BMW does its best to recapture the fun-to-drive character of its best-selling entry-level sedan after a few years in Dullsville, but while the 2019 BMW 330i xDrive is certainly better from behind the wheel, it’s more interested in stylish coddling than paddling competitors on the track.
There are some who will argue that the redesigned BMW 3 Series doesn’t move the needle much in terms of style. The 330i’s kidney grilles and aggressive M Sport bumper are exaggerated compared to the year before, and in profile the greenhouse has been more elegantly tapered at the rear (where new taillights are also waiting), but overall it’s an evolution of the older vehicle’s appearance. Whether this is good or bad will depend on how enamoured you were with the previous model’s sheet metal, but overall it’s a relatively handsome package, especially in black.
There’s very little that can’t be had from the BMW 3 Series in terms of active safety equipment – but you’ll have to pay for it rather than receive it as standard. Items such as forward collision warning with automatic braking and lane-departure warning are standard, but lane-keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, full parking camera coverage, cornering headlights, adaptive cruise control, and automatic parallel parking are all bundled up in packages or available a la carte.
The 3 Series remains one of the most comfortable five-passenger entry-level luxury sedans thanks to a well-proportioned cabin that offers generous room even for rear-seat riders. With a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 76 mm (giving it the same proportions as the company’s mid-size 5 Series from the early 2000s), there’s a bit more space at nearly every position. The car also features a split-folding rear seat and 481 litres of trunk space, which is near full-size in terms of cargo hauling capacity.
User Friendliness: 8/10
The new iDrive system (split between a configurable gauge cluster and a larger screen on the centre stack) is a paragon of infotainment. The dial controller is simple to use, menus feel less convoluted than before, and BMW has done an excellent job in presenting top-notch graphics every step of the way.
The BMW 330i xDrive’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder is a familiar face, but it’s been given a number of updates to boost output to 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, with the latter figure nearly 40 lb-ft more compared to the engine’s previous iteration. Matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a near-transparent all-wheel drive system, you’d be hard-pressed to peg the unit as a four based on how readily it responds to your right foot.
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BMW is known for its Byzantine options structure, where features and packages interlace together like winding Amazonian vines straining towards your pocketbook.
You can add a surprising amount of gear to the 330i xDrive’s equipment list, but it all comes at a cost. Paddle shifters for the automatic transmission? $2,000. Leather upholster versus leatherette? $1,500. Heated seats and steering wheel? You’re going to have to go with one of the Premium packages, ranging from Essential ($1,900) to Excellence ($8,900). You can even install “Laserlight” headlights if the optional LED units don’t do it for you (included with the M Sport package, along with the unique aero gear outfitted to our tester). Really, there’s nothing missing from the feature set that a little more money can’t bring back into the picture, save for one particular omission that we’ll get to in a moment.
Previous versions of the BMW 3 Series cabin were often criticized for being a little too plain to make a claim on the attentions of luxury buyers. For 2019, aspects of that charge have been addressed. The tan “cognac” leather of our particular 330i tester serves as a pleasant contrast to the black plastics on the door panels and dashboard, but the aluminium-look mesh trim on the center console and dash looked and felt out of place. That segment-below tactile experience is repeated on the console’s switchgear, in particular the flat button panel that controls the vehicle’s drive modes. It simply doesn’t feel like a match for the car’s price point.
Driving Feel: 8/10
It’s safe to say that BMW’s engineers were under the microscope when putting together the chassis of the 2019 3 Series. “Lacklustre” was the most common phrase used to describe the once-vigorous sedan’s driving experience in the previous generation, and it’s easy to see where improvements have been made to tackle these concerns.
The new 330i xDrive offers a smooth and comfortable ride at all speeds, with improved steering feel (perhaps the worst aspect of the older 3 Series), excellent braking, and a relatively quiet cabin. Although engaging through its torque-heavy powerband, the 330i xDrive doesn’t feel particularly sporty when driven at a brisk pace. As alluded to earlier, another missing piece from the “fun to drive” equation is a manual gearbox, which is no longer offered with any current 3 Series model, regardless of how much you’re willing to spend.
Is it exciting to fling the car through the corners in the way romanticized by the memory of decades-old 3 Series models? Not exactly – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is in keeping with every single one of its competitors, as neither Mercedes-Benz nor Audi are particularly concerned with lap times. The 330i may fall prey to the stiffer-sprung Genesis G70 on a particularly challenging stretch of road (a vehicle which happens to make a third pedal available), but the trade-off is a more settled overall driving experience on the commute, and that’s a bargain most buyers are willing to make.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
The 2019 BMW 330i xDrive posts a city rating of 10.2 L/100 km and a highway rating of 7.2 L/100 km. This makes the sedan somewhat less thirsty as compared to all-wheel drive rivals from Mercedes-Benz (C300 4MATIC) and Audi (A4 Quattro).
The 2019 BMW 330i xDrive starts at a healthy $49,000, but as mentioned above, adding extra gear will quickly leave that entry-level MSRP in the dust. Our test vehicle slathered on $12,000 in options, boosting the window sticker to $64,247. This represents another area where the G70 can claim victory over the 3 Series, but again, bargains are few and far between in the world of German luxury cars, where the word “value” is rarely whispered when drawing up trim levels and packages.
The 2019 BMW 330i xDrive is a comfortable, stylish, and feature-laden luxury car – if you’re willing to pay the price to enjoy what it has to offer to the fullest, and if you can ignore the plainer aspects of its interior package. If you’re looking for a sporty ride, however, you’ll be better served by upstart Genesis.
|2019 BMW 330i xDrive|
|Engine Displacement: 2.0L|
|Engine Cylinders: I4|
|Peak Horsepower: 255 hp @ 6,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,550 rpm|
|Fuel Economy: 10.2/7.2/8.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space: 471 L|
|2019 BMW 330i xDrive|
|Base Price $49,000|
|A/C Tax $100|
|Destination Fee $2,840|
|Price as Tested $64,735|
|Optional Equipment $12,795 – Black Sapphire Metallic paint $895; 19-inch double-spoke black rims $500; Premium Excellent Package $8,900; M Sport Package $2,500|