Road Test - 2003 BMW 330i Performance Package

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Sep 27, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The Best Gets Better

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    By Ed Hellwig
    Date posted: 08-07-2003

    Sunrise seems even earlier on the weekends, but with some of the best driving roads in America nearby and a 3 Series sedan sitting in the driveway, there's an obligation there that's hard to ignore. Still weary after a few sips of coffee and a hastily toasted bagel, you're at the wheel ripping down freeways unrecognizable in their emptiness. You peel off the highway, make a couple jogs through well-memorized city streets and arrive just in time to see the sun beginning to light up long stretches of desolate, winding blacktop. The grogginess suddenly evaporates, the radio gets turned off and all of those second thoughts about getting up at an ungodly hour just to go for a drive melt into giddy nervousness.

    It's rare for a car to inspire such enthusiasm for driving, let alone one of the four-door variety, yet BMW's entry-level sedan has been prompting early morning romps like this for over two decades now. With deliciously smooth six-cylinder power, steering that seems to know where you're going before you do and suspension tuning well steeped in both comfort and grip, the 3 Series almost single-handedly created, and in many ways defined, the class it now dominates.

    Already refined to the point of perfection, upgrades to the 3 seem almost overkill, but BMW's engineers aren't much for sitting around and patting themselves on the back. The very existence of the Motorsport division and its now famous "M" cars is just one example of BMW's never-ending push to extract even more performance out of its cars. Although the M3 coupe has personified 3 Series performance for several years now, no such equivalent exists for the sedan. In order to bridge the gap, BMW has introduced a Performance Package for the 330i that elevates its performance potential without requiring the full Motorsport treatment. Although it has the appearance of a half-baked effort on BMW's part, rest assured that the experience behind the wheel rarely disappoints.

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    The upgrades begin with the engine naturally, where new camshafts, a lighter flywheel and a revised engine management computer collaborate to produce 10 additional horsepower (for a total of 235), 8 extra pound-feet of torque (222) and quicker throttle response. A larger-diameter exhaust system finished off with stainless steel tips makes for a sharper look and a deeper sound. A six-speed manual gearbox fitted with a short-throw shifter is also added, along with a shorter final drive ratio. Although admittedly minor in scope, BMW claims that these changes shave the car's 0-to-60-mph time down to less than six seconds.

    The ability of 3 Series sedans to produce such impressive acceleration numbers from relatively modest horsepower totals continues to confound. Although several other vehicles in its class produce considerably more power, none are able to match the 330i's quickness. Clutch take-up is still on the soft side, requiring concentration to avoid jerky engagement, but once hooked up, the sedan builds speed quickly. It's not the kind of power that snaps your head back with every shift, but there's always enough motivation on tap to make the car feel fast.

    Additional Performance Package upgrades include extensive suspension modifications that tighten up and sharpen the already precise underpinnings. Firmer springs, retuned shocks and thicker antiroll bars constitute the major changes, while more rigid bushings and a lower ride height are included as well. Double-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile high-performance tires not only add a distinctive look, they allow the engine computer to relax its speed limiter from 128 mph to a more autobahn-like 155 mph.

    While the standard 3 Series attempts to provide the optimum balance of comfort and handling, the Performance Package tips the scale heavily in favor of the latter. It's not immediately uncomfortable by any means, but don't tack it on just to get the cool wheels and expect nothing more than a few extra jolts over potholes. It's firm in a way that enthusiasts will savor, but poseurs will grow tired of quickly. There's no bottoming out of any kind, but freeway expansion joints that previously contributed nothing more than a few audible thumps suddenly become annoyingly uncomfortable. Still, it's a small price to pay considering the rewards.

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    On our jaunt through the Angeles National Forest, the 330's heightened level of responsiveness translated into a confidence rarely experienced in any car, let alone a sedan. Combined with BMW's legendary steering precision, the 330 rips through switchbacks with such ease that you can't help but push harder into each successive corner. Body roll is minimal, turn-in is quick and when there's no more grip, it begins to slide so gradually that only the most minor adjustment is required to rein it back in. Like all BMWs, switching off the electronic stability control system turns it completely off — no motherly backup here — but even with it on there's little intrusion.

    Velvety soft Alcantara suede covers both the firmly bolstered sport seats and the thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel, keeping you firmly in control during athletic maneuvers. Perfectly placed pedals make heel-and-toe downshifts seem natural, but the shortened shifter didn't feel as solid as some of the other Motorsport sticks we've experienced. Additional Performance Package items include "black cube" interior trim, an Anthracite headliner and an "M"-badged shift knob.

    Adding the Performance Package to a standard 330i bumps the price by a substantial $3,900, but for those who have held out hope for a 3 Series sedan with Motorsport character, it will be money well spent. The additions are subtle, but the car's abilities are not. It's not cheap, but when it's 6 a.m. and you're flinging it through a corner like it's never going to let go, $40 grand doesn't seem like much.

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    Ups: Deceptively strong six-cylinder, flawless build quality, point-and-shoot steering and handling, powerful but easy-to-modulate brakes.

    Downs: Low-profile tires groan on the highway, suspension tuning grows tiresome on rough streets.

    The Bottom Line: It's no M3 sedan, but drive it and you're not likely to care much.

    MSRP of Test Vehicle: $40,095

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  2. iZero

    iZero Guest

    Insanely overpriced.
     
  3. Dhan

    Dhan OT Supporter

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    :bangled:
     
  4. jk

    jk Guest

    40k for that? 8 more k and I have a base M3.
     
  5. court-jester

    court-jester I love dykes

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    wasnt there a thread like this earlier today? i cant find it any more
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Or a larger, 400HP CTS-V. :hs:
     
  7. VBGOD

    VBGOD Guest

    There was...
     
  8. FusionITR

    FusionITR New Member

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  9. FusionITR

    FusionITR New Member

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    And I'm getting my 01 325Ci pretty quick I hope.
     
  10. Slimmy

    Slimmy Get Richt or Die Trying

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  11. Dhan

    Dhan OT Supporter

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    they made their auto transmissions for a brief while :eek3:
     
  12. FusionITR

    FusionITR New Member

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    I cant believe they want 40 fucking thousand for a 330i
     
  13. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    They make one with 400HP now. :p
     
  14. Mugatu

    Mugatu Ask me about market research. OT Supporter

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    nice color - too bad they changed the front end :ugh:
     
  15. lazybastard

    lazybastard OT Supporter

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  16. VBGOD

    VBGOD Guest

    Doesn't a REAL M3 go for $54,000?
     
  17. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    $46,500 + $695 destination charge
     
  18. jk

    jk Guest

    :dunno:
     
  19. LEGbEND

    LEGbEND .

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    for $40k... it better come with a good handjob
     
  20. VBGOD

    VBGOD Guest

    With no options?
     
  21. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    No options, not even leather or power seats. :eek3:
     
  22. Bavarian3

    Bavarian3 OT Supporter

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    Edit:

    i misreaad ur post. thot u were talking about the 330i.

    anyways the 330i is an awesome car. Very quick.

    and how the hell can u compare a 400hp CTS to a 330i. that makes no sense.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2003
  23. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Easy, it's $44k for a 330i optioned the way I want, and $49k for the CTS-V.

    That gives me pause.
     
  24. Bavarian3

    Bavarian3 OT Supporter

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    why does it give u pause?

    for 50k u could get an M3. so u see ur comparing to the wrong car. And even a Cts-v compared to a 330i performance package i laugh at. Theres more to a car than Hp. if u drove the 330 then ud kno what im talking about. But u havent so peace.
     
  25. bokhan

    bokhan i love you

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    these go for mid 20s now. :eek3:
     

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