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By Jim Flammang
February 14, 2005
Vehicle Overview Entry-level BMW shoppers who want a little more power than the 325 provides can step up to the 330, which holds a larger inline-six-cylinder engine. In addition to the rear-wheel-drive 330i and all-wheel-drive 330xi sedans, the lineup includes a 330Ci coupe and convertible. Unlike the 325, there is no 330 wagon.
Redesigned 3 Series models go on sale in spring 2005. Meanwhile, the 330 gets enhanced equipment and options. Wood interior trim is now standard, and aluminum trim is offered as a no-cost option. Bluetooth capability is now included with BMW Assist. Sirius Satellite Radio and an iPod adapter can be installed at a BMW Center.
BMW's 3 Series earned a freshening for 2004. A six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox is available on rear-drive models with the Sport Package. All models except the all-wheel-drive 330xi sedan have rear-wheel drive.
Exterior Each body style in the 330 lineup exhibits BMW's familiar look, with four round wraparound-style headlights and a twin-kidney grille. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are available either alone or with an adaptive feature that steers them into oncoming curves. LED taillights incorporate adaptive brake lights. Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlight control are standard. The 330Ci coupe and convertible are 176.7 inches long overall, while the sedan measures 176 inches long. Windshields on the coupe and convertible are slanted 2 degrees more than the sedan's, and the convertible has a power-folding top.
Interior Sedan and coupe models hold up to five occupants, while the convertible seats four. Space is ample up front with twin bucket seats, but passengers cannot stretch their legs in the backseat. A typical BMW dashboard has large, easy-to-read gauges. Simple stereo and climate control push-buttons are within easy reach. Options include Sirius Satellite Radio and Bluetooth wireless technology.
Under the Hood BMW's 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder cranks out 225 horsepower; the Performance Package raises output to 235 hp. The engine teams with either a six-speed-manual gearbox, a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox or a five-speed-automatic transmission that permits manually selected gear changes.
Safety Antilock brakes, traction control, side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags for the front seats (in closed models) are standard. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional in the sedan. All models include BMW's Dynamic Stability Control stability system, which reduces engine power and applies the brakes to help prevent skids.
Driving Impressions Plenty of enthusiasts still consider BMW the standard by which performance cars are judged. In both everyday and demanding driving, athletic maneuvers are the BMW norm.
Both the 325 and 330 promise spirited performance and crisp handling, but the 330 delivers greater exuberance than its 325 companion. The 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder feels so strong. BMW's manual gearshift is sheer joy to manipulate. Clutch behavior is performance-oriented, so achieving truly smooth takeoffs requires some practice.
Available all-wheel drive is a bonus in the Snow Belt. The seats are firm and driver-oriented, but getting in and out isn't as easy as it is in some cars.