REVIEW | BMW 330is Edition reminds us why the G20 3-Series is such a hit
Many (including ourselves) were especially unkind when BMW decided to trade off the mystique of the E30 325is with the 330is Edition in 2020.
Aside from the advertising campaign, which courted controversies of its own, the execution seemed a bit half-done. All they did was take a regular 330i, add a sprinkling of visual spice, drop the suspension by 10mm drop and add a (slightly) louder exhaust system.
When a unit of the model arrived for testing the other day, it prompted a different take. Maybe the 330is Edition was just a victim of the marketing department. Could it have been received more warmly if it did not try to coat-tail on a car whose status borders on deity, in the eyes of most South African car enthusiasts? Probably.
So, my plan was to forget those two letters and shift focus. Three days with the 330is was a reminder of just how good the G20 3-Series is as a package. This seventh-generation instalment is regarded by pundits as a return to form, garnering praise perhaps not written since the E46 of yesteryear.
But even if you are not au fait with the lineage and model-code nitty-gritty, you will agree that the new 3-Series is a deeply impressive car. It marks a dramatic leap in comparison to the outgoing F30: sitting in either back-to-back, the former car is instantly revealed as the older of the pair.
Its button-intensive fascia, protruding infotainment screen, mechanical handbrake and chunky gear selector lever are hallmarks of the old BMW way. The G20 is cleaner, uncluttered, although retaining the much-loved driver-centric flavour that made the breed so appealing. Quality is better as well.
And if driving – really getting involved – is your thing, the model rewards more bountifully than anything else in the class. An experience at the punishing Gerotek testing facility in Tshwane revealed that. While the Audi A4 was ever-planted and predictable with its front-wheel drive set-up, it never tickled the caveman parts of the brain. The C-Class we drove was completely numb, with its electronic stability programme muzzling the engine to the point of frustration.
But the Bimmer? It was intuitive, it gave leeway for controllable shimmies from the rear, it felt plugged-in on all levels. There are no major downsides for comfort either. Dialled into its most docile setting, it cruises along quietly at the national limit, adaptive suspension absorbing pocked and scarred surfaces faithfully.
The era of six-cylinder ubiquity in the BMW line-up might be well and truly gone. But we doubt the average consumer is going to mind. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder in the 330is remains in the same state of tune as the unit in the 330i. This means a substantial 190kW and 400Nm, with a standstill to 100km/h sprint in 5.8 seconds. An eight-speed automatic is standard across the board. Ask for a manual and the salesman might look at you with a quizzical expression – you cannot have one.
But the great thing about the G20 range is the consistency throughout. Whether you find yourself behind the wheel of a 318i (from R697,524), 320d (from R773,850) or the 330i (from R777,290), the essence that makes the seventh-generation model so recommendable remains. It manages to be all things to all people: tool for the driving enthusiast, spacious, comfortable family chariot and status symbol.