CD Test Drive: 2004 BMW 330Ci M Sport

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 18, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Review and photos by Laurance Yap

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    A friend of mine that works at an agency doing some of BMW's direct-mail marketing pieces recently showed me an internal document outlining how, exactly, to use the BMW logo. It was almost forty pages long. It showed how the logo had to be rendered in three dimensions (never just blue and black on a white background); how it should be positioned on the page, and what kind of imagery it should be presented with. Even accounting for the English and German text, it was clear, as if it wasn't already patently obvious, that BMW is a company almost psychotically obsessed with its brand image, and protecting it at all costs. Even if it means using really big red letters telling art directors to never use it more than once on a page.

    This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Not only is the BMW roundel one of the most recognizable and looked-up-to brand marks in the world - top on the list last year of Forbes magazine's ranking of luxury brands - the company's message is one of the longest-running and most consistent as well: hear BMW and you immediately think, ultimate driving machine. Not many brands can claim such instant recognition. Which goes a long way to explaining not only why people are willing to pay a price premium to drive a BMW, but also explains why the brand is so closely guarded.

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    You may wonder, then, if there's still the same consistency now that BMW's cars are looking so much different than they used to be (while still sporting the same logo). While I'm a bit of a fan of most of chief designer Chris Bangle's recent work, there are plenty of people that aren't, and it's worth asking how the brand will fare against criticism of the cars, whether BMW should have been managing its automotive shapes as obsessively as it does the use of its logo.

    Take this 2004 330Ci coupe, for instance. Though it's been treated to a bit of a nip-and-tuck courtesy of Bangle's flame-surfacing tool - the headlights now squint from underneath pointed covers, the hood has a sharper and more pronounced power bulge - it still reflects old-school BMW's almost anal-retentive design philosophy. The front bumper's big air intakes are perfectly rendered, and even the complex double-spoke wheels have beautifully beveled edges and curved spokes. Unlike the Z4 and 7-series, it's still got that recognizable shape, and details like the twin kidney grilles and the placement of those logos are still picture-perfect.

    It's an attention to detail, a finessing of the finer points, that translates directly through the driving experience as well. The entire car drives with a well-oiled precision, a sense of heft coupled with perfect balance, that always makes you look like a better driver than you actually are. People wonder why BMW drivers seem to be more aggressive on the road than most others: it's not that they're arrogant, insensitive people (as the stereotype goes); it's just that the perfect clutch-shifter combination, the trusty weight and feel of the steering, and the stupendous braking performance, flatter BMW drivers into thinking themselves little Ralf Schumachers.

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    With 231 horses, the 330Ci, though certainly not up to M3 speeds, is plenty fast, and its well-controlled ride motions, superb body control, and great outward visibility mean it's easy to get lulled into driving a bit too fast and a little too aggressively, slicing in and out of holes in traffic, circling on-ramps with reckless abandon. What's perhaps more impressive is how well the 330 deals with being driven slowly as well, the 3.0-litre straight-six is flexible enough to lug along in sixth from 40 km/h, the precise throttle allowing you to meter out the horses one at a time. Fuel economy is impressive, too: in a week of fairly aggressive driving, I managed a decent 10.1 l/100 km.

    My 330Ci tester (base price: $50,350) was outfitted with a few notable options: a $5400 M Sport package that included a tightened suspension, attractive body kit, sport seats and steering wheel, 18-inch wheel and tire package and other random trim bits, and the $490 adaptive headlight system, which uses various sensor for wheel speed and steering angle to make the front lights "look" around corners, to a maximum of 15 degrees. While the adaptive lights are extremely impressive on unlit country roads and around dark on-ramps, they're of limited use for city slickers, given how well-lit most of the GTA is nowadays (you also need to remember to switch the lights to their automatic setting, rather than to full-on, as is my habit, to activate them).

    I'm wholeheartedly for the other two options, however. BMW's performance-enhancing packages have always represented a bit of a bargain, especially when compared to some of the other luxury-oriented add-ons you can order. The 18-inch tires offer a tangible dynamic benefit with their increased cornering grip - which comes at no expense to the ride, though there's a bit more steering kickback - and the sport package's cloth-and-faux-suede seats and wheel are an excellent complement to the more connected feel you get from the suspension. Plus, I like the way the 330 looks with the body kit. Spending your money on packages like these gives you a much more entertaining car than spending the equivalent on, say, power leather seats or an upgraded stereo.

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    Especially when even in fairly basic trim, the 330's interior is such a nice place to be, with a fully adjustable driving position (the manual seat adjusters for reach, rake, and height are brilliant and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes), and a familiar, if not totally intuitive, control layout.

    What impresses most, though, is the quality and consistency - not just the way the materials and finishes match and play off each other, but how, for instance, the same typeface is used for everything from the gauge faces to the climate controls to the airbag labels and owner's manual.

    BMW's gone a lot bolder with its exterior and interior designs lately than what you see in this 3-series, but even the 7, 5, and Z4 exhibit the same minute attention to detail in the way they're executed. It'll be interesting to see where the company takes the next 3-series; many BMW fans see this car (which probably has two years left in its life) as the last of the great old-school Bimmers, but I'm actually a fan of the new designs and can't wait to see what Chris Bangle and company do to remake BMW's mainstream model.

    Having said that, if you need a car now, and are looking in this price range, you won't find a better-balanced and more thoroughly-executed coupe.

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    Technical Data:

    Base price $49,000
    Options M sport package ($5,400),adaptive headlights ($490)
    Freight/PDI $1,350
    Price as tested $56,240

    Type Two-door coupe
    Layout Longitudinal engine, rear-wheel drive
    Engine DOHC inline 6 cylinder, 24 valves
    Horsepower 231 @ 5,900 rpm
    Torque 214 ft. lb. @ 3,500 rpm

    Transmission 6-speed manual
    Curb weight 1,490 kg (3,285 lbs.)
    Wheelbase 2,725 mm (107.3 in.)
    Length 4,488 mm (176.7 in.)
    Width 1,757 mm (69.2 in.)
    Height 1,369 mm (53.9 in.)
    Luggage capacity 410 litres (14.5 cu. ft.)
    Fuel consumption City: 11.2 litres/100 km (24 mpg) Highway: 7.2 litres/100 km (39 mpg)
    Warranty 4 years/80,000 km

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  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Close to perfection, no doubt.
     
  3. court-jester

    court-jester I love dykes

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    yap looks like he just wet his panties
     
  4. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot New Member

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    I have the Sedan version in the US they call it the ZHP which designates the new Performance package. The robbed the Canadiens though because in the US the Horsepower is 235 and the TQ is 222.

    My only gripe is that the thing trammels like a no other car I have driven, it literally is like fighting with the car to drive on some of the crappy Seattle freeways.
     
  5. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I considered buying a 330i ZHP, it's an amazing car.
     
  6. eurocarracer

    eurocarracer New Member

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  7. dbman96

    dbman96 Active Member

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    What's ZHP?
     
  8. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    "Performance Package" upgrade on 330i and 330Ci models, full of cool goodies.
     
  9. cftofu2k

    cftofu2k OT Supporter

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    what do you guys think about this car vs. a g35coupe? still a little bit more expensive..
     
  10. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    BMW, no contest.
     
  11. VANOS

    VANOS .

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    i just got an 04 M3 for $50k flat

    even if that is like $42k... is the extra 102hp, suspension, transmission and looks not worth $8k more??

    rip off :down: (btw my previous car was an 01 330ci and the difference between M3 and 330ci is night and day)
     
  12. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot New Member

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    So the suspension and transmission are from the M3, but the M3 obviously still has the bigger engine and that in itself is worth big bucks, I just couldn't spend another 10k+ tax on a car that is already making me drive entirely to fast as it is...

    What I did get over the base 330i is:
    Hotter cams
    Bigger rear diff
    Beefier (is that a word?) exhaust
    M3 suspensions and 6spd Tranny
    M3 steering wheel (much thicker, covered in alacantra)
    M3 Mtech body kit and frontend bumper
     
  13. dbman96

    dbman96 Active Member

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    I strongly suspect that "M-tuned suspension" and "M3 suspension" are two entirely different beasts. I've driven the 330i performance package and an E46 M3 and they handle COMPLETELY differently.
     
  14. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot New Member

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    You are probably correct and I should have been more specific with the terminology but the suspension is an upgrade over the base 330i sport. Although since the cars are setup differently Sedan vs. Coupe that may account for the variations. along with increased weight of the M3 frontend.
     
  15. ChosenGSR

    ChosenGSR Mama always said you'd be the chosen one

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    It is, production starts next month. First cars will be here around April. I am getting one as soon as I graduate this May :wavey:
     
  16. SlowNegative

    SlowNegative Her name is Rio

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    The price point puts it too close to an M3. I'll pass.
     
  17. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    When I priced them, the difference between a loaded 330iP and loaded M3 was substantial, as was the insurance.
     
  18. ChosenGSR

    ChosenGSR Mama always said you'd be the chosen one

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    not at all, if you get an equivalently packaged M3 you are looking at 10 grand difference... Not to mention the insurance differences between the two especially for the younger crowd.
     
  19. Captain Amazing

    Captain Amazing OT Supporter

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    lulz
    Id rather take a WRX STi! *runs away*
     
  20. SlowNegative

    SlowNegative Her name is Rio

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    For me, it wouldn't work - I couldn't justify not getting an M3. State Farm quoted me on an 04 M3 with a $500 deductable - $105/month :)
     
  21. ChosenGSR

    ChosenGSR Mama always said you'd be the chosen one

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    :rofl:
     
  22. ChosenGSR

    ChosenGSR Mama always said you'd be the chosen one

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    I'm 21 :hs:
     
  23. VANOS

    VANOS .

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    im 20

    i think i pay ~$400 a month for insurance on the 04 M3

    no accidents, won all speeding tickets in court
     
  24. LEGbEND

    LEGbEND .

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    id still take this :o

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  25. jk

    jk Guest

    How much is 52k canadian in US currency?
     

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