First and foremost, the new G20 BMW 3 Series not only has to be better than the F30 predecessor. It also has to become the new yardstick that rivals are measured against. It’s a tall order. Can it pull it off?
Starting with the formalities. In Australia just two variants are on sale; the 320d and the 330i. However, in September we can welcome the 320i base model, the 330e plug-in hybrid, and the new flagship M34oi xDrive. The M340i in particularly sounds very tempting, featuring the latest B58 3.0-litre turbo inline six engine with 250kW. It also features an Australia-first xDrive all-wheel drive system for the 3 Series.
Looking at the 330i specifically though, it continues with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder. Outputs are lifted by 5kW and 50Nm, to 190kW/400Nm – we’ll get to more on that below. Both the 320d and the 330i come as standard with the full M Sport package, although buyers can opt-out and instead go for the subtle Luxury Line trim at no cost.
Prices haven’t budged compared with the old model, and that’s despite an influx of new technologies and a higher level of standard features. You also need to take into account this is an all-new model, based on a fresh platform and completely re-engineered pretty much from the ground up.
Usually carmakers will charge a slight premium over their preceding models to help pay for some of these development costs. Anyway, point being, the new 330i is priced from $70,900 (excluding on-roads), which is the exact same price as the old model. So then, it’s already off to a good start.
2019 BMW 330i M Sport – THE SPECS
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, twin-scroll turbo
Output: 190kW@5000-6500rpm / 400Nm@1550-4400rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Rear-wheel drive, locking differential
Wheels: F: 19×8.0, 225/40 R: 19×8.5, 255/35
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1433kg
Power-to-weight: 7.54:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 6.4L/100km
Economy during test: 8.1L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 59L/91 RON
Power efficiency: 29.68kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.67 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.51 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.72 seconds*
1/8 mile: 9.00 seconds at 134.2km/h*
1/4 mile: 13.78 seconds at 167.0km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.767g
100-0km/h braking: 2.93 seconds at 36.27 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.201g
Decibel at idle: 40*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 84*
Priced from: $70,900
* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different
2019 BMW 330i M Sport – THE PACKAGE
Underpinning the G20 is BMW’s CLAR platform. It debuted under the current 7 Series, and has since been adopted and adapted for the 5 Series, the X3, X4, X5 and X6. It’s also the foundations of the stunning new 8 Series. What’s the big deal? Well, this is BMW’s pride and joy at the moment. Just think of it as all of BMW’s skills and experience in building rear-wheel drive cars, poured into one modern, modular chassis.
With the new platform the G20 is bigger than the old F30. External dimensions put it at 76mm longer, 16mm wider, and 1mm taller. The wheelbase is also stretched by 41mm. As you might expect after reading this, it does translate to more interior space for the passengers.
We like what BMW has done with the decor and design in here. BMWs of late have showcased neat and tidy interiors, but they often lack any pizzazz or sense of occasion. This new model, though, looks and feels really nice. The brushed aluminium trimming around the dash adds quality contrast, with a good variety of colours and materials used throughout. We also like the way the 10.25 touch-screen display housing meets up with the lower dash fascia, creating a hexagonal focal point in the centre.
All of the buttons and controls feel solid and have a reassuring click or scroll to them. In particular, the metallic ring around the iDrive controller seems like it was made by hand, with a volume knob to match. Most of the controls are well positioned around the cabin as well. On that note, the iDrive system means almost all of the car’s functions are at your fingertip anyway. The only real stretch is the volume knob, which is on the passenger side.
The old 3 Series wasn’t exactly cramped inside, for this class anyway. It sat at or just above the segment standards for headroom and legroom in the front and back. And the same can be said about this new model. We think the Audi A4 might just pip it for sheer space, and certainly the Lexus ES offers more room, competing in this class as well. But overall the majority of passengers will find great comfort in here.
As standard the 330i comes with that 10.25-inch touch-screen display which now runs BMW Operating System 7.0, as well as a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster. With the 7.0 system, the main screen displays the on-board menus as a narrow list down the left side of the screen. We were really liking the previous tile-like setup. In saying that, this new system offers much more depth, allowing you to dive further into menus and play around with more settings.
Speaking of which, one of the settings you can play around with is the interior lighting. BMW presents a range of colours helping to set the cabin mood. If you’re feeling a bit somber after a late Monday at work you can set it to a suitably calming blue. If you’re feeling a bit frisky on the weekend, try out the vibrant red. Yes, it is a bit of a gimmick, playing around with these. But that’s ok in our books as it creates a bit of fun and helps reduce the chance of become bored by the cabin.
For the ultimate gimmick you can option for a gesture control system, priced from a very reasonable $462. This is a sci-fi-like technology that allows you to wave your finger around in the air to make commands. For example, twirl your finger around like you’re acting out a volume knob and the volume will literally increase for you. It’s pretty cool, especially for this class; this sort of stuff is usually reserved for the top end stuff like the 7 Series.
Rear passengers aren’t left without features, either. There’s a proper little console panel on the back of the centre console showcasing separate controls for the climate system, with face venting and floor vents for your legs and feet. And you can choose between each or both. There’s also two USB-C ports for keeping devices charged. Yep, USB-C ports. Right at the back, the boot space is unchanged from the previous model. It measures 480L, and there’s the usual storage pockets in the sides.
Overall we think the best part about the new 3 Series interior is the packaging. It presents good levels of space and comfort and plenty of high-tech features. Although, the high-tech stuff seems approachable so it doesn’t overwhelm the driver or passengers. It’s neat and tidy yet interesting and innovative. Sure there are more prestige cabins out there, or flashier ones or roomier ones. But this strikes an excellent balance between the lot.
2019 BMW 330i M Sport – THE DRIVE
It might be just another 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, but it packs plenty of hardcore bits and advanced mechanisms to optimise performance. BMW’s Valvetronic fully variable valve control is included, along with double VANOS variable cam timing, while the intake is pressurised by a twin-scroll turbocharger. The engine runs a high compression ratio (for a turbo engine) of 10.2:1, which helps to provide instant response and plenty of high-revving enthusiasm.
On paper the engine produces 190kW between 5000rpm and 6500rpm, which is unique for a petrol motor. Usually peak power arrives at a set rpm. This wider-spread availability suggests the engine is capped at this power level, meaning it probably has more potential left in it. In this sense the engine doesn’t feel like it’s stressed or over doing it. Interestingly, BMW’s official spec sheet says this new engine tune requires a minimum of 91 RON fuel, too, whereas the previous 185kW/350Nm version needed 95 RON.
Out on the road it’s the torque that impresses the most. With 400Nm on tap, it offers one of the highest torque figures around for a mainstream, non-performance unit. This is spread between just 1550rpm and held until 4400rpm. Fans of the old naturally aspirated six-cylinder 330i might be interested to hear this new engine produces the same power, but with 100Nm more torque. So even though it doesn’t produce that alluring six-cylinder sing, it certainly provides the performance. And, for the record, it sounds quite sporty too.
Speaking of the performance we timed a best 0-100km/h run in just 5.51 seconds using our Vbox. This is an amazing time for something that’s not even designed to be a performance variant – as we said, there’s an M340i variant coming in a couple of months. This level of acceleration is really all you could ever need in the practical world.
Again, we put a lot of this down to the torque. And with torque, you don’t need to be revving the back end out of it to build exciting momentum. For anyone out there who likes out-sprinting other motorists off at the lights, this is a perfect unassuming machine for that. It swiftly and effortlessly whooshes up to speed. It feels a bit like an electric car in that sense.
When it comes time to turn some corners, what can we say… BMW has some how managed to improve on perfection. The turn-in is sharp and inviting, with outstanding stability no matter how hard you might be entering a turn. And then at the mid point, it leans ever so much to absorb the huge g-forces that are possible. At exit, there’s no hesitation thanks to that versatile engine.
The M Sport pack on the 330i includes, above the 320d, an M Sport locking differential for unyielding traction. However, flick the stability control off and this executive sedan becomes a drifting master. Never have we been able to toss a car, a mainstream car, so confidently around tight corners.
You can jerk the steering wheel into a bend, nail the throttle, and it will produce a textbook drift for you. BMW engineers have obviously dialled in the ideal caster setting for the front wheels because the steering automatically returns to centre smoothly, without snappiness. There is no tank slap here.
Going with the 330i M Sport also brings in special blue-painted M Sport brakes which offer superb stopping capability. They incorporate four-piston front calipers which, during our tests, help to bring the car to a complete stop from 100km/h in just 36.27 metres.
In our opinion the best thing about the overall driving character is the sheer capability and balance. As mentioned, you can come hot into a corner and jump hard on the brakes at the last minute – not that we recommend you do that anywhere other than a race track, preferably with nobody else on the track – and the 330i just gathers it all up and immediately stabilises everything. Imagine a kid playing with a Matchbox car. Pushing the car ridiculously fast but without letting go. It stops and turns like it has absolutely no regard for gravity or physics. That’s what the 330i is like. It’s like a giant kid is holding the car.
This has a lot to do with the weight, which is just 1433kg (tare) – it’s one of the lightest cars in the class. That’s, believe it or not, 24kg lighter than the previous 330i M Sport. Even with all the extra tech and luxuries. The awesome driving dynamics are also thanks to a reworked suspension system and new suspension geometry.
Engineers increased the front camber while implementing a new damper technology which incorporates “lift-related” management. It can constantly adjust damping in relation to the spring travel. In other words, while the wheels are travelling up and down the damper is constantly adjusting to absorb the next bump and provide utter stability – it’s like that giant kid is firmly planting the car on the ground, no matter what.
The springs are also 20 per cent stiffer and there’s extra damping hydraulics at the front, and a compression-limiting rear axle. In other words, this new 3 Series is likely to be far more skilled and prepared than you and I. We’ve driven all of the main rivals in a similarly hoon-ish manner and, in our opinion, none acknowledge, compute, and execute the drive ahead as well as or as responsive as this does. This is the new benchmark.
If you are about to buy a new 330i, make sure you do take it for a proper drive. Engineers must have put so much time and energy into developing this. We think it deserves to be appreciated and enjoyed, and not just driven to work everyday, sitting in traffic.
2019 BMW 330i M Sport – THE VIDEOS
2019 BMW 330i M Sport – THE VERDICT
Well, BMW has done it again. We’re convinced this is easily the new benchmark for this class. That’s in terms of premium sedans that are skewed slightly towards the sporty end of the spectrum.
There are more luxurious propositions out there that offer higher degrees of comfort, but they might be too soft and cushy for some (think, Lexus ES). And there are more focused and highly strung rivals available, but they might be too edgy for some (think, Alfa Romeo Giulia). We think the G20 walks somewhere down the middle, in a state of rarely-found yin and yang.
As for the 330i variant? It offers more than enough performance for daily driving needs, and even fulfils those inner-child and even inner-hoon needs. And yet, the fuel consumption won’t cause bank account anxiety. There is no other word for it; it’s perfect.
– 330i offers all the performance you need
– Cornering capability and overall balance; sets the new benchmark
– Nice interior layout with useful tech
– Lighter than predecessor
– Good value for money thanks to more standard kit
– Official fuel consumption rises from 5.8L/100km in previous model to 6.4
– Fake in-car engine sounds that can’t be turned off
As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.