Why the BMW 330i is the ultimate mile-muncher
Long distance drivers often have to make a compromise or two when it comes to their car of choice for cross-country trips. BMW has always been regarded as one of the top dogs when it comes to creating comfortable, fast and efficient cruisers. So surely the latest 330i is more than capable of upholding this hard-earned reputation?
I drove from Essex to Newcastle to attend a six day work course and was given the keys to the latest BMW 330i M Sport Saloon thanks to Thrifty.
No time to clean the bird muck from the front, I had over 300 miles to drive
My first impressions of the car (besides the mass of bird excrement on the front) was the smart Mineral Grey metallic paint that contrasted well with the striking black trim features found around the exterior. The body looked well-shaped and quite serious, but that plastic front grille definitely took some getting used to.
Split tailpipes for the win
As saloons go, the 330i certainly isn't ugly. The back end oozes sportiness - split pipes and a small, subtle boot spoiler help remind you of the capability of this hot-Bimmer. Move around to the side of the car and a set of gorgeous 19" wheels with huge M Sport blue brakes further add to the car's true potential.
The front right 19" wheel and M Sport brake caliper
Under the bonnet sits the well-praised B48 engine that's found in many BMW and MINI models. Two-litres, four cylinders and an eight-speed auto gearbox with flappy-paddles propel this car from zero to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds - impressive for car of this size.
The 330i's powerplant
The engine produces a healthy 258 horsepower, along with a massive 400Nm of torque - making for effortless overtaking on the motorway. The Auto gearbox changes incredibly quick without hesitation on the whole, but it did feel slightly uncertain in start/stop traffic (as most autos do).
But remember, the gears can be manually changed via the flappy-paddles mounted on the steering wheel, as well as by flicking the gear stick into the 'M/S' setting.
A good, chunky steering wheel inspires confidence
On start-up, the car defaults into Comfort Mode. The dampers are set to their softest setting, steering is light and the throttle response is fairly toned-down. This mode made for incredibly-comfortable motorway driving.
All controls are easy to use, but using the cup holders can interfere with some buttons
Along with Comfort Mode, the 330i also has a Sport Mode that transforms the car from a gentleman to a hooligan by firming up the dampers, increasing throttle response, engine noise and by adding some weight to the steering. This mode is fun, but the tort dampers do make for quite an harsh ride. A good alternative is Adaptive Mode that simply adjusts to your driving behaviour.
ECO Pro mode does what it says really, the ride is optimised to save fuel. Air con, heating and throttle response are dialled back in an attempt to save the driver some money on petrol.
Good news is that these driving modes are completely custom. For example, you can have comfort dampers in Sport Mode, or an increased throttle response in ECO Pro, etc.
Supporting local radio
Being a BMW, the 330i is a wonderful place to sit. All controls are easy to use and feel incredibly well-built. Plus, dual-zone climate control and heated leather seats are always a win in my eyes.
Yes, you can change the colour of the LED strips inside the cabin
In most cars, drivers would find a 306-mile drive up north to be exhausting, but in the 330i it was a civilised, comfortable experience. The majority of the journey was undertaken in Comfort Mode, where the car happily consumed mile after mile without any driver complaints of a sore back or tiredness. The only issue I found was the 19" wheels tend to give off a loud roar at 70 mph, requiring the radio volume to be turned up a notch.
As for luggage, I managed to fit two large military-style holdalls and four rucksacks into the 480-litre boot. If more space was required, the three back seats can all fold down individually to fit in any awkward items.
An average fuel consumption of nearly 45 mpg was achieved during the five-plus hour drive, which is rather good for a car with nearly 260 horsepower. To make matters better, the 330i still had 159 miles left in the tank - rather impressive figures for a hot petrol if you ask me.
It's certainly a looker!
All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with the BMW 330i. From its effortless ability to comfortably drive long distances, to its good fuel economy and its ferocity in Sport Mode. The 330i ticks many boxes for me.
On a negative note, the exhaust sound just wasn't quite loud enough. The engine has to be worked fairly hard (even in Sport Mode) to get any sound out of it. Once off the throttle, the car defaults into a silent cruiser, but In all fairness, that's kind of what it's been designed for.
The BMW 330i M Sport doesn't come cheap - prices start at around £39,160 and will soon creep up if you wanted any optional extras.
An ABSOLUTE Corker of a saloon