Car tested: 2011 BMW 3-Series (330i Sport)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 44,35,331/-
BMW’s old tagline ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ was so apt in the last decade. However things have changed since then and BMW has moved from exciting the driver to creating joy on the face of passengers (the new BMW’s are more comfort oriented). However there is still one car in BMW’s line up which can make do with the old tagline. Its the top end variant of the 3-Series in India. Known as the BMW 330i Sport, the driver oriented 3-Series is just Rs. 4 lakhs cheaper than the entry level 5-Series (520d) diesel. But where would you rather put your money, its time to burn some rubber and find out.
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Exteriors – The current generation BMW 3-Series was launched in 2005. The design of the E90 was subtly altered in 2008. At the front, the 330i features double circular headlights with chrome tubes and corona rings. The kidney grille is typical of all BMW vehicles and the bold moulds on the bumper and large bonnet are the highlights of the front. At the side, the edges of the side skirts have been set higher and modelled in a more distinctive fashion. The exterior mirrors with two distinctive character lines, echoing the interplay between the convex and concave shaping of the surfaces, helping in an enlarged field of vision. The dual section rear lights are now the characteristic BMW L shape. The two LED rear light clusters and the direction indicators in LED technology are designed to create a quality appearance.
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The 330i features wheels from BMW’s M-Division. The 330i comes with 225/45/17 at the front, while at the rear, the 330i is shod with 255/40/17 wheels. The M Aerodynamics package is standard on the 330i and includes – front apron including bumpers, sill covers at the side, rear apron including bumpers and M Leather Steering Wheel. This makes the 330i look stunning.
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Interiors – Step inside the 330i and the first thing you will notice is the car is really low. Once inside, the high-quality materials and optimised ergonomics are immediately obvious. The black coloured dashboard features dark brown wood inserts along with Dakota Beige leather seats (optional) and door pads. The M leather steering wheel feels a joy to hold and maneuver the car. The seats are very comfortable and front legroom is decent, the same can’t be said about the rear, where space is at a slight premium.
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The steering wheel features paddle shifts, which unlike conventional paddles, can operate upshifts and downshifts from either side. Push the paddles away from you and the 330i’s 6-speed automatic gearbox will downshift, do the opposite for upshift. You can even utilise the gear knob for manual shifting if you are used to it. Since the BMW 3-Series was designed 6 years ago, it still has a conventional handbrake, which its competitors have done away with by utilizing a button activated handbrake. The push button start requires you to insert the key fob in a slot after which the push start gets activated.
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The dials are classic and retro but the simplicity won’t please all. The BMW iDrive is available in the new BMW 3-Series for the activation and control of entertainment, information, navigation and telecommunications functions. Using the four direct selection buttons grouped around the Controller, it is especially easy to switch spontaneously between CD, radio, telephone and navigation functions. The new iDrive in the BMW 3-Series is presented with a 8.8 inch Control Display whose dimensions display image resolution, offering significant improvement in the display of detailed graphics.
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The cupholders are push types, simply push to remove them from the dashboard. Audio quality is excellent and the air conditioner is a chiller. The 330i features memory seats but the controls are placed on the seats itself rather than on the door, making it difficult to operate them. There are plenty of storage areas on the center console and the 3-Series features sun blinds for rear passengers. The boot is decently sized but should have been bigger considering the absence of a spare wheel.
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Ride, Handling and Braking – The BMW 3-Series features the same 50:50 weight distribution and front-engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis as every non-X BMW models of the last 40 years. The low profile tyres make the ride quality terribly harsh. You can feel every pothole on the road and the 330i’s ride is stiff and uncomfortable. Brakes are strong and the 330i stops right where you want it to, at any speed and any type of road (tarmac or concrete).
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All BMW 3-Series models come as standard with Dynamic Stability Control. The rear axle is a five-link construction which is adapted to the needs of the especially high-power and high-torque engines. The front axle of the BMW 3-Series features a dual-arm tension strut axle with stabiliser and is largely made of aluminium. The 330i features an electro-mechanical steering system with integrated Servotronic function for speed-related steering support. This ensures the best handling in the segment by a long shot. The stiff chassis and the big wheels ensure razor sharping handling and you just need to point and shoot, the 330i never disappoints. Take any corner at any speed and the balance is so fantastic you feel your going slow. The 330i inspires huge confidence in the driver, making him feel like Michael Schumacher of yesteryear.
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Performance – The only reason for opting for the 330i variant from the 3-Series line up would be its performance. For starters, the N52B30 engine in the 330i is the lightest engine in the world. Powered by a 2996cc, 6-cylinder producing 255 hp of power at 6600 RPM and 300 Nm of torque at 2500 RPM, the initial torque is decent but nowhere close to the diesel BMW’s. There is no kick in the rear (of the driver) feeling in the 330i and power delivery is quite linear. BMW claims a 0 – 100 kmph time of 6.6. seconds and a top speed of 250 kmph. There is a manual mode (M) which lets you take control of things but just. If you don’t upshift or downshift, the electronics knows that the car won’t be able to cope up with the wrong gear, it immediately takes things in its own hand an accordingly shifts. You can even use DS (Drive Sport) mode which immediately changes the engine characteristics to make the 330i hold up to the redline in each gear before upshifting.
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The inline-6 motor is a high revving monster and redlines all the way till 7000 RPM. NVH levels are fantastic below 4000 RPM but once past this mark, all hell literally breaks loose and the 330i shows such urgency, it can drive you insane. The motor is very audible once past 5000 RPM and the roar is evident inside the cabin, making you feel much faster than you actually are. Hitting 200 kmph is a breeze and the 330i catches speed so quickly you feel your just about to take off. While driving in this manner, expect 3-4 kmpl from the Bimmer, but when you recover your sanity and start cruising at 120 kmph, the 330i will return a decent 8 kmpl.
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Conclusion – When BMW launched the 325i in India, it was by far the best driving experience a petrolhead could get. The 330i just takes it forward and rightly so. The 3-Series has been around for sometime now but still manages to outsell its German rivals. The 330i does most of the things a luxury car buyer would look at, while managing to put a smile on the face of the driver every time he puts down his foot. The engine is a total gem, the performance is exhilarating and the handling is brilliant. If you love to drive, the 330i is a no-brainer. If your chauffeur driven, shell out 4 more lakhs and get yourself the 520d. Neither would disappoint but the 330i’s vocal snarl will ring in your ears even after you get out of the car, making it an enthusiasts delight.
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* Exhaust roar
* High revving engine
Whats Not So Cool
* Space at the rear
* Ride quality
* Lack of spare wheel
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BMW 3-Series Specifications : –
* Engine: 2996cc, 24-valves, in-line 6
* Power: 255 hp @ 6600 RPM
* Torque: 300 Nm @ 2500 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed auto
* Top Speed: 250 kmph
* 0-100kmph: 6.6 seconds
* Fuel Consumption: 4-5 kmpl (City), 5-6 kmpl (highway)
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Tires: 225/45/17 (Front), 255/40/17 (Rear), Runflats
* Safety: ABS, DTC, CBC, Six Airbags, Immobilizer
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1495 kgs