BMW 330xi

October 18th, 2006 by William

It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a newish luxury sedan. But how much different could a new BMW be from a 5 year old version. Yesterday I stole some seat time in a 2006 BMW 330xi and it seems that Bob Dylan was right; “The times, they are a changing”.

When you get into the 330 you feel like your strapping yourself into the HAL supercomputer. There is no key in the traditional sense; instead the mini-remote used to unlock the car is also the key. Stick the remote into the key port and press the start/stop button and the vehicle comes to life with an array of flashing lights, digital screens and an eerie quiet that you used to find in libraries. Expecting to hear “you’ve got mail” next, it took awhile for my senses to take in all the information that the car was broadcasting to me, and I hadn’t even taken the car out of park yet. For techno-morons like myself, trying to mess with BMW’s iDrive navigation system is a headache waiting to happen. Ditto the stereo system, which I decided would be best to leave alone.

Although a little busy, the interior of the 330xi is well put together and handsome in a very German sort-of way. My biggest complaint in the cockpit was that the side-bolsters on the driver’s seat, which protruded aggressively, grasping my spare-tire mid-section and giving a constant reminder that I had chocolate cake for breakfast. Figuring that the bolsters were probably adjustable–heck everything else was–I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out how to loosen them up. I was able to make the seat recline, raise, lower, it even gave me a Swedish massage, but for the life of me I couldn’t find the bolster adjustment. I’m sure if you actually bought the car you would receive a set of 2 inch thick owners manuals complete with CD and a 1 month training course that would teach you how to use the car correctly and avoid these problems.

Once on the road the BMW made up for most of its parking lot short comings. Driving the car is pretty straight forward. The 3 liter inline six is silky smooth and pulls hard when asked to. With 255 horsepower the car can definitely get out of its own way, and it can do it with a style that most other sedans only dream of. Turn-in on the car is sharp and the handling is dialed in perfectly. Even on pothole strewn city streets the BMW rode and handled like a true luxury car. I didn’t have a chance to give the 330xi’s all wheel drive any sort of test. But after ringing the car around for awhile traction was the furthest of my concerns.

What really did get my attention was the frustrating turn signal switch. I think BMW tried to get too clever here and develop smart turn signals. At first glance it looks like a normal turn signal stalk, but when you try to signal for a turn the stock becomes the Cheshire Cat; confusing and eluding your every command. Instead of staying in the up or down position when the signal is on, the BMW stalk returns to center. However the signal will come on with even the lightest touch making lane changes especially frustrating.

Overall the car was pretty good in an unremarkable sort of way. It did the whole “driving” thing really well without being obtrusive to the driver. Ultimate driving machine? Probably not. But a good four-door sedan? Yeah, I’ll give it that.

For more info visit:
http://www.bmw.com

-Bill Mertz


One Response to “BMW 330xi”

  1. Automotive Blogger » Blog Archive » The Odd Couple: M6 vs. Z06 Says:

    […] To get all the power to the ground the Corvette has massive tires; 275/35 ZR18 fronts and 325/30 ZR19 rears. Although the ride is a little bumpy by normal car standards, I felt it was remarkably smooth considering the stiff suspension setup, the low ground clearance and the 30 series super-low-profile tires. Grip was good even on undulating surfaces, and the Corvette steering felt light and easy to use. If I had to grade the interior I would give it a B+. Aside from some cheesy fonts on the gauges, the Z06 cockpit was very minimalist and affective. With nice seats, easy to use controls and a comfortable driving position, I felt right at home behind the wheel. After about 45 minutes in the Corvette I switched over to the BMW M6. It’s sort of like going from a raging frat party to a German techno club. The M6 has noticeably better fit and finish overall. No gaps in any of the interior panels, and once inside you feel like your sitting in a 5 star hotel. This is partially due to the rich leather upholstery and the said headliner. The controls on the BMW are a bit trickier. With the complicated iDrive computer running the show, I was at a loss to control the stereo or navigation systems. And the turn signal switch is down-right terrible (see my 330xi write-up). […]

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