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 six-cylinder engine. In addition to the two four-door models — the rear-wheel-drive 330i and all-wheel-drive 330xi — the lineup includes a 330Ci coupe and convertible. Unlike the 325, there is no 330 wagon.

As with the 325, the 330Ci coupe and convertible earned a substantial freshening for their launch as early 2004 models. Sedans for the 2004 model year were released in the fall of 2003, with mildly touched-up front ends that included black headlight surrounds.

New front ends for the 330Ci coupe and convertible feature lighting units that sweep upward as they wrap around the bodysides. A wider grille sits below a hood with modified contours. The wheel openings are more prominently flared than before.

Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are available either alone or with an adaptive feature that steers the headlights into oncoming curves. New LED taillights incorporate adaptive brake lights. Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlight control are now standard on all models. New options include Sirius Satellite Radio and Bluetooth wireless technology.

A new six-speed-manual gearbox replaces the previous five-speed-manual unit. BMW’s six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) is available on all rear-drive models with a Sport Package; that package gets new five-spoke alloy wheels. The 330i Performance Package is now offered with a five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. All versions except the 330xi sedan have rear-wheel drive; that model is equipped with all-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive models include Dynamic Stability Control, which reduces engine power and applies the brakes to help prevent skids.

Each body style in the 325 and 330 series exhibits BMW’s familiar look, with four round wraparound-style headlights and a twin-kidney grille. Last year, two- and four-door models looked different up front, but the 2004s have moved closer together in appearance.

The 330Ci coupe and convertible are 176.7 inches long overall, while the sedan measures 176 inches in length. The windshields on the coupe and convertible are slanted 2 degrees more than the sedan’s, and the convertible has a power folding top.

The 330 sedan versions hold five people, while the coupe and convertible are four-seaters. Space is ample up front with twin bucket seats, but passengers can’t 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.

Under the Hood
BMW’s 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine cranks out 225 horsepower and 214 pounds-feet of torque. A Performance Package for the 330 raises the 3.0-liter engine’s output to 235 hp and 222 pounds-feet of torque. It teams with either a new six-speed-manual gearbox, a six-speed SMG or a five-speed-automatic transmission, which has a provision for manually selected gear changes.

Antilock brakes, traction control, and side-impact and side curtain-type airbags for the front seats are standard. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional in the sedan.

Driving Impressions
Plenty of enthusiasts still consider BMW the standard by which sporty makes are judged. In both everyday and demanding driving, athletic maneuvering is the BMW norm.

Both 3 Series models promise spirited performance and crisp handling, but the 330 delivers greater exuberance than its 325 companion. The 3.0-liter engine feels so strong that it almost asks to be restrained a bit. 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.

By Jim Flammang for;
Last updated on 12/19/03