It’s official: With its new Performance Package for the 330i, BMW has finally run out of ways to make this car better. The 3-series’ latest $3900 option lards the benchmark 330i with more horsepower, bigger wheels, an M3-looking aero kit, and enough Alcantara to re-skin a synthetic calf. It’s the closest you can get to a factory-built M3 sedan, with nearly equivalent horsepower as the E36 M3. Let’s take a closer look at this work of genius, shall we?
BMW Individual—the division of BMW GmbH that puts those tasty floormats and wood inlays in high-spec 7-series—created the Performance package, and it’s a good thing they got the job, for the massaged 330i doesn’t forsake comfort for speed. Yes, the car has more oomph: New camshafts and altered engine-management programming coax ten more horsepower (235) from the Double VANOS-timed inline 6. That and a shorter final drive ratio pull the 330i’s 0-to-60 time down to an even six seconds, half a second quicker than the stock 330’s sprint. Still, any self-respecting ECM chip will do more than that for you. As fey as this may sound, the things that make the Performance Package worth the extra four grand are the cosmetic enhancements. Check out the aero kit up front. And the M3’s tiny lip spoiler on the trunk. Feast your eyes on the 18-inch alloys and know that for all their wheel-well-filling height, they do not tenderize your innards like some Applebee’s line cook working a two-dollar steak. Still more comfort awaits the driver inside, where the thick M-style steering wheel, all seats, and a cut-down, short-throw shifter are swaddled in Alcantara, just like in a racing car. Driving around while fondling the wheel and the shift boot made me feel like a perv, but it also made clear why redneck girls put frilly pink terrycloth donuts on their steering wheels. Like the newly stroked 330i, it just feels good.