2001 BMW 330

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2001 BMW 330
Available in 4 styles:  i shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

20–21 city / 27–30 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 5
2001 BMW 330 4.7 29
$ 2,135-9,675
July 21, 2001

Whew. BMW is having quite a year. So far, 2001 has been the German company's best sales year. In June, BMW for the first time eclipsed fellow luxury brands Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac in overall sales.

There's been a constant stream of lauds and accolades about BMW cars from the media and consumer groups, including a recent AutoWeek readership poll that picked BMW's 3 Series as the best car or truck sold in the United States. And the 5 Series was pick No. 3. No self-esteem problems here. With great products, excellent marketing and a strong image, BMW just keeps climbing the charts.

I have no problem with AutoWeek's first-place winner. The 3 Series models really are gems, fine compact cars with a sporty balance of poise and performance. For the 2001 model year, two new, more powerful versions of BMW's classic inline-six engines, a 2.5-liter engine with 184 horsepower and a 3-liter mill with a roaring 225 horsepower, further enhance the breed.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sample the new 3-liter engine in the Z3 sports car and found it to be wonderfully strong, smooth and tractable. Now, I've tested out the 330i, and that engine really shines.

With a five-speed stickshift and optional sport-tuned suspension that includes 17-inch performance wheels and tires, the 330 was a blast to drive. Tight, agile, quick, great brakes and fabulous cornering, all in a practical four-door sedan. So what's not to like? Well, the nearly $40,000 price tag takes it off most people's shopping lists. The base-model 325i sedan starts at $27,560, quickly hitting the mid-30s as options pile on. The 3 Series may be BMW's entry level, but it is a BMW, after all.

Actually, the 3 Series cars are my favorite BMWs. I like how trim and racy they feel, all stiff suspension and balanced precision. Drivers who enjoy BMWs appreciate the handling advantages of that stiff suspension, though passengers may find it hard-riding.

As noted in the recent Z3 review, the new 3- and 2.5-liter engines now have aluminum blocks for lighter weight; electronic-hydraulic variable valve timing for consistent power and torque from low to high rpm; electronic throttle linkage for smoother transitions; and a new intake manifold that helps boost power. And along with all that strength and performance, the new engines meet EPA limits for "ultra-low emissions vehicle" classification. The new 3-liter engine also gets better gas mileage than the less-powerful 2.8-liter engine it replaces.

Another addition to the 3 Series sedans is optional all-wheel drive, giving the usually rear-drive cars more traction on slippery surfaces as well as enhancing cornering in a variety of conditions. Both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models get electronic Dynamic Stability Control that helps control skids, which can save your hide if you go into a corner a little too fast.

Speaki ng of rear-wheel-drive, it's still favored over front-wheel drive for balance and performance in a sporty car. Plus, it's great to hit the throttle and have the rear hunker down and grab instead of the front wheels spinning like mad.

Inside, the 330i is all business, with nice, straightforward switches and gauges, newly enhanced with aluminum trim. I'm still not real happy with the orange glow of the gauges at night. And the little gas-mileage needle, which flips around wildly as you speed up and slow down, is absolutely worthless.

Also, the "multifunction" steering wheel has a confusing array of buttons and switches.

Front seating is comfortable, supportive and roomy, but rear-seat denizens might find legroom a bit cramped (especially if they're as tall as my teenage boys).

Options on the test car included the sport package, including sharp-looking modular wheels, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel and aerodynamic en ements, $1,200; leather interior, $1,450; moonroof, $1,050; and a stereo upgrade, $200.

Once you get past price, features, stereos and such, the 330i has one simple thing over other small sedans. It has to do with poise and power, sports-car handling and a favorite stretch of two-lane blacktop.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

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