“For the love of all that is sacred, what do I have to do to stop this thing smoothly?”
I asked that question repeatedly over the course of my week with the 2023 BMW 330i.
Okay, full disclosure: one of the things upon which I pride myself is the smoothness with which I operate an automobile. Throughout the years, I have learned treating the controls like dials rather than switches will elicit jar-free responses from nearly everything I’ve driven.
Usually, easing off the brake pedal slightly as a car comes to a stop returns the sensation of gliding to rest. However, try as I might, I could not get the 330i to stop without a rearward lurch. If I had to guess, I’d say the BMW’s regenerative braking system was the culprit.
On the other hand, every other aspect of driving the car was absolutely wonderful.
A makeover for the 2023 model year tightened up the 3 Series BMW’s already taut styling considerably. Those who pay close attention to such matters will note the classic twin-kidney grille has been reshaped, as have the LED headlights.
Vociferously telegraphing the performance orientation of BMW’s best-selling car, the revised front end is more angular and its air intakes are larger. The outer edges of the daytime running lights incorporate the front turn signals; while the furrowed appearance of the headlights gives the car an expression in rear view mirrors that says, “Get outta my way, I got places to be!”
The preponderance of horizontal lines and the sleek taillights defining the revised rear-end treatment adds even more tension to the look of the car. Meanwhile, the well-defined wheel arches give it a tasteful degree of muscularity. Taken as a whole, the BMW’s appearance tells bystanders it’s a performance car of the first order.
The biggest change to the interior is a 27-inch wide slightly curved monitor, housing digital gauge displays and the infotainment system. Rendered in one gracefully sweeping arc, the screen appears to float in front of the driver. Control of most of the car’s comfort and convenience functions are accessed within its touchscreen.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing.
The good part is it contributes to a button-free appearance for the dash. The bad part is you have to dig through menus to do something as simple as activate the recirculate function of the HVAC system when you see a vehicle emitting smoke up ahead.
However, one can get it to activate by saying, “Hey BMW, please set the climate control system to recirculate.” This is true of most of the car’s other commonly employed functions, including lowering the windows and opening the sunroof. In other words, once you learn to address the BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant verbally, thy will shall be done.
“My” 330i was powered by BMW’s uncannily smooth 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Output is quoted at 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. BMW is known for under rating engine output and the way the 330i goes gives me reason to believe this is yet another instance of that practice.
An 8-speed automatic transmission feeds the rear wheels. All-wheel drive is offered as an option, but a clutch pedal didn’t make the cut. Fuel economy for this powertrain is rated at 25 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway and 29 combined. I averaged 27 overall. Remarkably, this was achieved despite the fact I prioritized performance over fuel economy on back roads.
Safety and Technology
Being the entry-level 3 Series model, my 330i made do without lane-keep assist, although it is available as an option. It did have dynamic cruise control, forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, park distance monitoring and cornering brake control.
Getting back to that curved display, its functions can also be accessed with BMW’s now ubiquitous iDrive controller. BTW, the iDrive operating system is now in its eighth generation. Cloud-based maps; real-time traffic reporting and the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant are standard as well. The car also accepts over-the-air software upgrades.
Other standard features include CarPlay and Android compatibility, satellite radio and a 5G WiFi hotspot. Additional options include wireless charging and a head-up display.
Aside from the frustration I experienced with the BMW’s refusal to allow me to stop with style, driving the 330i was (to employ a well-worn phrase) a dream come true. BMW’s cars roll with a smoothness and sophistication few others can match.
The engine purrs happily at cruising speeds and emits a determined growl when asked to perform vigorously. It also pulls strongly and throttle response is outstanding. In fact, you’d think it was one of the marque’s legendary inline sixes if you didn’t know it was a turbocharged 4.
The steering, while insulating the driver from the front wheels a bit more than I like, delivers precise turn-in and outstanding control. You get exactly what you ask from it. In that way, it is reassuringly predictable and a willing partner when it comes to driving in a sporting manner.
The fade-free brakes were easily modulated at speed and the firmness of the pedal communicated the precision of their response. Long story short, even the least expensive 3 Series model is absolutely a driver’s car.
2023 BMW 330i Specifications
|L: 185.9 inches/W: 86 inches/H: 71.9 inches/Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
|2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder; 8-speed automatic transmission with RWD
|25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/29 mpg combined
|255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $42,300; As tested: $51,390, including $995 in destination charges
Few cars are capable of imparting the delight one experiences when driving a BMW sport sedan. The 3 Series, arguably the brand’s most iconic model, is a microcosm of everything for which the Munich-based company stands.
Handsome, luxurious, sporty, comfortable and exceptionally capable, the 2023 BMW 330i unwinds a twisty road with the same degree of competence it exhibits streaking along the autobahn at triple digit speeds. The car also shows well anywhere you might go—without coming across as ostentatious.
Refinement, sophistication and sheer unadulterated driving enjoyment are the hallmarks of this brilliant automobile.
Now, if only they’d figure out how to let a brother stop it smooth …
2023 BMW 330i — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the BMW 330i a reliable car?
J.D. Power assigned a predicted reliability score of 79 out of 100 to the 2022 BMW 3 Series. Given the 2023 model’s drivetrain is carried over from 2022, it’s likely to perform similarly.
Does the BMW 330i hold its value?
On average, a BMW 3 Series is typically worth about 60% of its original sticker price after five years.
Is the BMW 3 Series expensive to maintain?
According to the automotive research firm CarEdge, a BMW 3 Series will cost about $13,219 for maintenance and repairs during its first 10 years of service. This is more than the industry average for luxury sedan models by $1,258.