Well you got to give it to BMW engineers, staying on top with the 3-series has not been easy. On one hand, luxury minded buyers demand a softer, more hi-tech car. While on the other hand, rivals continue to challenge its legendary sport sedan credentials. So could the new gen “3” be the one that sorts it all out? Let’s find out.
For many years, the BMW 3 Series went mostly unchallenged as the preeminent European sport sedan. But, as we all know, things are much different now. Brands from all over the map have taken BMW’s formula, refined it, and are delivering some incredibly dynamic and capable luxury-oriented sport sedans. And this is the environment, into which an all-new 7th generation 3 Series arrives.
It’s hard to think of a car that has meant more to us here at MotorWeek over our 38 years than the 3 Series. It’s up there with the Porsche 911 and the Chevrolet Corvette, as cars that set the standard of their respective categories.
But, this is the start of what will forever be known among Bimmerphiles as the G20 generation. And to many, BMW is not getting off to a good start by not even offering a manual transmission. But, give the 8-speed automatic a chance, it’s pretty fantastic.
Following the revised naming strategy elsewhere in the BMW lineup. This base 330i gets a 2.0-liter I4 turbo with 255-horsepower and a more than healthy 295 lb-ft. of torque.
The M340i is the one with the inline-6, which is also a turbo; now delivering 382-horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque.
xDrive is available with both, and it has been revised to be more efficient, as well as increase its sporty rear bias. It can even send all power rearward when it deems conditions are good for doing just that.
It’s still very sophisticated though. Numerous advanced safety, driving, and convenience features, you may or may not want, are available, including self-parking and Gesture Control.
And since this is basically a tech device you drive; and everyone loves talking to their devises these days, BMW ratchets up the technology here with an Intelligent Personal Assistant, ready at your beck and call. Hey BMW…
We’ve come to expect each new generation 3-Series to grow bigger, but perhaps not as much as this car’s additional 3-inches of length, with an inch and a half of wheelbase stretch to maintain that 50/50 weight distribution. But, there’s about 100-lbs. less than before to distribute.
Of course driving is what matters at BMW. And here, the suspension is well-sorted; but as with most these days, there are a lot of active elements as well, not just a piston going up and down in some fluid. And much like you see a bump coming in the road and brace for it, the car seems to do the same, absorbing impacts and imperfections without batting an eye.
Steering feel has returned, ladies and gentlemen, especially in Sport Mode, though we still want more. But this rear-drive 330 felt quite playful through our cone course, behaving much smaller than it is; athletic yet still substantial.
Launching is an easy affair; good grip, and a quick sprint to 60 in 5.6–seconds, a few clicks faster than the previous 328i. Active Sound Design insures it’s music to your ears too.
The 8-speed auto quickly bangs through gears without disrupting the proceedings in any way. Our best ¼-mile time was 14.2–seconds at 99 miles-per-hour.
The interior has received quite a makeover, and we’re onboard with just about everything; including some of the best seat comfort we’ve seen from BMW in years.
Much more controversial, is the absconding of real gauges for a virtual panel. Purists won’t be fans, but it is clear and works well.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 26-City, 36-Highway, and 30-Combined for two-wheel-drive. Our average, a fine 33.1 miles-per-gallon on Premium. That rates a better than average Energy Impact Score of 11.0-barrels of yearly oil consumption, with 4.9 tons of CO2 emitted.
If you enjoy entry-level things, you can get in a base 330i for a quite reasonable $41,245. Our heavily optioned test car was over 60-grand without xDrive, which adds 2-grand more.
There are plenty of cars around these days that you can talk at. But, it’s the two-way communicative joy of driving that is still more important to us. The 2019 BMW 330i does indeed bring more than a little of that driving joy back, while still being what BMW is all about, moving forward. So what if it’s no longer head-and-shoulders above the rest. It a total package that still delivers what fans of the Roundel desire, including us, better than anything else.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 295 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.2 seconds @ 99 mph
EPA: 26 mpg city / 36 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.9 tons/yr