The new 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine has a magnesium/aluminum composite construction to save weight-22 pounds in fact, compared with the outgoing unit. It also produces more horsepower while being more fuel-efficient. The 3.0-liter engine in the 330i makes 255 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque versus the 225 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of the old engine. A simpler intake manifold and different engine software and exhaust explain why the 3.0-liter engine in the 325i makes less power (215 hp and 185 lb-ft). A new six-speed manual transmission is standard on both models, while a six-speed "manu-matic" appears on the options list. In the fall of 2005, a clutchless six-speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG) will become available.
Behind the Wheel
The new 330i is a superb car: BMW has managed to improve upon the marque's sport-sedan legacy at a time when Infiniti, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz are all aggressively targeting the 3 Series. The driving position is excellent, and the seats are both comfortable and supportive. The new spring-back turn signals can be confusing at first, and the trendy start button is ultimately pointless, but this is otherwise an exemplary driving environment.
The six-cylinder engines are faultless. They sound terrific, rev hard, and offer lots of passing performance, while the six-speed manual transmission features short, slick actions and is allied with a fluid, well-weighted clutch. The six-speed automatic is excellent, too, with nicely spaced ratios.
The front/rear disc brakes are excellent, and the handling is still the best in class-with or without the sport package.
However you outfit it, the car rides better than a sport sedan has any right to do. The optional active steering isn't recommended, however. It slows down the steering at high speeds for stability and also countersteers under braking, should one set of tires have less grip than the others, but unfortunately, it also feels artificial, whereas the regular steering is precise and communicative. Although some competitors like the Infiniti G35 have matched the 3 Series for by-the-numbers performance, it only takes a brief stint behind the wheel of a "3" to realize the heightened agility, composure, and refinement the extra money buys.
BMW offers a four-year/50,000-mile warranty, as well as a full maintenance program, which means BMW pays for all servicing over the same period. (Mercedes-Benz recently dropped its similar plan.) BMW Assist, essentially breakdown notification service, is offered as part of the Premium Package or as a stand-alone option.
New and improved, the redesigned 3 Series is a premium reward for discerning driving enthusiasts.