Entry-level BMW shoppers whod like a little more power than the 325 provides can still step up to the 330, which holds a larger six-cylinder engine. A front armrest and a headrest in the center rear seat are standard for the 2003 model year. A rain sensor with an automatic headlight control has been added to the Premium Package. BMWs optional navigation system has been upgraded to DVD-based operation and can now be installed along with an in-dash CD player.
In addition to the four-door 330i, the lineup includes a 330Ci coupe and convertible. Unlike the 325, there is no wagon in the 330 Series. All versions have rear-wheel drive except the 330xi, which is equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD). AWD models include Dynamic Stability Control to help prevent skids.
Because of the companys sporty image and its reputation for quality, 3 Series models have been popular among first-time luxury-car buyers. BMWs most popular line competes against the Audi A4, Jaguar X-Type, Lexus IS 300 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The 330 sedans and coupes look alike at a glance, but they share no body panels. The coupes styling also serves the convertible model. BMWs familiar look features four round headlamps and a twin-kidney grille, but the sedans front end is different.
The coupe and convertible are 176.7 inches long overall, while the sedan measures 176 inches in length. All 330 models have a 107.3-inch wheelbase. The windshields on the coupe and convertible are slanted 2 degrees more than the sedans windshield. Convertible models have a power folding top.
The 330 sedans hold five passengers, while the coupe and convertible are four-seaters. Space is ample up front with twin bucket seats, but passengers cant stretch their legs in the backseat. A typical BMW dashboard has large, easy-to-read gauges. Simple stereo and climate control push-buttons are in easy reach.
Under the Hood
BMWs 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine cranks out 225 horsepower and teams with a five-speed-manual or five-speed-automatic transmission that has a provision for manual gear changes.
Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags for the front seats are standard. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional in the sedan. The front airbags deploy with less force in low-speed impacts. Antilock brakes and traction control are standard. BMWs Dynamic Stability Control reduces engine power and applies the brakes to prevent skids.
Plenty of enthusiast drivers still consider BMW the standard by which other makes are judged. At a time when luxury amenities are promoted, BMW stresses the dynamic handling qualities of its automobiles. Athletic maneuvers are the norm in both ordinary and demanding driving.
Both 3 Series models promise spirited performance and crisp handling, but the 330 delivers greater exuberance than its 325 companion. But performance of the 325 will satisfy many owners. The 3.0-liter engine actually feels so strong that it almost has to be restrained a bit.
BMWs manual gearshift is sheer joy to manipulate. The 330s clutch behavior is performance oriented, so getting truly smooth takeoffs takes some practice.
Available AWD is a bonus for buyers in the Snow Belt because a rear-drive BMW can get finicky on slippery surfaces. The seats are firm and driver oriented, but getting in and out of this vehicle isnt quite as easy as in some other cars.