Saturday 22nd February 2020
Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page

 



Driven: BMW 330d M Sport. Image by BMW UK.

Driven: BMW 330d M Sport
Trying out a rarity in the modern-day BMW canon: a RWD, six-cylinder, three-box saloon.

 



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> BMW reviews

BMW 330d M Sport

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: this is a stunning everyday car - does pretty much everything you could ask of it to an immaculate standard

Not so good: fat steering wheel, heavy steering, Touring would be even more ace, are the saloon's looks a bit fussy?

Key Facts

Model tested: BMW 330d M Sport
Price: 3 Series range from £32,565, 330d M Sport from £41,565
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbodiesel
Transmission: eight-speed Steptronic Sport auto, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 138g/km (VED Band 131-150: £210 in year one, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Power: 265hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 580Nm at 1,750-2,750rpm
Boot space: 480 litres

Our view:

It's astonishing that we are writing this, but this 330d M Sport (a 'G20' Mk7 Three) is a lesser-spotted modern-day BMW. To whit, it's a three-box saloon, not an SUV. It has a straight-six turbodiesel 3.0-litre engine, not some form of 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot. And drive goes to the trailing axle alone, instead of to all four corners under the 'xDrive' moniker. It's a four-door, six-cylinder, RWD 3 Series, which used to be the coalescence of every single thing BMW stood for. But no more.

Admittedly, BMW is by no means alone in shifting its automotive product focus to the world of the SUV as the marketplace demands, and of course Munich is forging ahead with its electrification plans too, but if you're of a certain age (ahem, like us) and you're a BMW fanboy or girl (double ahem, also like us), then you can't help but be sad that this is no longer a 'core' Beemer. Heck, it's not even like there are a lot of six-cylinder alternatives in the G20 family. In fact, your only other option with a sextet of pistons is the petrol-powered M340i xDrive, a curiously underwhelming experience delivered by the (usually reliable) team at M Performance. Beyond the 375hp M340i and this 265hp 330d, all the other 3 Series models are either three- or four-cylinder affairs. Yup, even the 330i.

This is tragic for swivel-eyed marque loons. But not really a problem for the general car-buying populace, nor for BMW's bean-counters, who are watching the quids roll in as the X-range of SUVs cream all the showroom interest away from the likes of the 330d. So, in some respects, we ought to reflect public sentiment and discount this car straight off the bat as an anachronism, an irrelevance in this day and age of a post-Dieselgate derv-backlash and 'Peahevs' and high hip-points and 'any time, any weather' four-wheel drive. Yet we can't quite do that, for one shiningly simple reason: the 330d M Sport is chuffing terrifically bloody brilliant.

Ignore, for a moment, the cabin, which is excellent in the main but saddled with that unusual BMW digital instrument cluster, that feels marginally off the pace when compared to similar systems in its Germanic rivals. And ignore also the exterior aesthetic, which we shall return to later but about which we shall, for now, briefly say we reckon is discreetly handsome; not something you can attest of all modern BMWs, eh?

Instead, then, focus on the sheer comprehensive excellence of everything the 330d does. Its engine is a baritone wonder, its rich, deep voice providing just the right amount of rumble to proceedings and never letting you forget there are six cylinders all in a line up front, even if they're combusting fuel via means of compression rather than spark-ignition. The noise suppression and ride quality are both first rate, that latter feature particularly welcoming on an M Sport sitting on a rather large (and tasty) set of alloys. The eight-speed gearbox is faultless, there's no other word for it. The performance is outstanding, 580Nm making mincemeat of the 330d's 1,665kg kerb weight, while the cruising capabilities ensure this feels like a 7 Series, not a blinking Three. Handles sweetly. Has exceptional traction for a rear-driver. Just feels like the 50:50 front-to-rear weight balance of yore is perfectly preserved here.

You therefore get into the 330d without thinking, each and every time you drive it, and you subconsciously expect brilliance. And you always, always get it. That's what makes this seemingly prosaic executive saloon so wonderful; it doesn't set up ridiculous expectations through the use of the M (Performance) badge and then fail to live up to them, like the M340i. It doesn't try to be all things to all people by bundling in regenerative braking/mild hybrid tech and four-wheel drive and four-wheel steer and every driver aid under the sun. It just plonks its driver in the middle of a marvellous car with a stunning drivetrain, an impeccable sense of balance and a level of unyielding quality, all factors which render this particular 3 Series the unequivocal leader of its class. It's like writing a road test from 20 years ago: the 330d runs rings around any regular-model Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class you care to choose; in the case of the latter, that's high praise indeed for the 330d, because we fell in love with the last C 220 d we drove.

Returning to the BMW, there are a few niggles, but nothing deal-breaking whatsoever. Anyway, here goes. As an M Sport model, it has a steering wheel which is just too fat to be comfortable in your hands for any long stretches of time. We clearly remember once being at a BMW event where an engineer went into painstaking depth about the thickness of padding on a steering wheel, saying that 3mm of foam was too much; 2mm was the absolute optimum for, um, hand comfort (no giggling!). Well, we seem to have long since gone past 3mm and we're now somewhere in the vicinity of what feels like about 15mm of padding. Only someone the size of Richard Osman would have hands big enough to wrap comfortably about the 330d's wheel rim. On a (literally) connected note, the chunky-monkey wheel oversees steering that is one of those current BMW set-ups which is just too heavy. If you put it in Sport mode, it feels needlessly tough and sticky, and the regular setting isn't much better. Immediately after the 330d, we tested an Audi A6 Avant for a week and despite being a bigger car from the class above, and a four-wheel-drive estate compared to a RWD saloon at that, the Audi's lighter, crisper steering (and thinner wheel) meant it felt positively light on its feet compared to the Beemer.

Beyond these two points, there's not really much we can think of. Obviously, our lament of an intro was making the statement that RWD six-pot saloons used to be BMWs forté and now no longer are, but we're not about to make a volte-face on our long-held belief that every Munich-originated Touring is better looking than its saloon equivalent. So while we adored this particular four-door 330d, if it had been a wagon then we'd have adored it even more. Especially as there are those who think this generation of 3 Series is not the most handsome thing (fussy, even) on the outside, although - as we hinted at earlier - we don't subscribe to that particular view.

And it's not even expensive: this 330d M Sport kicks off at a mere nine grand more than the cheapest G20 Three you can currently sit in. That seems like a bargain to us, even if you accept it'll need some choice cost options which'll shunt it very close to £50,000, or maybe even beyond that point, to make it absolutely perfect. We also managed to achieve a weekly economy return of 33.8mpg across 264 miles of exclusively rural roads driving - the 330d did one run on slightly faster-flowing A-roads (but not dual carriageways) where it turned in 40.4mpg, so we have little doubt you could coax 50mpg and more from it with regular ease on steady motorway runs. For something this powerful and sharp in the handling department, that seems like witchcraft to us.

Any road, the point is this: BMW might not major on making cars like this 330d any longer, but it really ought to. Because this thing is absolutely blinding and, if you're a relative newcomer to the Bavarian marque who has only ever sampled the SUVs and you're therefore not sure what all the fuss regarding the blue-and-white propeller is about, then try this six-cylinder masterpiece on for size. This is what a BMW should feel like. This is why, as a company, it was always dynamically two steps ahead of all its most fierce rivals. This is just a magnificent, beguiling, damn-near-perfect compact sports saloon. As fans of BMW, we don't mind telling you that it is a fabulous feeling to be concluding with such a heart-warming summation. Long live the 330d.

Alternatives:

Jaguar XE: has stepped up its game, especially inside, with the midlife facelift and it's the rival dynamically closest to the 3 Series, but the BMW feels more polished in several departments than the Jag.

Lexus IS: tries to leverage its hybrid status to tempt the punters in and, if you're a company buyer, that's a strong tactic. But only the most deluded of diehard Lexus fanatics would say it's a better car than the BMW.

Volvo S60: a sublime-looking machine inside and out, but there's a much narrower choice of (petrol and petrol-electric, no diesel) engines for the Swedish machine, while it's a little inert in the handling stakes.


Matt Robinson - 20 Nov 2019









  www.bmw.co.uk    - BMW road tests
- BMW videos
- BMW news
- 3 Series images

2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.

2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.2019 BMW 330d M Sport UK test. Image by BMW UK.








 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2020 ©