The power of the moment
BRIAN BASSETT binds the BMW 330d Automatic with a speed limiter to stay out of trouble
I HAVE driven BMWs for more than 25years.
Mostly the 3-series but here and there a 5-series. The main reason I continue to drive these Bavarian chariots is not only because of their build quality and peppy engines, but also because of their handling and driver focus.
I am grateful to Allen Neave of SMG Pietermaritzburg for allowing me a few days with the 330d M-sport package, which was most enjoyable.
The 3-series not surprisingly appeals to the young and the young at heart.
The face-lifted 3-series launched earlier this year is largely all about changes under the hood and not about the exterior.
The car remains as it was with the typical BMW kidney grill at the front, flanked by swept-back headlight modules and fog lights built into the front bumper.
The tail lights which dominate the rear end are now full LED lights. The short overhangs, the long wheel base and coupe-like roof styling, as well as the 19inch, double seven-spoke light alloy wheels give the 3-series a distinctive and athletic design personality, which stands out wherever it goes.
The interior is well put together and ergonomically excellent.
The seats and doors are finished in soft leather, as is the multi-function, three-spoke steering wheel which, together with the comfortable front sports seats, is fully adjustable.
The steering controls functions like cruise control, Bluetooth and the fine, six-speaker CD/Aux/USB audio system can also be linked to a series of electronic wonders, which may be purchased as optional extras.
The dashboard is typically BMW with four analogue gauges and a screen operated by a centrally-placed controller, which displays a range of information about the vehicle and your journey.
The vehicle I drove came with a sunroof which lit a somewhat formal black interior.
Space and safety
The rear seats take two passengers comfortably and I liked the wide, central armrest which increased rear passenger comfort levels.
The boot is surprisingly spacious and the rear seats fold forward in 40:20:40 split to double the boot space.
The 3-Series has a 5-star NCAP rating, six front, side and curtain airbags, a specially designed occupant cell, adaptive headlights and ABS with EBD and dynamic stability control, to mention but a few. There is also the usual on-board alarm and central locking.
If you are into gadgets, your electronic key can be programmed to set temperature, seating and airflow positions to your liking. All it takes is money.
Performance and handling
For BMW performance and handling is what it is all about and there the 330d does not disappoint.
The acceleration from the turbo-charged, three-litre, sixcylinder 258 kW/560 Nm engine is brilliant and provides power in a moment.
This car gets from 0-100 km/ h in 5,9 seconds and top speed, should you feel like suicide, is 250 km/h.
Fuel consumption is around 7,9 l/100 km depending on driving style and terrain.
The ride is quiet and comfortable even at speed and on the N3 I found it very difficult to keep the car to the speed limit. The steering is immediately responsive and the eight-speed automatic transmission is seamless.
Driving in town is a pleasure, although I had to get used to not depressing the accelerator too forcefully, as the car leaps forward without much prompting.
The 330d is a family car, a sports saloon and a grand tourer all wrapped in an impressive technological package.
The car comes with a five-year or 100 000 km motor plan which is extendable and covers everything but tyres.
Price and competition
BMW on Call will service your needs for the duration of your plan. New, the car will cost you about R600 000, but remember there are demos and year olds, which reduce the cost substantially. The options list is long and should you choose to do so you could add several hundred thousand rand to the new price.
Also have a look at Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50.
The BMW 330d with the M package — few petrolheads thought a diesel could ever be this smooth.