What is it?
BMW has launched the all-new generation G20 3-series in India with a diesel as well as a turbo petrol engine. We’ve reviewed the diesel 320d in detail, and now we drive the other iteration - the turbo-petrol version dubbed ‘330i’, which is available only in the top-spec M Sport variant. Priced at Rs 47.90 lakh (ex-showroom India), the 330i is more expensive than the 320d range which is priced between Rs 41.40 and 46.90 lakh.
Seating is low, but driving position is spot-on. M Sport wheel and paddles are a delight to use. Ambient lights liven up the cabin.
The 330i M Sport is far sportier in look than either version of the 320d. The 330i gets a sportier body kit, including more aggressive bumpers, side skirts and larger 18-inch alloy wheels. Changes on the inside include sports front seats with adjustable side bolstering, a meatier steering wheel, and some textured silver trim bits being the more prominent ones. Its feature list includes LED headlamps, 18-inch alloys, 3-zone climate control, digital instrument cluster, ambient lighting, driving modes, paddle shifters, sports front seats, wireless phone charging, sunroof, touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, voice commands, gesture controls, and a 205W 10-speaker sound system, among others.
What is it like to drive?
The latest 330i shares its 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine with the last-gen model. However, power has been increased to 258hp (from 252hp) and torque is up to 400Nm (from 350Nm). What’s nice is that the engine is responsive, and power delivery is strong through the rev band, from as low as 1400rpm. Some might miss the creamy smooth free-revving nature of the older inline-6-cylinder unit, but the way this turbo engine spins till 6900rpm is truly enjoyable. Power is transmitted to its rear wheels by the clever 8-speed automatic transmission that performs brilliantly. The unit complements the engine well, is always in the right gear, and it rewards users with quick responses. Paddle shifters give drivers complete manual control over the gearbox, and are a joy to use.
Unfortunately, launch control was not functional on our test car. Even so, the new 330i’s 6.2 second 0-100kph time matched that of the old car. Just for reference, BMW claims a time of 5.8 seconds (0.4 seconds quicker than before). In-gear acceleration times from 20-80kph and 40-100kph on the other hand are around half-a-second quicker.
‘Sport Plus’ enhances the aural experience, to an extent.
Driving modes include Comfort, Eco Pro, Sport and Sport Plus, which alter the engine and transmission responsiveness, as well as the steering weight. Among other things in Sport Plus mode, the exhaust sounds a lot more vocal with occasional pops and crackles which add to the aural drama. In other modes however, the exhaust is muted, and the engine remains quiet and refined at all times.
Ride quality is another area where the G20 has improved compared to the outgoing version, and despite riding on 18-inch wheels, the 330i does round off the bumps rather well. What’s also improved compared to the outgoing version is the damping, and this is most noticeable at highway speeds while going over expansion joints, where vertical movement now is well contained. Unlike the international version adjustable dampers aren’t part of the package, but handling is rather enjoyable and there’s ample fun that can be had while chucking this car around corners. The 330i’s steering is sharp and direct so it changes directions in a nimble, confident manner; but having said that, it isn’t bristling with feel or feedback like hydraulic units of yesteryear BMWs. As ever though, the brakes are fantastic, and shedding speeds remains a fuss-free affair.
Should I buy one?
This BMW 330i will appeal to those who love to drive. Its petrol engine offers stonking performance and paired to its sharp driving dynamics, this car will plaster a wide grin on your face when driven with gusto. And although this car is thoroughly enjoyable to drive, it is as practical as it can be, so refinement levels are great, the seats are comfortable, its ride is absorbent, and it is fairly well-equipped too. At Rs 47.90 lakh (ex-showroom India), it isn’t particularly good value for money, but what you are getting is sports car-levels of performance in a rather practical, usable package, and it’s for this reason the 330i appeals to the heart and to the head.
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