Some would call the 3-Series conventional, a formula that for decades has in many respects been the same. It’s also been very successful, building on the simple concept of a RWD sedan with enough class to do business, enough space to do family and loaded with enough tech and powertrains to appeal to most. It was the bread and butter for BMW for a while and though sales numbers have waned, it’s still one of the popular sedans on our roads today.
In this 330d, BMW continues the recipe for the most part not forgetting that other quality for which 3-Series have always been known, driving pleasure as they called it. A dynamic competence coupled with a vainglorious soundtrack is the stuff of 3 legend. Here, the handling remains but that sound is lost, giving way to a refined and relatively silent diesel flutter.
It’s all good though and whilst this diesel is never going to sound sporty in any way, the BMW 3-Series still has all the goods. It’s become quite a large car and despite the jarring or polarising looks of its larger siblings a la X7, 7-Series and even 4-Series now, the 3-Series design hasn’t quite found its way into internet memedom. The design is by and large quite clean and understated even with the M-sport Launch edition package included on our test unit. It’s more business than overt sport and it certainly doesn’t scream for attention as far as its looks are concerned.
You’ll find a cabin that is in keeping with its more expensive and luxurious siblings. The cabin is a mix of fine leather and sporty trim matched to an advanced offering of on-board comfort, safety and convenience technology.
It’s an upmarket cabin for sure, and depending on the optional extras thrown in, you can specify this car with almost R300 000 worth of extras.
The truth is, you will need spec quite a few things should you want to enjoy the full state-of-the-art offering that a G20 BMW 3-Series can offer you. Why not? Our test unit featured almost every level of tech you could opt for. You may not need the Driving Assistance package but it offers semi-autonomous driving and adaptive cruising. Why not? It’s a R34 000 option. The Infotainment Propackage will set you back R29 000 but once again, it unbundles the full connectivity and media interface as well as every option of function-control you can think of. Yes that includes gesture control, touch, controller use and even voice-activated commands. If anything, the heads-up display is not a game changer and at R17 000, have it if you must but it won’t detract from what is a luxurious and technological driving experience – if you have the above of course.
The 330d is really characterised by what lies under the bonnet, a 195kW turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel mill. It makes agigantic torque figure of 580Nm and pulls strongly and smoothly from as low down as 1,600rpm. There’s a finesse to power delivery, not the punchy thud that you get from say the M340i but a more prolonged sense of power reminiscent ofthe large capacity V12s of old.
Coupled to an 8-speed steptronic automatic transmission, BMW has cleverly disguised the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. The 330d is understated in everything: the noise it makes, the way it swops cogs and the way it gently commands its chassis and dampers around almost all road conditions. It handles gloriously, living up to its historical claims. The steering is well-weighted and well attuned to pointing that front end as you direct it. There’s a level of confidence that comes with a front like this without any tendency to understeer but definitely biased enough to enjoy some level of rear loss of grip, but quite honestly this happens a far way into the turn. The 330d has admirable levels of grip and yes, a plethora of electronic aids to subdue any overenthusiasm.
It’s understated yes, but delivers in all the right areas. As a daily driver for those long-haul to and fros from work or as a car that needs to cover vast kilometres more often than not, the 330d is fantastic. It will increase the gap between visits to the fuel station, our test unit going back with less than 6,5l/100km with mix of urban and freeway driving. BMW claims it will do under 5l/100km and you better believe it. It sips fuel as slow as we sip beer during lockdown.
The odds are that you’re moved by a badge as much as anybody else. So you know that you do have some options. The thing with the BMW 3-Series in general is that if you’re swayed by the badge, then you’ll find a 3-Series that perfectly suits you. It is a premium product of course, and it’s not cheap by any means. But it is that old faithful name with that old faithful performance and credo.
The 330d in particular really should be on your considerations-list should you want something with memorable and enjoyable punch but with equal measures of frugality or efficiency. It really does play that contrasting role best. It’s not as fast as the M340i xDrive nor as frugal as a 320d, but it’s the perfect in-betweener.
Any Audi or Mercedes Benz of equivalent power and efficiency you won’t find. Nobody else is doing this sort of car and that’s a good thing for BMW. It is of course a more expensive consideration with a base price of R829 000 and with M-Sport packaging and some added but want-not-need extras, you’d need to look over the R900 000 mark for sure.
Expenses aside, the 330d offers a true dose of most things you may want in any car.
The practicality of a medium-sized sedan coupled with modern tech, exciting handling and performance as well aslong gaps between the pumps means the 330d is hard to argue with. It stands true to what 3-Series are all about.