Since its launch in 1975, the BMW 3 Series has been an iconic product from the German luxury car manufacturer. In fact, not just iconic, even strategically important, as over the years, the 3 Series has contributed to around 30% of overall sales for BMW. In the last 44 years or so, till now, BMW has introduced 7 generations of its entry-level luxury sedan. The latest iteration (internally named as G20) had made its global debut last year however it came to Indian shores only this August.
For Indian customers, BMW has introduced the 7th gen 3 Series in 3 variants, 2 diesel and one petrol. The 320d lineup consists of two trim levels, the entry-level 320d Sport and 320d Luxury, both drawing power from a 2 litre diesel motor. The petrol lineup is restricted to just the 330i M Sport trim which also happens to be the current range-topping variant. We got an opportunity to spend a weekend with this top-of-the line 2019 BMW 330i M Sport and here is how our experience with the car was:
Exteriors – First look at the all new 330i and you can easily see that the car has grown in size, in all proportions. The new 3 Series looks smarter, bolder, more agile and way more mature than its predecessor. Yes, the kidney-shaped grilles too have grown in size but there is a good probability that you will still appreciate them, unlike the case with the large grilles in 3 Series’ elder brother, the 7 Series where opinions are relatively polarized.
Other elements which make the 3 series look dynamic include the new headlamps (which by the way are an absolute delight to look at!), short front overhang and the tasteful limited chrome treatment which the M Sport trim receives. From the side too, the new 3 series manages to retain its sporty character. Rear profile is dominated by the large L-shaped tail-lamps and the dual-exhaust at the bottom. If we were to pick the best-looking angle of the car, it certainly would be the front! No second thoughts!
Interiors & Gadgetry – First things first, when you try to enter the car with the key-fob in your pocket, you can’t. Well, that is because there is no passive-keyless entry. Instead, you will have to unlock the car first and then step-in. The seating positions for the 3 Series are a little low, so that means that ingress and egress isn’t going to be very comfortable, especially for the elderly (just FYI).
However, things change drastically once you step-in! You are greeted by plush leather seats which provide great comfort (both at the front and rear). If you are seated at the front, you also get electric-adjust for your seats, so you can easily arrange your seating position based upon you preference. Additionally, the driver seat gets memory function which can help you to save settings for two different drivers.
While seating is comfortable for all occupants, things however get a little tight when there are 3 passengers in the rear seat. This is because the transmission tunnel runs through the floor board and significantly reduces the leg-room for the middle-passenger. On a practical note, the 3 Series would make more sense as a 4-seater and not 5, especially when long drives are considered.
As far as material quality is concerned, the 2019 3 Series scores a perfect 10 on 10. You can’t find hard plastics (nor should you in a car of this class) and the overall feel of the cabin is very premium, which is further enhanced by the customizable ambient lighting strips which run all across.
The car comes with a long list of features, long enough that there could be a dedicated review just about the gadgetry inside the car. However, we will try to mention some of the highlights! The star of the gadget-pack has to be the 10.25-inch infotainment system, which offers a ton of customization options, but still manages to have a very intuitive interface. Good part is that there are multiple ways you can control it. Yes, there is the obvious touch functionality, then you have the quintessential touch-pad from BMW, however the highlights are the ‘Voice Command’ feature and gesture controls (which by the way work flawlessly even in night).
Other interesting piece of electronics is the 12.3-inch instrument cluster which is all-digital and highly customizable! Other features which deserve a mention are 3-zone climate control, laudable music system, sunroof, lateral park assistant and the reversing assistant. However, after spending close to INR 50+ lakhs, there are certain bits like ventilated seats, panoramic sunroof, passive key-less entry, etc. which you kind of expect and these are areas where an otherwise feature packed 3 Series disappoints.
Powertrain – The 330i M Sport trims gets a 2 litre turbo petrol unit which dishes out a healthy 258hp & 400Nm of max torque. We know, you might expect that the 330 should ideally get a 3 litre motor (as per the erstwhile nomenclature), but sadly, it doesn’t. Well because, Downsizing is real and so are stricter emission norms!
However, the good news is that at any given point in time, the 2 litre motor never disappoints you! It comes mated to an excellent 8-speed AT from ZF and the combination works brilliantly! While the AT works smartly, BMW has also offered paddle shifters, just in case you want to red-line the motor as per your taste. As far as performance numbers are concerned, it can do a 0-100 kmph in just 5.8 seconds. If you were to compare the 3 Series with its counterparts like the C-Class, Audi A4 or the Jag XE, the 330i’s petrol unit proves to be an absolute beast!
The car comes with 3 driving modes, Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport, which can be further personalized, based upon the preference of the driver. Functions of the 3 modes are self-explanatory, and we won’t try and educate you on that. However, the way the car transforms from one mode to another is absolutely phenomenal, especially the transition between the Sport and Comfort mode.
While in comfort mode, the car behaves the way you would want a luxury car to, it drives quietly and you can barely hear the engine. However, press the Sport button and that is when the M genes of the car start to showcase their true colors! The engine becomes vocal and you get to hear some pops and crackles from the exhaust! If you are an enthusiast, (which most probably you will be, if you are buying this 330i M Sport), you will prefer to hear the lovely exhaust note instead of the music from the infotainment system (which is great too, by the way!).
Ride Handling & NVH – The 2019 3 Series is based upon the new CLAR platform from BMW and it has worked wonders for the sedan. Even though the 7th-gen 3 Series is larger in size, it has managed to shed good 55 kilos, all thanks to the CLAR platform. The ride and handling of the car is absolutely spot-on! Ride quality is soft enough to ensure that the car manages to tackle potholes and the unplanned speed-breakers of Indian roads. However, it is stiff enough to let you have all the fun when you are behind the steering wheel.
Talking about the steering wheel, it too has been designed beautifully. Yes, the form factor of the leather-wrapped unit is great, but the way it responds to your inputs is equally charming! The power is transmitted to the rear wheels and that means that it is an absolute delight to push the car around corners.
NVH, what NVH? The 330i manages to cancel out all outside noise deftly. If you are driving the sedan in the comfort mode on good city roads (yes, we know they are rare, but we managed to get some sections around Delhi-Gurgaon), the car simply glides around. You can’t hear any external noise. Full points to the rubbers from Michelin which offer excellent grip and zero tire noise!
Safety – The 3 Series doesn’t disappoint on the Safety front either. It gets all kinds of safety equipment which you would want. The list includes 8 airbags, ABS, CBC, DSC, TPMS and ISOFIX seat mounts. NCAP rating of the current-gen 3 Series isn’t out however its predecessors had achieved a perfect 5 in the past.
Verdict – With the generation upgrade, the 3 Series has matured when compared to its predecessor. A lot has increased, including the power on tap, length & breadth of the car, list of in-car gizmos and much more, which includes the price tag. Price starts from Rs 41.4 lakhs, while the one we have reviewed, the new 330i M Sport costs Rs 47.9 lakhs (ex-showroom).
Looking at the price tag, we will have to agree that it isn’t exactly in the entry-level premium sedan budget. Also, if one shifts away from the quintessential luxury German brands, there are certainly many options which might offer a better value for money deal.
However, if you are someone who loves to be behind the steering wheel, the additional money which you spend will be well-rewarded with the performance which the ‘M’ badged 330i has to offer. We can confidently comment that the 2019 BMW 3 Series 330i M Sport is the best 3rill (thrill) machine which your 50 odd lakhs can buy. Period.