2019 BMW 330i xDrive: Bringing the sport back to sport sedan

Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 2 years ago

BMW’s 3-series is possibly the brand’s most marketable car. It can be tame, as in the base model. It can be a family hauler, with the touring model. It can be sporty, like the one we’re reviewing. Or it can be a monster, like the M3. With a wide variety of engine options, trim levels, luxuries, tech and model designations, it’s been a hot seller and a staple of the brand. But over the years some might argue BMW began resting their laurels to an extent. The previous generation 3-series wasn’t a bad car by any means, but some critics felt it lost the versatility that buyers expect from it. But it’s a new year – and with that, a new 3-series. Let’s see if the magic is back.

This new 3 might be polarizing to BMW purists. First – from the style point of view, it doesn’t have the sleek, more subdued look 3’s of the past have embraced. It’s much more aggressive and angular. The taillights also have a much larger clear section than we’re used to on a BMW. We almost got some Lexus vibes from it. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. That’s all subjective. It’s just different from what we’re used to.

Inside, things are a little more typical BMW. It’s a cleaner design with the typical BMW orange backlighting and clean, simple approach. In lieu of wood, our test vehicle featured aluminum trim with what BMW calls a “tetragon” pattern. For us, it’s a lot less boring than piano black, but not quite as warm and luxurious as wood trim. But like the looks, that’s all subjective. And some might argue the aluminium is sportier anyway. We felt some of the materials in the cabin weren’t quite up to the car’s price point, but overall, we liked the design and the digital gauge cluster.

Our 330i xDrive tester featured a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic. It’s good for 255 horsepower and just under 300 lb-ft of torque. On paper, that doesn’t seem like anything all that special, but somehow, it feels like you’ve got a bigger, angrier engine under the hood when you plant your feet. It’s responsive too. And even though the engine noise piped in to the cabin isn’t 100% real, it still feels engaging and exciting. We found the steering sharp and precise in sport mode, and very comfortable in eco and comfort settings. The cabin is fantastically quiet too. BMW claims a fuel economy rating of 7.2 L/100km. Ours wasn’t quite as good, averaging around 8.0 L/100km…but we admittedly also drove with something of a heavier foot.

Our test of the 330i xDrive featured a drive from Toronto to Montreal. A 5 hour drive certainly helps with getting acquainted with the car. We have to say – we loved the semi-autonomous driving our car was optioned with, as part of the Advanced Driver Assistance Package. It monitors lane lines and surrounding traffic – as well as your eyes – to make sure you’re looking at the road and not your phone. So long as you keep your hands on the wheel, the system works very well in most cases, keeping you at a safe distance from other traffic, and within your lane. It’ll even work in stop and go traffic. We had some trouble using the system in the rain, and in areas where the lane lines were very faded. In some situations, we found it a little bit too intrusive but overall found the driving aids worked well. You can always disable them if you’re not into it anyway.

Although the styling may not be to everyone’s cup of tea, BMW did well with the new generation of 3-series. It can easily be argued that it’s the benchmark for luxury compact sedans and with this new 3, BMW’s raised the bar and restored the model’s reputation. The price does add up fast when you start going through the options list. And we also think its kind of ridiculous that leatherette is the default seat trim. But it’s otherwise well equipped, luxurious, drives well and is actually not bad on fuel. If you can swallow a cost that rises a little faster than expected, the new BMW 3-series is a reminder of why this compact luxury sedan is king. 

BMW, BMW Review, BMW 3-series, 330i, xDrive, Sedan, Sport Sedan

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