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BMW 330d xDrive Review

OUR TEST CAR: BMW 330d xDrive Sedan (E90)

BMW 330d xDrive  - Page - 1
About four months after we drove our first example of the facelifted BMW 3-Series, in a four-cylinder, all-wheel-drive and Touring trim, the time has now come to experiment another member of the BMW 3 family. Don't get your hopes up, we haven't (yet) gotten our hands on an M3, but from some points of view we kind of got the third best thing.

Comparing an oil-burner with pretty much the epitome of track-ready sedans could be considered a blasphemy by some, and it probably is, but the 330d sedan in xDrive guise is a special kind of diesel. Sure, it poops all over the BMW "rear-wheel drive, howling straight sixes that run on gasoline" legacy, but as far as performance specs go, this is still a tough cookie.

Apart from a mild revamping of the exterior design, the 3-Series facelift also brought some changes in the engine department. The 330d is one of those changes, and that is exactly the model which we got to drive, equipped with the oh-so-intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Keeping with the BMW way of building six-cylinder engines, the new mill is also using the "inline" architecture, known to have the best natural balance of all engines, along with the V12 and its derivates.

With a maximum torque figure of an Earth-moving 520 Nm (383.5 lb ft), available from 1750 all the way to 3000 rpm and in manual transmission guise, the 330d xDrive can make the back of your head really put those headrests to the test everytime you stomp on the throttle with too much optimism. All that and it can comfortably cruise at highly illegal speeds while using only a pint of diesel fuel.

We must excuse ourselves if we sound a bit too ecstatic, considering we're still talking about an engine which uses the same fuel as a tractor, but if that's the case then this is one potent piece of farming equipment. The xDrive all-wheel-system takes care of pretty much everything that the electronic stability control doesn't, while keeping much of the car's handling capabilities even in low-grip conditions. All in all, this is almost an all-rounder in the premium sedan segment, but some pretty evident shortcomings still keep it from being an absolute no-brainer.

As pretty much everyone knows by now, Mr. Chris Bangle has left the BMW ship. Good or bad, you decide. What's more important than that is that a certain Adrian van Hooydonk has taken over the helm of the BMW Group design department. Something even more important than that should be the fact that Mr. van Hooydonk is the guy who penned both the 6-Series beauty AND the 7-Series vomit-inducing sedan of 2001.

That being said, the current 3-Series has been already put through a mild-facelift and we have to tell you, it doesn't look half bad. The front hood has received two extra creases which, together with the Angel Eyes, can make a neophyte mistake this for a product created by the Motorsport Technik department.

Although Bangle would say this is a prime example of "flame surfacing", the overall creases and lines everywhere on the car look actually fluid to us. Especially the exterior rear view mirrors, which are finally looking aerodynamic and not as Bauhaus as the older ones. Other than this, the kidney grill, Hoffmeister kink and the double round headlights (which can now swivel around a corner) are there to inform anyone this comes from the Bayerische Motoren Werke company.

We mostly liked the car's overall stance and its almost perfect proportions, especially the nice wheel arch filling 18-inch alloys, While looked upon from the side, the current 3-Series perpetuates the "land shark" attitude of past Bimmers, especially with the shark fin-like GPS and radio antenna on the hood.

Especially in the last decade, BMW interiors have become less and less sumptuous, no matter how big is the paycheck requested to own one. The latest 3-Series is no exception to this "rule", with the center console following the general idea of plastic-fantastic, which can now be found from the 1-Series to the 5-Series.

BMW fans shouldn't prepare their torches and pitch forks since this is far from our opinion on the test car's interior. Sure, the center console and many other parts on in the inside are full of black plastic bits that don't look quite the bit premium at first sight (and touch), but they give an overall Teutonic, cold feeling. In some dictionaries, that feeling is also a synonym with "premium", and the overall ambiance is that of a car that is very well built.

The interior space doesn't excel, in typical BMW fashion, since the eventual extra room has been spared for the long six-banger under the hood, while the rear passenger space is separated in the middle by the protruding transmission tunnel. "Driving pleasure" has its price. No matter how many doors and/or seats a BMW has, they aren't exactly made for oversized people who only care about not spilling the mayonnaise from their burgers on the upholstery.

The iDrive information screen sits ergonomically on top of the driver-oriented center console. Speaking of "ergonomics" and "iDrive", the facelifted 3-Series benefits from both, since the addition of the touted controller between the front seats does get rid of a lot of extra buttons to push.

What we really didn't enjoy no matter how good the rest of the car made us feel was the complete absence of cup-holders or other places to put your drinks when doing a longer trip. True, a car this sporty should really involve the driver in doing just the driving, but what about the other passengers? Doesn't anybody in Bavaria care about them? They are on the options list though, so you shouldn't fret too much (yes, we're talking about the cupholders, not the passengers).

We couldn't say this is the best car for strolling around in the city, for a number of reasons. First of all, the overall visibility is OK, but you do get to sit lower than in other cars, in true BMW fashion. Some people may like this, while the ones who rely on their 360 degree visibility may not. Most of us fell in the second category.

Second of all, our test car wasn't equipped with parking sensors, making the whole “parking between two cars” idea a bit far fetched at first. Fortunately, parallel-parking is made much easier thanks to the automatic tilting rear view mirror from the passenger side. Everytime you put it in reverse, the mirror tilts downwards in order to let you check out how much damage you can make to your 18-inch alloy rims against the kerb. Pretty useful gadget, albeit it shouldn't be confused with something original and it's certainly not a substitute for parking sensors.

Also, the ground clearance isn't all that kerb-loving since the whole suspension setup is designed so the car can hug the road at higher speeds, providing better aerodynamics and a lower center of mass. With this said, the 330d xDrive is obviously not the automotive equivalent of a panacea and it certainly doesn't take care of your every single need, providing that among those needs are a life of continuous city driving (and parking).

Don't get us wrong, even with all the downsides already expressed and the fact that it has a manual transmission (one of the enemies of comfortable city driving), our test car wasn't THAT out of place on the busy streets. The problem with it is that it sure demands an open stretch of road, or better yet some mountain serpentines to put those adjustable side bolsters to some real work.

We know we have to say it almost everytime, but here it goes: Our test drives are rarely done in a fashion which would lead to a good fuel consumption, since we usually encounter either heavy traffic or/and a heavy right foot. With that in mind, the overall fuel consumption we managed to achieve in the city was between 10.4 liters per 100 km (US 22.6 mpg) and 13.5 liters per 100 km (US 17.4 mpg). Considering this is a 1700+ kg (3748 lbs), all-wheel drive car that can get to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 6 seconds, the fuel economy isn't half bad.

Obviously, the 330d, even in xDrive form, lacks some of the spirit of the 330i, and we're talking mainly about the gas-powered model's ability to rev through the roof to give its occupants a glimpse of the real driving pleasure, as the BMW purists might say. The three-liter diesel on the other hand totally makes up for that with its gargantuan torque which is felt at almost any speed, in any gear.

While cruising on a small stretch of empty road at about 1900 rpm we "opened her up" a little bit and in of just a few seconds we went from doing 130 km/h (81 mph) to almost 180 km/h (112 mph). And all that while being in sixth gear! Our photographer was most impressed with this fact from the passenger seat, but then again he drives a 1.6-liter diesel, so he should be pretty easy to please from this point of view.

In almost any diesel, modern or oldschool, the low range punch usually prevails over any other speed-inducing sensation. The sequential turbocharger setup of the highly-touted three-liter diesel found in some BMWs changed that. Our test car wasn't equipped with that engine, but with a new one, which in theory should be positioned lower on the "sportiness scale", since it's "only" a single-turbo.

Turns out it isn't (Ed, positioned lower). Although it has almost 40 hp, 60 Nm (44.2 lb ft) and a turbocharger less than its big brother, our test car is actually faster to 100 km/h (62 mph) than the 335d. To put things into a bigger perspective, the 330d xDrive is faster than the first generation M3 to 100 km/h by almost a full second. Talk about efficient torque distribution! This engine is all about low-range AND mid-range punch, unlike other oil burners, which brings it very close to a turbocharged gasoline counterpart.

Plus, compared to "that other, real type" of combustion, the 330d takes much less effort to run at the same speed and on the same road. It still has that laid-back attitude of your everyday diesel – hence the very frugal fuel economy – but it can also provide neck-snapping acceleration in almost any gear thanks to its massive 520 Nm (383.5 lb ft) torque figure, strangely available from 1750 to 3000 rpm.
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65user rating 38 votes
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autoevolution May 2009
70
History
8
Exterior
7
Interior
6
In the city
7
Open road
7
Comfort
6
Tech facts
7
Gadgets
7
Safety
8
Conclusion
7
65user rating 38 votes
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Guest Opinions

Sir May B. Bach

OK, this car almost, and I emphasize the word "almost"... ahem... changed my perception about automobiles which use that unnameable fuel that is also used by farming equipment and people with too few brain cells. No, I'm not taking that back, it's been... ahem... scientifically proven that diesel fuel's main victim when burned is the brain. Because... ahem... you know, CO2 emissions aren't everything that comes up a car's exhaust.

OK, this car almost, and I emphasize the word "almost"... ahem... changed my perception about automobiles which use that unnameable fuel that is also used by farming equipment and people with too few brain cells. No, I'm not taking that back, it's been... ahem... scientifically proven that diesel fuel's main victim when burned is the brain. Because... ahem... you know, CO2 emissions aren't everything that comes up a car's exhaust.

Too few people are aware of this incredible thing I just learned last night while... ahem... surfing on the web. Apparently diesel automobiles are even illegal in countries like Greece, because the... ahem... particulates exiting the cars' exhausts are damaging the millennium old monuments they have there. Can you imagine that?

Yeah, yeah, I know all about those fancy pancy diesel particulate filters most of the manufacturers are equipping their... ahem... cars with, but the fact remains, diesel cars are screwing with your brain. Literally.

Other than that, this 330d xDrive is quite a nice car. Apart from the all-wheel-drive it has all your regular... ahem... BMW attributes: it's mildly ugly and uncomfortable, it has a crowded interior and it goes like stink. Oh, and an inline six under the hood, which kind of makes up for the fact that... ahem... it uses the wrong type of fuel.

If this had been a 330i without that fancy... ahem... all-wheel-drive system and no stinking turbo under the hood, I might have given it a better mark, since it would have... ahem... at least kept its heritage. Since it's bloody obvious that's not the case, I give this the thumb down.

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