BMW 3 Series 330i M Sport Review
The Legend Continues

Words by Khim Yap. Photos by Khim Yap and Clifford Chow
11 Apr 2019
 

This 330i drives really well. It’s a car that’ll have you constantly yearning to take it for a long road trip up North.

Over the past 40 years, the BMW 3 Series has been winning fans all over the world with its promise of sporty driving pleasure in a premium midsize sedan. After all, BMW has sold more 15 million units globally of this iconic sports sedan.

With that, I was excited to see how well this all-new 330i M Sport will perform under the weight of expectation from its illustrious history. After having spent 72 hours with this sleek sedan, I am confident that this seventh generation of the BMW 3 Series will continue to add another chapter to the success story of BMW’s best-selling premium sports sedan.

The all-new G20 3 Series has been updated and completely revamped. Looking at the car, its silhouette has that familiar, unmistakable look of a 3 Series. The lineage is clearly there, but you can also see the evolution of the car… and this Bimmer has undoubtedly been upgraded several notches.

It is now longer and wider. Compared to the F30 3 Series, it is 76 mm longer (at 4,709 mm) and 16 mm wider (1,827 mm). And if you’re looking at the Luxury version of the 330i, it is also 1 mm taller (1,442 mm). This 1mm height increase is only applicable to the Luxury version as the M Sport version is actually 10 mm lower than the Luxury version.  

Despite the size increase, the car is now lighter and more rigid than its predecessor. Total weight has been reduced by 25 kgs (kerb weight of 1,545 kgs) due to its intelligent lightweight construction. The car’s aerodynamics has also been improved (from 0.26 Cd previously), and it now boasts a best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.23 Cd. 

The car looks athletic without being too muscular to be an executive sedan. I love the look of the sporty front bumper on the M Sport version of the 330i with its huge air inlets. BMW’s new design language feels modern and gives the car a dynamic feel with its sleek lines and contoured surfaces. 

The 330i’s eye-catching full-LED headlights give the car an eager and expressive look. And the signature BMW kidney grilles are now bigger and wider than before. With the F30 3 Series, the kidney grilles were pretty much placed at the furthest forward position, but BMW has now moved the grilles inward to be a bit closer towards the engine. And, as with the newer Bimmers, the slats in the front grilles will open and close automatically depending on how much air flow to the engine is needed.  

The Hofmeister kink, the other signature BMW design element apart from the kidney grilles, has been reimagined and they are now integrated into the C-pillar. The corner of the rear doors now have a “freestanding” glass edge that looks cool but could also be a problem should you open your door and accidentally ding it into a pillar. You’ll definitely want to be careful not to chip the glass.   

The rear of the car gets a stylish new aerodynamic spoiler lip that works well together with darkened L-shaped taillights, rear diffuser and two distinct 90 mm tailpipes that give the all-new BMW 3 Series a sporty look.

Adding to the car’s sporty look are the double-spoke 19-inch M light alloy wheels that look great paired with the 330i’s massive brake discs and those distinctive blue M Sport brake callipers. These M Sport brakes provide plenty of bite and do a great job in helping the car shed speed when called upon. 

Beyond the car’s revamped look, the 330i’s power unit has also been upgraded. The car’s TwinPower Turbo engine feels spirited and responsive. Its two-litre, four-cylinder engine produces 258 hp and 400 Nm of torque. This 330i delivers an extra six hp increase in power output and 50 Nm of torque compared to the previous generation F30 330i. The new G20 330i also shaves 0.1 secs off the F30 330i’s 0-100km/h century sprint time — from 5.9 seconds to 5.8 seconds. 

In this highly distracted world that we live in, it has become all too easy to lose concentration. Driver aids can help save lives (and keep you from damaging your car) if you slip up and make a mistake. The 330i comes with a whole host of safety features that you’d expect from a top marque like BMW such as Lane Departure Warning, Driving Assistant with Lane Change Warning, Front Collision Warning with Brake Intervention, Rear Collision Prevention and Cross-Traffic Alert, plus Collision and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function. 

Inside

On the inside of the 330i, it feels classy and contemporary. The Control Display and instrument cluster have been drastically revamped and updated. The interior comes with a beautiful 11-colour ambient lighting system that gives the car a Tron-like, futuristic look when it glows.  

These days, quite a few premium cars come up head-up display (HUD), and I find the one on the 330i to be one of the best. It is clear, bright and in full colour. Other than the speed, you also get other useful information like the speed limit in the area that you are driving in and it even blinks to tell you that you’ve exceeded the speed limit. Through the HUD, you can also see entertainment options like radio stations or what the next track on the playlist is.

The 330i comes standard with BMW Live Cockpit Professional, consisting of a customisable fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch Control Display. The operating system for the display has also been upgraded to the new BMW Operating System 7.0 with brand new menu options that are more intuitive and user-friendly. You can customise the widgets you wish to see on your Control Display and thanks to the car’s online connectivity, you can even read the news and get timely weather reports when you are in the car. Useful when you are deciding whether to wash the car or not!

The fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster is bright and makes for easy viewing. And as with most cars these days, the instrument cluster screen changes colour scheme when you put the car into the different drive modes through the Driving Experience Control buttons.  

The Driving Experience Control switch has also been updated. Instead of a rocker switch like before, there are now specific buttons for SPORT, COMFORT and ECO PRO so you won’t need to toggle through them like before. In case you are wondering, SPORT+ is still available. It is accessed through menu options when you press the SPORT button. You can even customise a SPORT INDIVIDUAL option for the car to perform to your preferences. 

The start/stop button has been moved to sit within the newly designed control panel in the centre console, just where the sweet new gear selector lever sits. I really like the look and feel of this new gear stick. It is smaller and feels good sitting snugly in the palm of my hand. This all-new 3 Series finally gets an electromechanical parking brake too instead of the mechanical hand brake that was on its predecessor. The light controls have also been updated to an easy to select panel of buttons that’s located in the same area next to the steering wheel. 

One of the cool new features on the all-new 3 Series is the BMW Digital Key that works either through a smartphone or a physical key card that looks like a regular credit card. Using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, it allows the user to lock and unlock the doors and start up the car. Which means you don’t need to carry around the regular car key fob, brilliant!

At the time of this review, the smartphone version of the BMW Digital Key is only available on NFC-capable Samsung Galaxy smartphones that running Android 8.0 and above. You just need to hold the phone up to the door handle to unlock the car. And once inside the car, you can start the engine just by placing the phone in the wireless charging tray. Unfortunately, I’m an iPhone user, so I had to use the key card. Another slight annoyance as an iPhone user is that every time I place my iPhone to be charged on the wireless charging tray, my phone thinks that I’m trying to make a payment through Apple Pay because of the NFC functionality of the car. I have to cancel the payment on my phone before it starts charging. Of course, every time the phone moves about in the charging tray, it thinks I’m trying to pay for something again. Hopefully, this is an issue that BMW will soon address with a firmware upgrade.

However, iPhone issues aside, I really enjoyed the convenience of just carrying the super slim key card when heading out… especially when I’m wearing my skinny-fit jeans. With the Digital Key you do lose the benefit of some features like keyless entry and comfort access on the boot, but I reckon the convenience far outweigh the drawbacks.

Another brand new BMW feature that’s making its debut in the 2019 BMW 3 Series is BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. It is sort of like having Siri run your car for you. To activate it, you say, “Hey BMW” and ‘she’ will respond to your command to do various things such as adjusting the air-conditioning, change radio stations or navigate you home. I like that you can give the Intelligent Personal Assistant a custom name that you want her to respond to. Naturally, the first name that came to my mind was Jarvis, and so that was the name I gave her. Yes, I know Jarvis’ voice isn’t female, but my kids thoroughly enjoyed ordering Jarvis about. Hopefully, in the future, BMW will provide a male voice option and even better if they can get Paul Bettany to do it!    

I tested the Parking Assistant feature, and I found that it was able to park the car very well, whether reverse or parallel. I confess that I enjoyed the freak-out looks of bystanders who were gawking at the hands-free parking capabilities of the 330i. It steers, accelerates, brakes and changes gears all by itself. To activate it, you just press the parking button next to the gear shifter and start to creep ahead in the car park. The Parking Assistant will start to look for a suitable parking space. Once it finds one, a "P" symbol will appear on the screen. Touch on the "P" symbol to confirm, and that’s it, the car will park itself. 

There’s also a Reversing Assistant feature that might be useful for those living in landed properties with tight parking spaces that require owners to navigate in and out of these confined spots every day. The Reversing Assistant will remember how you got into this tight spot, and it can reverse itself out (up to 50 metres) by steering the car along exactly the same line you took. 

Thanks to its enlarged body, the all-new 3 Series feels more spacious than before, especially so in the rear seats. Boot space is a generous 480-litres, and the rear seats offer a versatile 40:20:40 split fold if more cargo carrying space is needed. Comfort Access has also been improved. Not only can you unlock and open the boot with a sweep of the foot, but you can even close the boot in the same way. What’s more, you can also open and close the boot automatically using the button inside the car! 

The car is generally well-insulated, but I did get the occasional bit of wind noise when I was travelling at higher speeds. Thankfully, it only creeps in every now and then. But perhaps that’s why BMW offers an option to fit the windscreen and side door windows with acoustic glass. 

As expected of any sound system carrying the Harman Kardon badge, audio quality in the 330i is top-notch. It comes with 16 speakers and a digital 464 watt, seven-channel amplifier. The Harman Kardon surround sound system did an excellent job with the highs of Halsey’s vocals and the lows of the rich bass lines on Without Me

The Drive

This 330i drives really well. It’s a car that’ll have you constantly yearning to take it for a long road trip up North. There’s no shortage of power, and with the car’s spaciousness and comfort, you know your passengers will have no issue spending a few hours driving to KL, Ipoh or even Penang. And when you’ve got the ultra fun drive modes like SPORT and SPORT+ available at the press of a button, well… you can see why anyone will be itching to take this car for a long hard drive!  

Besides being fun to drive, the car also handles well. The M Sport version of the 330i comes with M Sport suspension that’s able to self-adjust damper firmness according to what it senses the car needs. Not only does it make the car look a little more sporty (it lowers the car by 10 mm), it also improves the car’s cornering abilities. However, some may find the M Sport suspension to be a tad bit too firm for a premium luxury car.  

The car’s longer wheelbase and wider track also contribute to the car’s stability. I always love the ‘fierce’ look of staggered wheels on a BMW, and the large 225/40R19 (front) and 255/35R19 (rear) wheels on our test 330i not only make the car look good, but they also help the car feel planted and stable. The variable sport steering on the car feels responsive, direct and precise but personally, I find the steering wheel to be a tad bit too thick and ‘meaty’ for my liking. I prefer a slimmer steering wheel with a girth that I can comfortably wrap my fingers around… especially so if I’m going to be travelling at high speeds.   

Our Thoughts

If you are currently driving the predecessor F30 3 Series, you’ll probably find the all-new 2019 3 Series to be a huge upgrade. Compared to the F30, the car impresses on all levels. You get improvements in comfort, size, luxury, tech features, handling and power. And based on its official fuel consumption numbers of 6.4 l/100km (or 15.63 km/l), the car is a fairly remarkable fuel-sipper, considering the power that it can deliver.  

At S$235,888* (inclusive of GST, COE and 12 months road tax), the all-new G20 3 Series isn’t a budget car, but it certainly offers a lot of bang for the buck. In time to come, I’m sure it’ll only serve to add to the success and the legendary status of the ever-popular BMW 3 Series. 

*All information accurate as at 11 April 2019

In Summary

We Like

The all round improvements in comfort, size, luxury, tech features, handling and power.

We Don't

The M Sport suspension may be a bit too firm for some, and there’s some slight wind noise at high speeds. BMW Digital Key is currently only available on NFC-capable Samsung Galaxy smartphones and some irritation for iPhone users when using the wireless charging tray. 

Verdict

The all-new G20 330i is a powerful sports sedan that looks great, drives well and comes with all kinds of bells and whistles that any car buyer would want.  

Car Loan Calculator - BMW 3 Series 330i M Sport

SGD 241,888 (19 Sep 2019)

Based on OMV, this car is eligible for minimum 40% down payment

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Engine

Engine Capacity 1998cc Turbocharged
Engine Type Inline 4
Compression Ratio 10.2:1
Bore x Stroke (94.6 x 82)mm
Power 258bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque 400Nm @ 1550rpm
Power to Weight 167 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 5.8s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 250 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 15.6 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 8 -speed Auto
Drive Type FR
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type Sedan
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(4633 x 1811 x 1429) mm
Wheelbase 2810 mm
Kerb Weight 1545 kg
Boot Capacity 480 L
Fuel Tank Capacity 59 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs