2021 BMW 330i: Class leaderFriday, July 09, 2021
BY RORY DALEY
THE 2021 BMW 330i gets some fresh tech upgrades to keep pace with the ever-changing compact luxury sports sedan segment, while retaining the core values that mark it as a class leader.
Externally, there was little wrong, so BMW hasn't made any noticeable adjustments to the sharp muscular lines — accentuated by the M Sport extras — that define the current generation 3 Series. There's no controversial new grille found on the M versions applied to this mid-life facelift.
Inside is similar to the exterior, oozing athleticism. The angular design language is highlighted by liberal use of high-quality materials reinforcing the luxury aspects of the car. Those wanting the sportier feel can lower themselves down in the supportive seats. They're also comfortable enough for long distances and fully powered to allow a driving position to fit most drivers.
From behind, the chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel is the biggest change to the interior, the BMW Live Cockpit Professional, replacing the traditional analogue instrument dials with a 12.3-inch digital display as part of the M Sport models. Not that the BMW was lacking in the tech department to begin with. All major functions can be set to operate automatically with a touch of a button. High-level functions like Park Assist Plus, and Reverse Assistant make parking and reversing out of tight spaces an effortless exercise for the driver. This is all run from the large iDrive infotainment touchscreen, now with even further integration to the digital instrument cluster. Say “Hello BMW” and the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant wakes up allowing natural language voice commands for various vehicle functions.
What hasn't changed are the fundamental dynamics of the 3 Series, the ability to be as benign, welcoming and cosseting as a puppy, but yet able to deliver heart-throbbing performance. On the luxury side of the formula, the 330i drives quietly in ECO PRO or COMFORT modes, allowing passengers to enjoy premium elements like the excellent stereo or just cruise in peace and quiet in a light airy sunroof lit cabin. A steady foot can see up to 50mpg with the Auto START/STOP chipping in to help.
Switch things up to SPORT or SPORT+ and the 3 Series responds first with its 258bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The power is immediate and never ending across the available power band. Next is the eight-speed transmission. It too gains a sharpness, holding on to the rpms longer, shifting faster and blipping the throttle on downshifts when necessary. Going manual gives drivers an extra level of control and interaction that invigorates.
All would be for naught if the chassis wasn't up to the task. The very same suspension that isolates during low-speed driving becomes lively, providing plenty of feedback to the driver. At speed, the 3 Series is confidence inspiring over any pavement. On the highway, it's rock solid, dispatching triple-digit velocities easily. When things get twisty, narrow or less than perfect it's not an issue for the 330i. The chassis is still able to glide over rough surfaces and display agility in the corners.
The 330i continues to be a top pick for those looking for a compact luxury sports sedan, with its great blend of luxury, technology, and driving dynamics.
MODEL: 2021 BMW 330i
ENGINE: 2.0-litre, turbocharged four cylinder — 258bhp/295lb-ft
DRIVETRAIN: Eight-speed automatic transmission/rear-wheel drive
SUMMARY: An update to an already capable car.
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