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Headline:FastSaloons.com BMW 330d M Sport RoadtestDate:14/05/2007
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com BMW 330d M Sport Roadtest

 
 

FastSaloons.com
Review

 

BMW 330d Msport



Our Thoughts
MMMM Sport
 
   
 

Background- All Aboard The Diesel Bandwagon

Not that long ago I would have been overheard venting my hatred for diesel engines and lambasting all who sang its praises… but recent experiences of modern diesel injection power plants has softened this resolve – almost to the point that I may even consider buying one next time around.

I know most of the UK business and private car buyers have been switched onto diesel for quite a while now, so forgive me for sounding like I’ve arrived late to the party. I already knew that diesel provided huge economic improvements over petrol powered cars and was also aware of the low end grunt (torque) that derv delivers but none of that truly prepared me for my 1st drive in, what was until recently, BMW’s most powerful diesel engine to date.

The current 3 series (the E90) was launched in 2004 and was quite a radical departure from its predecessor in terms of styling both on the outside and the interior. Although from the outset I must say I liked it and didn’t need long at all to come to terms with the new styling. More so I began to judge the outgoing model as being very dated by comparison.

The BMW design department had once again wielded their magic markers and this time at their most popular model range. Perhaps the 5, 6 and 7 series had all been a prelude to the new 3 series, a sort of designing apprenticeship, whatever the case the new 3 series looked fresh and striking from the off.

Despite this fairly popular redesign, it wasn’t long before M sport models were announced across the range – in the main to satisfy the UK market where more than in any of BMW’s other markets, buyers seem to want their cars to look a little more on the edge regardless of what lies under the bonnet.

First Impressions

The sport versions of the new 3 series as with previous 3 series models, certainly do look more aggressive than their SE relatives.

The car has a striking low front spoiler reminiscent of the E46 M3 although on this current model the edges are sharper and the lines of the chin are an extension of the stylish bonnet shape.

The rear bumper and diffuser is a mix of colour coded bumper with flared styling and black plastic which again is similar to the previous 3 series sport editions although again in the case of the new model the styling seems a little more edgy and striking than the outgoing model.

The 10 spoke M design 18” alloy wheels that this 330d M Sport rides on are also very stylish looking and are in keeping with the latest trends where anything less than an 18” rim with ultra low profile tyres simply won’t do.

The rest of the exterior is pretty much standard 3 Series as you’d find on the SE model – with the exception of any chrome work – which on the M sport models are finished in high gloss black (shadowline)

Exterior Styling

Our test car is finished in titanium silver metallic which really helps show off the styling in this M Sport model, with the contrast between the 2 tone rear diffuser most evident on this lighter metallic.

 


Strong lines and more agressive M Sport styling.
Although some grow tired of silver cars, being as it seems to be the one of the most popular colours in this day and age, this 330d still manages to look striking and stylish whether it’s parked on a driveway in deepest suburbia or occupying prime space in the corporate car park.

The full body swage lines are accentuated by the protruding door handles and colour coded tear drop wing mirrors. The ‘shark-fin’ roof aerial (as our car has the bluetooth factory install kit) also adds to the overall styling and sets it apart from the 3’s blander sector competitors.

 

Interior Styling

  The M branding machine begins as soon as you open the door of this 330d with ///M Logo entry sill plates. The trademark M logo also appears on the chunky leather steering wheel and also on top of the gear knob of the manual cars… As our test car is the 5 speed automatic we are at least 1 M logo below par.

 

Smart and sporty interior
Regardless of the number of M badges, the interior of this 330d it does feel sportier than the BMW’s of old, the dash trims are finished in brushed silver aluminium style trim and there’s of course the, now standard BMW feature, start button. As with all the M sport models this 330d gets anthracite headlining which gives a darker interior space especially when combined with the black leather sports seats which are an option over the standard cloth and alcantara sports seats.

Other specification highlights on our test car include:
  • Dynamic Traction Control
  • Automatic Air-conditioning
  • Front and Rear Electric Windows
  • Front Centre Armrest
  • Multi-Function Steering wheel
  • Rear PDC
  • BMW Business CD/Radio
  • Bluetooth preparation

    The interior is well screwed together with first class ergonomics and well laid out and easy to read displays.

    Whilst I feel that in general the overall BMW build quality is still class leading it is slightly cheaper than on past 3 series models although this seems to be the case with almost all carmakers these days not simply BMW, as they strive to find ever lighter and more re-usable materials.

    The cabin is roomier than the outgoing model with plenty of space in the rear for adults even with the front seats in their fully extended position.

  •  
     

    Ride, Handling & Steering

      I’ve always been a fan of BMW’s sportier range over the standard SE trim cars, both in terms of styling as well as their firmer and improved ride and handling. In fact I’ve only recently sold my 330ci Sport which I’ve loved driving for the last 18 months. So my expectations for this new M sport model were set quite high and sadly this is the one area where I was to be most disappointed in an otherwise very good package.

     


    Great apart from those run-flats
    For a number of reasons, since about 2003 BMW have been rolling out their models with run flat tyres. Of course thinking critically you’d have to site cost as the main driving reason behind this decision. Though I’m sure that BMW would have you believe it’s to make for a safer and more convenient driving experience and I suppose after all, anything that prevents a blow-out at speed or having to change a tyre at the side of the road has got to be a good thing,

    However when those items that make life a little easier and less prone to failure unsettle the car as badly as they do in the case of run flat tyres, then surely there’s a case for rethinking the solution.

    Now ok I’ve vented my dislike for run-flat tyres before on previous reviews and to be fair I do agree in their purpose, in fact on other SE models from BMW I think they work ok. Not great, but ok.

    You see by their very nature a run flat tyre has a much stiffer side wall design so that when deflated the tyre can maintain the cars weight and keep it motoring. However this stiffer sidewall tends to make the ride harder and leaves the springs and dampers doing all the work rather than being able to take up any deviation in the road surface.

    On a standard SE spec’d UK car with standard springs and dampers this means what would be a softer ride on traditional rubber is slightly harder and harsher but still pretty much acceptable.

    However when this formula is paired with suspension that is already stiffer and with wheels with a lower profile the ride becomes very harsh even at lower, around town, speeds.

    You remember you’re first push bike? Well in my days (and I am casting my mind back quite a bit here) these came with solid rubber tyres, well that’s what it’s like in this 330d.

    Sure you might not need to stop and change a wheel at the side of the road due to a puncture, but you might need to stop off at the osteopath to have your spine realigned every so often.

    Put simply run flat tyres on a model with Sports suspension is a travesty and shouldn’t be allowed. I was so enraged by the poor ride quality of this car that I spoke to a few owners of these sports models and have it on very good opinion that the best course of action is ditch the run flats in favour of some traditional tyres on which the ride will be miraculously transformed and improved ten fold – I wonder why BMW haven’t looked at their M sport models in the same light as their M cars (M5/M6 and soon to be M3) which don’t come with Run flats for this very reason.

    Handling is generally good, with precise and well weight steering – but again given the tyre choice, grip at higher corning speeds doesn’t seem to be as good as you’d expect from a car which has supposedly got improved handling over it’s lower priced SE sibling.

     

    Engine, Gearbox and Performance

      This 3.0 engine was until recently, BMW’s largest diesel engine in the 3 series range and even after the launch of the highly praised 335d engine it remains a car not be to be overlooked.

    0-62 is achieved in 6.7secs (6.8 auto) with a top speed limited to 155mph. It develops 231 Bhp with max torque of 396 lb-ft (500 Nm) at 4000rpm

     


    231 Bhp / 396 lb ft from the 3.0-litre diesel.
    Those with an eye to C02 emissions will note that it’s 174 g/km for the manual or 179 g/km in our test automatic which still makes it an attractive prospect even if you are being taxed on the emissions. It’s banded at 24% for the manual or 29% for this the auto.

    Driving the car I found that despite the preconception of the engine running out of steam at 4000rpm I noticed no real difference to any petrol engine. Ok so this was due primarily to the auto box which seamlessly changes up when needed, meaning you tend not to notice the slightly narrower power band than you’d find in a petrol. The now familiar 5 speed steptronic gearbox is a joy to use either in full auto or manual mode with effortlessly quick up/down shifts and no real need to use the kick-down facility.

    Being an automatic though does tend to adversely affect the economy of this otherwise frugal engine.

    What I was most surprised with was the near neck snapping acceleration and almost lack of any real turbo lag that this car processed. Off the mark it’s a car that can really bring a smile to the face of even the most depressed driver and when the turbo kicks in at approx 1500-2000rpm this otherwise ‘everyday’ saloon shows its more racey character.

    Don’t get me wrong this car will effortlessly cruise up and down the motorway or trundle around towns quite happily returning fantastic MPG and being discreet enough to not warrant a 2nd glance from other motorists or passers-by but should the mood take you, this is one saloon that still allows those with a bit of spirit to blast down an empty B with as much power as you could ever want.

     
     

    Practicality

      As with all diesels there’s an underlying sense of practicality or economy when making the step from petrol and the 330d is no different

     

    43.5mpg / 179 g/km / 460-litre boot
    Economy is a strong point of this car.

    Urban (mpg) 31.7 (28.2)
    Extra-urban (mpg) 55.4 (47.9)
    Combined (mpg) 43.5 (38.2)


     

    Conclusion

      As we’ve seen over the last few years the company car parks of businesses all over the UK have born the proof that the BMW marketing machine is more than alive and kicking, once a bastion of Ford and Vauxhall the company car park is now adorned with German bonnet badges. No one brand has grown more in this sector than BMW. Sure Volkswagen and Audi continue to have a strong representation. But the award for growth of market share has got to go to the Munich based firm.

    Some of this growth is due in part to their wider range from the more accessible 1 series to their new range of X3 and X5 SUV’s. But in their M sports range they seem to have captured the mood of the British buyer perfectly. A model that Audi with their S-Line range seems eager to copy.

    Another reason why BMW seem to be so popular is their class leading diesel engine development. Of course Audi and Volkswagen have long been developing diesel engines, but it’s BMW that seem to be leading the pack when it comes to improved performance and economy.

    Not content to churn out 1.9 or 2.0 litre power plants that struggle to break 150 bhp. BMW seem to have seen the future and it’s undoubtedly diesel powered.

    This 3.0d engine is among one of the best I’m driven and is proof that diesel is already as much or more than a worthy contender for the petrol engine.

    This car has bags of torque and fantastic performance and when you think that all of this comes with consumption figures of 43.5 (38.2) mpg combined then quite simply it doesn’t make sense to ignore this car.

    The 330d may not be the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ as the BMW strap line says – but it certainly comes very close.



    Special thanks to Stratstone Chesterfield BMW for the loan of the car.
    www.stratstonechesterfieldbmw.co.uk

     
    Andy
     
     
    Quick Section Links:         
    1. Background
    2. Exterior Styling
    3. Interior Styling
    4. Ride, Handling and Steering
    5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
    6. Practicality
    7. Conclusion

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