Bountiful BMW wants to get its road-mauling Munich mojo back.
Before the German automaker got soft in the middle and fat in the back pocket, its taut, superbly balanced 3-series cars reigned as the best sports sedans on the road. Period.
The redesigned electric-blue 2019 BMW 330i I had recently seeks to find that golden groove again – or so says Bimmer.
I wish them well since I, too, search daily for the outlines of my old sporting self in the morning mirror – and mostly see lines.
Like most automakers, BMW relies heavily now on 4,000- and 5,000-pound crossover SUVs to haul in the profits.
Last year, for example, BMW – a company built on lithe, agile coupes and sedans – sold 10 percent more truck-like vehicles than cars, and BMW’s claim of being the “ultimate driving machine” kind of rings hollow in the cavernous interior of an overweight, overly stuffed X6 crossover.
At least the 33 I had seemed sincere.
Of course, like its recent predecessor, it remains about the same size as the more upscale 5-series Bimmer from a decade ago and with all-wheel-drive, weighs roughly 3,700 pounds. It didn’t seem much bothered by the bulk, though.
The car’s traditional kidney-shaped grilles, for instance, looked slightly larger and more aggressive, flanked by scowling, piercing headlamps.
Extremely short overhangs up front and a long, broad hood bolstered the sedan’s sporting intentions, as did smooth, slightly muscular sides and powerful haunches over the rear fenders.
The handsome, if somewhat familiar, body clung tightly to low-profile 225/40 tires up front and 255/35s in the rear wrapped around good-looking 19-inch spoked wheels.
However, you may need to get comfortable with the notion of a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine in a good-sized BMW – an engine, incidentally, that is rapidly replacing Bimmer’s traditional silky sixes.
Actually, it shouldn’t be that difficult. The gutsy four-banger is rated (conservatively) at 255-horsepower and bolted to a well-sorted eight-speed automatic.
Prod the little demon hard and it winds up quickly, showing off a surprisingly broad surge of power that shoves the big sedan to 60 mph in a swift 5.2 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
With somewhat less weight over its front wheels, the 330i also cuts eagerly into corners pretty flatly, feeling composed and ready for the next one.
Predictably, I guess, the car’s ride in “sport” mode was fairly intense, announcing most road-bumps and imperfections with moderate jostles.
I didn’t mind that as much as the sedan’s steering, which is improved, but still not as good as some lesser cars.
Thick and quick with not enough road-feel, it was sometimes further aggravated by a safety nanny that pushed lightly at the wheel when I wandered outside my lane to play.
I guess the nannies didn’t get Bimmer’s e-mail about its “ultimate driving machine” aspirations. Moreover, the eight-speed automatic would quickly upshift to a higher gear at moderate speeds, delivering excellent 30-mpg overall fuel-economy but not the feel of a “real” BMW.
Nonetheless, even with its relatively minor flaws, my $60,000 330i felt fully capable of dealing with any hard corner, twisty curve or autobahn – and sported a top speed of 156-mph, as well.
It also sought to justify its lofty window-sticker with a nice-looking, resolutely tan interior that was well executed, but kind of heavy on plastic for a $60,000 vehicle.
A deep-stylized black dashboard in slightly coarse, but pliable plastic ,slid gracefully around an 8.8-inch display screen that dominated the mid-dash.
Being German and kind of complicated, the 330i offered a knob on the console for tuning the stereo, which was fine as long as I was sitting still.
Likewise, I’m not sure how many safety nannies resided somewhere in or around that dash. The ones BMW claimed included extended traffic-jam assist; active blind-spot detection; lane-departure mitigation; and “active driving assistant.”
I would have happily left all of them at the curb, but it all looked good, with a baseball-mit-tan lower dash matching striking tan leather seats with sectioned and stitched centers.
Keep in mind, though, that leg-room in back is limited if you need to regularly transport large Americans. Headroom is fine.
As you might expect with a Bimmer, the 330i was loaded, including “cognac Vernasca leather” ($1,450); the driver assistance package ($1,700); M Sport package ($5,000); premium package ($2,800); executive package ($2,100); and track handling package ($2,450).
I’m not sure how many of those options will help BMWs reclaim their glory years, but all the new Bimmers I’ve driven seem eager to find it.
2019 BMW 330i
- What I liked most: The salty turbo-four, confident suspension and still-pleasing styling.
- What I would change: Give me more of the sporty edginess from BMW’s golden years between 1992 and 2012, and less luxury and so-called “convenience”.
- MSRP: Base price, $40,250; as equipped, $59,920.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 26 miles per gallon in the city, 36 on the highway and 30 mpg combined with filler on the right.
- Official color: Portimao Blue Metallic.
- Odometer reading when tested: 158 miles.
- Weight: 3,709 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 185.7 inches long/71.9 inches wide/57 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 15.6 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- Spare tire: None – run-flat tires.
- 2019 BMW 330i in a few words: An impressive German performance/near-luxury sedan that apparently aims to get even better.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-miles.
- Final assembly location: Munich, Germany
- Manufacturer’s website: BMW
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up next: 2019 Nissan Altima