BMW 330d M Sport with ConnectedDrive - Comfort & Usability

By Jeremy Laird

Reviewed:

Summary

The 330d may not be the most powerful model in the revised 3 Series range, but it still packs a serious punch. The 3.0l turbo-diesel engine's 383lb/ft of torque is certainly major twisting action by any sensible measure. With that in mind, the Dynamic Stability Control system is extremely welcome.

In default mode, the traction control part of the system is a little intrusive, quelling torque to the rear wheels even during routine driving. That probably reflects the fact BMW no longer fits limited slip differentials to its mainstream models. Given the torque on offer, it's therefore terribly easy to break traction with a single wheel. However, BMW has catered for driving enthusiasts by making the system fully switchable. Should you wish to light up the rears, you can turn off the traction control.

Further features within the stability control system include brake drying, which occasionally primes the rotors to reduce moisture and improve initial responsiveness in wet conditions, brake fade compensation which basically does what is says on the tin, and brake pretensioning.

The new E90 also sports BMW's latest Servotronic electric steering rack. It certainly makes maneuvering the car at parking speeds a cinch but it does rather undermine mechanical feedback. Genuine steering feel is sadly not part of the modern BMW experience. Complementing the stability and traction control systems, the E90 packs six airbags, anti-whiplash head restraints and LED brake lights.

With the overhauled E90, BMW is sticking to its guns regarding run-flat tyres. You can read about our thoughts on the ride quality. Suffice to say that in safety terms there are clear benefits. Sudden loss of pressure is much less dangerous with run-flat technology. Of course, the super-stiff sidewalls can serve to mask the symptoms of pressure loss, so BMW includes a system that cleverly detects any fall off in pressure by comparing the rolling radius of the tyres when the car is on the move.

Of course, many of these features operate invisibly to the driver. Only when they stop operating will you really notice what an important difference they make. More central to the 330d's immediate driving characteristics is the six-speed automatic gearbox. It's a multi-mode box and includes a Standard automatic mode for daily driving and a Sport automatic mode that's a little more keen to kick down under acceleration and hold onto gears higher up the rev range. Finally, the box supports manual gear changes courtesy of both the gear selector in the centre console and a pair of paddles on the steering wheel.

You pull the paddles for upshifts and push for downshifts. They're mounted on the steering wheel and so turn with it rather than being fixed. That's fine most of the time but can be a little problematical in tight corners requiring extreme steering inputs. However, the 330d does benefit from a fairly quick steering rack, removing the need to take your hands off the steering wheel in all but the tightest hairpins.

Overall, the box complements the drivetrain extremely well. The engine is enormously zingy and free revving for a diesel powerplant and the ability to zip up and down the ratios courtesy of the paddle shifters gives the car a very sporty and contemporary feel. The torque converter also locks up nice and early, too, which only adds to the athletic driving vibe. For sure, hardcore enthusiasts will perhaps find the system a little laggy and uninvolving. Even in M Sport trim, the 330d isn't the sort of car you'd take for a thrash early on a Sunday morning. But for most drivers it's both fun and efficient.

Speaking of efficiency, this car will return consumption numbers that utterly belie its sports scar humbling performance. When it comes to fuel efficiency, of course, every little helps and BMW more than any other manufacturer pays enormous attention to detail. The Efficient Dynamics package in the 330d includes Brake Energy Regeneration, an electric steering rack that reduces load on the engine by doing away with a pully-driven hydraulic pump and what BMW calls its Intelligent Alternator Control.

Needless to say, however, it's the 330d's modern diesel engine that contributes most to the car's impressive efficiency. BMW officially rates the 330d Auto at 45.6mpg combined and 54.3mpg on the extra urban cycle. Real world returns will vary depending on your driving style. In our hands, consumption was in the low 30s, but then we were - how shall we put it - enjoying the car's full potential. Exercise just a little restraint and 50mpg on long motorway journeys is easily achievable. With a fuel capacity of over 60 litres, that puts the car's operational range well beyond 700 miles. CO2 emissions, for the record, are just 152g/km, placing the 330d in band G for road tax rates. In 2009-10 that attracts a fee of £150, rising to £155 thereafter.

With the full iDrive system comes an upgraded parking assist feature. The car is plastered with sensors front and rear allowing a detailed picture of parking hazards to be rendered on the main iDrive display. It's a graphical representation rather than a video-based system and uses colour coding to emphasise the proximity of obstacles.

If there's one area we'd like to see improved for the next 3 Series, it's interior ambience. That's not to say the E90 feels cheap or shoddy inside. But it does lack the sheer density and sense of material well being of an Audi cabin, for instance. For that matter, wind back the clock to the 1980s and you'll see what a really well-made BMW interior looks and feels like. The quality of leather alone from that period shames the artificial-feeling hide BMW currently uses.

Nevertheless, the 330d M Sport is an extremely low-stress driving tool. The revised 3.0l diesel engine smoothes out the few remaining rough edges from the previous car's power delivery. On the move, it's an enormously refined and pleasant engine to use, even if it falls well short of the sonorous petrol 330i in terms of soaring soundtrack.

The M Sport chassis settings are also an extremely well judged balance between comfort and body control. We remain sceptical about BMW's continued use of run flat tyres. But there's no arguing with the fact that the revised E90 is a clear step forward over the original model when it comes to suppressing the little fidgets and thumps that have characterised run flat ride quality. The downside to run-flats on the latest Three are very minimal indeed.

Steve

April 28, 2009, 1:16 pm

A hideously looking monstrosity of a car. BMW's of late look absolutely vile! And don't get me started on the X6....

Riyad

April 28, 2009, 5:44 pm

@Steve - You’ll get no argument from me, I think that the 3 Series saloon is an ugly beast. Although at least the rear light clusters on this facelift model aren’t as rank as the ones on the original. Of course my trusty coder Rich will argue to the death that the 3 Series saloon is stunning, but at least he’s otherwise sane.





Personally I just can’t believe how big the 3 Series is now. The 1 Series coupe is about the size that the E30 3 Series coupe was! There’s no denying that the technology that BMW is squeezing into its cars is pretty impressive though.

MarioM

April 28, 2009, 7:24 pm

Regarding Information Plus - I'm sure that Fiat had something like this about five or six years ago in the Stilo. Anybody remember? If you went for the satnav option and installed a simcard, you could press some sort of 'Help' button and be put through to a call centre where they could send e.g. a local hotel (or garage more like) to your Nav.


Or am I dreaming again? If not, it's surprising how long it takes for tech to make it's way through cars...

Chris

April 28, 2009, 10:27 pm

@Mario: Sounds like you're thinking of SmartNav. That's not particularly new or impressive technology and it's not confined to Fiat. It's not quite the same thing either. If you asked the SmartNav lady for the atomic weight of Boron, she'd probably hang up on you whereas a BMW lady would kindly oblige.


The closest I've heard of is the 'concierge' service that used to come with a VW Phaeton, although that was more for restaurant reservations, theatre tickets and the like.

ChrisC

April 28, 2009, 10:58 pm

I still think the previous generation 3 series looks far more 'premium' that the current version. The interiors have always been solid but at the same time looked a little old fashioned too, eg. the dials haven't changed much over the years. However, you just can't argue with the way they drive, they are all excellent cars (begrudgingly even the X5 & X6, for what they are), and the latest generation of diesel engines are in a league of their own, returning some amazing Co2 results alongside some serious performance figures.





Anyway, there has to be a point when all this tech gets distracting to the driver, but then seeing as we spend more and more time stuck in traffic jams, having lots of functionality might actually help preserve our sanity!!

Mark Peter

April 28, 2009, 11:49 pm

"open out the iDrive platform" - now there's a thought. It's one thing to brick your iphone with a dodgy app but messing up your traction control system opens up whole ranges of interesting possibilities...

Chris

April 29, 2009, 3:48 pm

@ChrisC: The facelift gives it a far more 'premium' look. The new creases in the bonnet lend some aggression and the new rear and light clusters are far more distinctive. The previous rear clusters were ripped straight from a Mitsubishi Charisma, the most inaptly named car in history.





Also, look out for some impressive new diesel engines from Mercedes and Jaguar. Merc's new 4-cyl C250 CDI does 0-60 in 7.1, returns 'over 50 mpg' and pumps out 138g/km CO2.

Jim Fulton

April 30, 2009, 1:31 am

I drive an 07 335d Coupe, with the earlier generation iDrive. I agree with a lot Jeremy says, I went for upgraded speakers and they make a big difference to the sound, much cheaper than the horrendously expensive Harmon Kardon option. As for the quoted range, you'll find that a bit optimistic. 600-650 miles, certainly, I manage around 500-550 in the 335d at a steady 75-80 on a long run.





Agree with Chris, the new Jaguar XF engine with the twin turbodiesel is getting great reviews, must be worth a look.

Rich 42c5

May 1, 2009, 7:53 pm

A stunning, stunning car. I'd hit it

rpmoore

July 27, 2010, 5:43 pm

Thanks for the great info on connected drive. I have just bought a new F10 5 series that includes the same system, and was looking for more in depth tech info that you described.





Overall it is a great system, I am just waiting until the third party hackers start on it so we get things like custom POI (speed cameras) for the NAV, video interface for iPod etc.

Newty

June 3, 2013, 10:39 am

Beautiful car man

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