholed, the firmer ride can make things uncomfortable. I’m not saying it’s as bad as a Lotus Elise but the Mercedes-Benz C300 is more comfortable over rough roads.
Interior Space – Front occupants have plenty of space even when they are 6’4” like myself. The front seats provide a wide range of adjustability including thigh support. Rear occupant space is a bit more limited in the usual places, leg and head room. But for a small class of sedan, it’s an adequate amount for teenagers or smaller adults. Trunk space is very good for this class of sedan.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The cabin of the BMW 330xi is well insulated from the outside world. There is more noticeable road and wind noise at autobahn speeds but it’s not overly obtrusive. As mentioned earlier, engine noise is prevalent in Sport mode but unfortunately it’s coming from the stereo system. In Comfort mode, the engine’s noises are well muted for a more comfortable driving experience.
Interior Design – The design of the cabin is what one would expect from a modern day BMW. It looks like it belongs in the current century without it being too over the top. The instrument cluster is fully digital but it’s not as customizable as Audi’s virtual cockpit which in my opinion defeats the purpose of a full digital display. To the right is the infotainment screen with smartphone-like resolution. It looks stunning. And below it are physical buttons and knobs for the climate and stereo. The trend these days is to move away from piano black and auto manufacturers are trying new materials and patterns. The 2019 BMW 330i has a diamond-like silver pattern on the cup holder cover, center console, and passenger side of the dashboard. I think it’s a great alternative to piano black or the more traditional wood.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2019 BMW 330i xDrive is well equipped and can be further equipped with a lot of gadgets and gizmos. The more traditional features like navigation, heated seats, heads-up display etc. are all there or can be equipped. But things like Back-up Assistant where the car remembers how you parked and can then back out of a tight spot automatically without any steering input from you is a new feature. Gesture control is also a neat new feature where the car recognizes certain hand gestures to control radio volume or skip track among others. It is also available with something called Extended Traffic Jam Assistant which is just a fancy name for semi-autonomous driving. Basically the system will take over driving at speeds up to 60 km/h without having to have your hands on the steering wheel. Unfortunately this system was not equipped on the demo vehicle.
The infotainment system does have a steep learning curve. When first using it, it can be daunting to some but after a few minutes of playing around with it and pushing every button, it becomes less convoluted. As mentioned, the screen resolution is among the best in the business. It is crystal clear, sharp, and vibrant. It can be controlled via the touchscreen or the rotary dial by the arm rest and gear selector.
Exterior Design – The design of the 2019 3-series is more mature than ever before. Gone are the halo daytime running lights and instead are just lines underneath the Laser headlights. The front also features active grille shutters in the kidney grilles. They open up when the engine needs more cooling but otherwise stay closed to improve aerodynamics. Around back, the tail lights remind me a bit of Lexus tail lights with the “L shaped” brake lights. The 330i gets circular tailpipes while the 340i will get more rectangular tailpipes. Overall the 2019 3-series is a good looking car that doesn’t scream “look at me” like certain BMW models of the past.
In recent years the competition has been catching up, and in some cases, surpassing the BMW 3-series as the best luxury sedan. But with the release of the latest generation of 3-series, the benchmark has once again been raised by BMW for all others to try to reach.
Thank you to BMW Canada for providing the vehicle. www.BMW.ca