SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 34,990 Price As Tested $ 38,285 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter I6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 182 cid/2979 cc Horsepower 225 @ 5900 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 214 @ 3500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 107.3"/69.2"/176.7" Transmission Five-speed manual Curb Weight 3526 pounds Fuel Capacity 16.6 gallons Tires (F/R) 225/45R17 front/ 245/40R17 rear performance Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/two-door Domestic Content 5 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.32 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 21/30/26 0-60 MPH 7.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 15.5 seconds @ 95.0 mph Top-speed (Governor limited) 128 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
(BMW has set the standard for the true sports sedan, according to Matt Hagin. "In 1957, BMW created the genre," says his dad, Bob)
BOB - I was working as a mechanic for a BMW dealer in '57 when the 1600 two-door came out. Even then, it handled better and out-performed most of the "true" sports cars of the day. Ever since it dug itself out of World War II, BMW has concentrated on building cars that are technically sophisticated and great fun to drive.
MATT - This new 330Ci is a worthy descendent of that venerated machine, Dad. It's a fairly new design and the BMW people say that it shares only a few external parts with the four-door version. The interior is plush, but very business-like. In typical Teutonic fashion, the front bucket seats are firm and form-fitting and very comfortable on long trips. The back seat isn't as occupant-friendly as the fronts but this is more of a GT car than a family hauler. Those back seats flip down for extra carrying capacity if needed, and there's an optional ski bag available for those who view snow as a source of fun rather than a nuisance. The 330ci has lots of little plusses that don't make it go any faster or handle any better, but they make driving easier. The windshield washer squirters are heated, so they won't freeze up and they also retract into the bumper. And for us skiers, it has a pass-through bag to hold a couple of pairs of skis. Other unsung niceties are a drop-down tool kit in the trunk and a rechargeable flashlight in the glove box. It's a very well thought-out car.
BOB - It's mechanicals are very nice too. The engine is a 3.0-liter straight six that puts out 225 horses at 5900 revs. Its immediate predecessor was a 2.7-liter unit that was "stroked" to increased displacement for this updated version. For '01, the intake and exhaust manifolds have redesigned runners for better low-speed pull, and the variable valve timing mechanism works on both the intake and exhaust camshafts on the twin-cam head. With a 10-to-one compression ratio, the engine requires a diet of unleaded premium gas. But on the highway, it's good for a bit over 30 MPG.
MATT - Although it has a five-speed automatic transmission available, this is the type of car that is designed for a five-speed stick-shift and that's what we found in the one we evaluated. It's silky-smooth to shift and the ratios are well thought-out, but I was somewhat surprised to read that fifth gear is direct and not an overdrive cog. The suspension is pretty normal, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link arrangement in back, but to cut unsprung weight, lots of the suspension parts are made of aluminum. Our car had an optional Sport Package which included a "staggered" wheel-and-tire setup. The fronts are 225/45R17s, while the rears are 245/40R17s and the rear wheels are an inch wider than the fronts.
BOB - A traction control system is a standard safety item and I guess that this is to negate the slight tendency to "push" in the corners brought about by the slight front bias of the weight distribution. The steering has been lightened up a bit on this current version, but it doesn't seem to make much difference in its high-speed handling. It does, however, make it easier to steer while parking. Sometimes even a sporty rig like the BMW 330Ci has to be used for a little downtown shopping. For a couple of grand more, the same car can be had with all-wheel drive, a feature that hasn't been on a 3-Series BMW since '91. The cost of AWD has dropped by more than half from the '91 system due to utilizing a less complicated design and sharing it with the company's X5 sport/utility vehicle. That move spread the costs out over a wider production base. But even with all this, I'd have preferred a more simplistic design.
MATT - Dad, I don't think you've ever forgiven BMW with doing away with it's '55 Isetta "bubble car" that had the only door that swung out from the nose and a tiny one-cylinder engine that you sat on.
BOB - Your mom and I had a lot of fun with that little popper, Matt.