- Attractive not-too-daring styling.
- The best handling of them all.
- Super-smooth inline six now with more power.
- Complicated iDrive system is optional.
- Extensive choice of transmissions.
- Priced high as usual.
- Power increase offset by weight increase.
- Uninspired rear end styling.
- Boring interior details.
- Rear legroom shortage.
Press Coverage :
Sport sedan enthusiasts everywhere will soon have cause to celebrate an automotive landmark. Next spring the all-new BMW 3 Series will make its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show, followed by its North American debut at the New York Auto Show.
As with its predecessors, the fifth generation BMW 3 Series raises the sport sedan benchmark - decisively and significantly. Continuing to improve a concept that BMW pioneered more than forty years ago, the new 3 Series offers greater performance, safety and security as well as greater comfort and convenience.
The new 3 Series will enter the U.S. market in summer of 2005 with a choice of two in-line 6-cylinder engines, continuing a 3 Series tradition. The all-new 3.0-liter unit in the 330i offers a significant increase in performance. It is rated at 255-horsepower (SAE), a 30-horsepower increase over its predecessor.
In BMW's ongoing pursuit of weight reduction, this engine is the first in large-scale series production to use magnesium which, compared to aluminum, is 30 percent lighter. Magnesium is used in the crankcase, the crankshaft bearings and the cylinder head cover.
This engine is also the first six-cylinder to use BMW VALVETRONIC. With infinitely variable valve lift in place of the traditional throttle butterfly, this system improves both throttle response and fuel efficiency. Like previous BMW engines which have incorporated VALVETRONIC, the gains are impressive. In the case of the 330i, horsepower increases by 13%, while fuel consumption decreases by 12%. This unique technology works in tandem with BMW's double-VANOS variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts. The new 330i will accelerate from 0 - 60 mph in approximately six seconds.
There is a choice of a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission. The benefits of a six-speed manual in terms of acceleration, cruising comfort and fuel efficiency have been demonstrated in the previous 330i. These same benefits have also been proven on other BMWs which offer the new six-speed STEPTRONIC automatic. Those benefits will now be available to all 3 Series drivers.
The 3 Series is the latest BMW to feature the convenience of a start button. After firing up the engine at the touch of a button, all other functions operate seamlessly.
Reflecting BMW's rich heritage, the new BMW 3 Series continues some long standing traditions - engine mounted longitudinally up front, drive power to the rear wheels and near perfect 50:50 balance of weight over the front and rear wheels. These have contributed to the 3 Series well-earned reputation as the best handling sports sedan on the market.
Several enhancements will ensure that this new 3 Series lives up to its reputation. Like other BMWs, the new 3 Series gets a double-pivot front suspension for improved responsiveness. The newly developed suspension is made of aluminum to further improve responsiveness and comfort by reducing unsprung weight.
A new five-link rear suspension contributes to the improvement in handling and comfort. The new rear suspension is made of lightweight steel, which also contributes to the overall reduction of unsprung weight.
The new 3 Series becomes the first car in its class to offer anything approaching the benefits of BMW's unique Active Steering. This stand-alone option provides a more direct steering ratio at low speeds for greater maneuverability and a progressively less direct ratio as vehicle speed increases to improve high-speed stability. This solves the traditional trade-off between agility, stability and comfort with non-active steering.
In the new 3 Series, BMW Active Steering has been enhanced to provide an additional active safety benefit. Whenever the driver applies the brakes hard on surfaces with varying frictional coefficients - such as intermittent mud, ice or snow - Active Steering will intervene to help stabilize the vehicle even more quickly and seamlessly.
BMW's latest Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) incorporates new features which provide the driver with even more benefits. A new brake-drying feature can improve braking in wet weather, detected using the rain sensor and/or wiper activity, by gently rubbing the brake pads on the rotors to help keep the pad surface dry. A new Brake Standby feature can reduce braking response time by readying the brakes for application whenever the driver abruptly lifts off the accelerator pedal. By anticipating a sudden stop, Brake Standby can shorten stopping distances. The new Starting Assistant feature is designed to prevent rollback when starting off on a grade without having to use the brake pedal or handbrake.
All of these features will ensure that the BMW 3 Series will maintain its leadership, not only in handling and responsiveness, but in active safety as well.
The design of the new 3 Series is at once bold, dynamic and elegant. Positioned right in the epicenter of BMW's modern design spectrum, the 3 Series fits comfortably between the sportiness of the Z4 and the elegance of the 7 Series.
Compared to the outgoing model, more generous exterior dimensions ensure even greater spaciousness and comfort for all passengers. At 178.0 inches, the length increases by 1.9 inches. The width at 71.5 inches increases by 3.1. Vehicle height is 55.9 inches, an increase of 0.24. The wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer at 108.7.
Not only is the body shell of the new 3 Series larger it is also designed for greater stiffness, leading to improved comfort and safety. A new joint and crossbar concept for the car's load-bearing structure increases body stiffness by 25 percent without increasing the car's weight, thanks to intelligent lightweight engineering through the use of more highly developed steel and molding technologies.
The new 3 Series is designed to achieve the best results in the very demanding EuroNCAP crash test. It is also one of the first cars in the world fully prepared for the demanding U.S. side impact standards, as well as the high-speed rear impact test.
The list of passive safety features includes intelligent front driver and passenger airbags, hip/thorax side airbags and the BMW Head Protection System in curtain form.
Two-stage Adaptive Brakelights enlarge the brake light area in hard braking or whenever ABS is activated. This brighter warning can help following drivers to react more quickly. Runflat tires come standard. In the event of a puncture, the driver can continue for up to nearly three hours at speeds up to 50 mph, allowing him or her to get the tire repaired or replaced in a safe and secure area by skilled personnel.
The new 3 Series will be available with optional Xenon Adaptive Headlights. The previous BMW 3 Series was the first vehicle to offer these lights, which turn slightly whenever the front wheels turn. Greater illumination around bends improves visibility, particularly on winding roads.
The new interior reflects the modern ambience seen in other recent BMW designs. The interior is more spacious and more luxurious for drivers and passengers alike. The driver is also offered an environment that is designed to enhance the driving experience. As before, an onboard navigation system will be available. In the new 3 Series the system will include BMW's iDrive control system for convenient operation.
The optional Comfort Access makes the conventional ignition key a thing of the past. A uniquely coded transmitter, referred to as the ID Sensor, enables the driver to enter the car with the ID Sensor in a pocket and start the engine by pressing a button, without ever touching the ID Sensor. The ID Sensor, in conjunction with Key Memory, sets the driver's preferences for power seat position, mirrors, automatic climate control and, if equipped with optional iDrive, the radio station presets.
The new 3 Series is able to take advantage of the full range of BMW's information and entertainment features. The DVD-based onboard navigation system provides quick and accurate route planning and destination information. The standard AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system can be upgraded to include the Logic7 surround sound system, as offered in the 7 Series. The listening experience can be enhanced further with the availability of SIRIUS satellite radio. The available Premium Package will include BMW Assist which provides emergency calling and BMW Roadside Assistance. Subscribers may also take advantage of a whole range of travel-related services.
The new BMW 3 Series once again raises the sports sedan standard.
The new 3-Series is bigger in every direction. In reality, though, the 3-Series rear seats remain a fairly tight fit for anybody much over six feet tall. True, legroom is slightly improved, but headroom is still not as generous as we'd like.
The situation up front is a different story, with the driver gaining a near perfect driving position. In the way of all 3-Series, the centre console is angled toward the driver, with all major controls ideally situated - ergonomically, the 3-Series has few equals. The dashboard layout is very much in the family style originated by the 7-Series and carried through to the 5. Higher specification models - with sat-nav and i-Drive - gain the large dash-top screen while entry-level models do without.
Good news for the faithful - the 3-Series remains the best car to drive in the class. The combination of rear-wheel drive and just about ideal weight distribution front to rear invests the 3-Series with superb balance. Driven quickly over twisting roads, the BMW exhibits a neutral manner, giving the driver confidence that the front or rear of the car won't suddenly step out of line. And when grip does finally begin to let go - as we discovered on a private race track - it does so gently and progressively and is very easy to correct.
For the first time, BMW's Active Steering is now available on six-cylinder 3-Series models. The system changes the steering ratio depending on the speed of the car, the idea being to make the steering quicker and more agile at lower speeds while delivering more stability at high speed. We'd recommend that you give it a miss, though. It doesn't feel any more stable at high speed than the standard set up, and at lower speeds over challenging roads, it can be difficult to judge exactly how the steering is going to respond to any given input. The standard steering set up delivers excellent feedback with perfectly adequate assistance at lower speeds.
We tried BMW's new six-cylinder 258bhp 3.0-litre petrol engine. This engine claims to be the lightest six-cylinder engine in its class. Performance is outstanding, with 62mph coming up in just 6.3 secs. And the turbine-like smoothness we've come to expect from BMW 'sixes is here in abundance. The standard gearbox is a sweet-shifting six-speed manual, with a six-speed automatic available as an option.
The track measurements increase front and rear, and weight distribution is reported to be 50:50 front-to-rear. This is achieved in part by placing the battery low down in the floor of the trunk and replacing the spare tire with a puncture repair kit. The 330i gets 17-inchers wrapped in 225/45. Optional are 18-inch wheels with low-profile 255/35 tires.
There has also been a radical overhaul of the steering. Along with a standard speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion system, BMW will offer active front steering as an option.
Among the safety features are two-stage driver and passenger airbags, thorax airbags on the outer seatbacks and curtain airbags. Also included on all 3 models is BMW's latest dynamic stability control. On uplevel models, DSC includes a "Start Off" mode to prevent rolling back on hills, "Soft Stop" to reduce dive under heavy braking and "Dry Braking," which lightly clamps the calipers to dry the discs in wet conditions.
The interior leans heavily toward that found in the 5 Series, a highly modern look that lacks the driver-centric appeal of past 3 Series. On models equipped with optional iDrive, the dashboard boasts two different cowlings, one for the instruments, the other for a wide-screen monitor, while the switch-gear is minimized with functions concentrated within iDrive's rotary dial between the front seats. Models without iDrive receive just the single cowling and revert to more traditional switchgear.
2002-2005 BMW 330i
2,979 cc / 225 hp / 221 lb-ft / 3285-3362 lbs / 0-60 mph 6.2 sec.