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BMW 330i Touring M Sport Pro (G21) Review: The One Car You'd Ever Need

It's powerful but not too much so, it is spacious but not too large, it sounds great but isn't OTT - could we have found perfect balance?
James Wong
James Wong
14 Aug 2023
At 1,600 kg, the 330i Touring is 340 kg lighter than the M3 Touring.
What we like:
Terrific practicality matched with awesome handling
That B48 earns its stripes - it's rather special in 30i guise
Properly sporty but perfectly usable daily
What we dislike:
OS 8 is frustrating to use at times
Odd headlight design

The 330i Touring is the first ‘normal’ LCI G20 (or G21 to be more precise) 3-Series I got to sample, as the only other G20 I reviewed sits at the other end of the spectrum, the M3 Sedan/Touring. Many would think the latter is easily the best G20 variant, but call me controversial, I think the 330i Touring is the sweet spot.

But it took a little convincing to convert the sceptic in me. Why a 30i variant, I quizzed, as that made the Touring significantly more expensive than if it came with a base engine. Given how rarely we come across BMW Tourings, I thought it was a shame that it wasn’t offered at a more affordable price point.

But after giving the 330i Touring a go, it didn’t take long to make me a convert and to understand why BMW specified it this way. The B48 in 30i guise includes some mechanical changes that are just enough to make it feel more special. They include revised pistons (and therefore a lower compression ratio), a different exhaust manifold and a more powerful cooling system (for a more detailed rundown, refer to our explainer article here).

The result is a punchy engine that actually sounds rather good. There’s a rorty note that’s pleasantly surprising in this day and age of straitjacket regulations. And it mostly isn’t fake sounds, either - yes, some of the synthesised noises exist in the cabin, but wind down the windows and you’d get to enjoy the real stuff. Toggling with IconicSounds, I realised that there is actually a mechanical exhaust flap that switches on and off even though IconicSounds is known for its synthesised sound instead - is this meant to be some sort of phygital experience?! Regardless, even with the exhaust flap closed, the car still sounds properly sporty. It’s a nice in-between the base models and the M340i that comes above, and a huge surprise given the B48 I have tried in other applications (M models notwithstanding) did not have this sort of aural engagement.

When it comes to power, the 30i engine feels rightly endowed as well, definitely not too little but also definitely not a handful, with 245 hp and 400 Nm. The upside of this is that it’s quite possible to stretch the engine to its limits in a few gears without breaking speed limits, and oh boy isn’t that pleasurable!

At 1,600 kg, the 330i Touring is 340 kg lighter than the M3 Touring. In this case its lighter 4-cylinder is a boon, especially in giving the front end an unencumbered, agile feel. There is also pure RWD instead of the switchable AWD system on the M3. All of this contributes to a beautifully balanced chassis that’s eager and fun to drive, true to the famed 3-Series values we all know and love. It’s easier to exploit on our streets than the very intense M3, and I’d reckon only the M340i may present a better proposition overall rather than the full-fat M car. Simplicity is indeed better, for the authentic spirit of the G20/21 really shines through.

Needless to say, the car is absolutely practical, and really is the only car you’d ever need if you have a young family in Singapore with, say, 2 kids. Build quality is also beyond reproach, the car feeling like a well-engineered product built with the customer in mind instead of bean counters. Just check out the supporting beams of the rear tailgate and you’d know what I mean.

Some nitty gritty details - OS 8 remains an irritation although my younger peers seem to get along better with it. I am not a fan of the new headlights with its strange-looking inverted daytime running lights, too.

But overall, the 330i Touring is close to what I reckon is the perfect car for Singapore. Yes, that’s how good it is.

Photos by New Gen Marketing


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