With the Commonwealth Games in full swing it’s easy to waste away a few hours watching athletes from around the globe battle it out in their chosen sports. One of the more popular events is the gymnastics where buffed up competitors have tailored themselves mentally and physically to cope with the various disciplines. A mighty upper body for hanging from the rings, powerful legs for vaulting and a mix of grace and flexibility for the floor routine. But what’s most impressive is not the athlete’s ability to master a single area but to have absolute competence in all of them. Among the various athletes in the automotive world the BMW 3-Series would surely be the gymnast.
Known as a consummate all-rounder the 3-Series embodies athleticism, low-key style and progressive technology. Diesel power is a more recent move in the 3-Series repertoire but one that’s quickly being mastered, resulting in some of the finest performance-focused diesel vehicles built to date. Could BMW’s newest example continue this growing reputation for dynamic diesel delivery and further the 3-Series dynasty. Car and SUV hit the mats with the new 330d Coupe to mark its form and find out more.
So what’s special about the 330d?
Many things, but what’s first noticeable is the low-slung coupe sheetmetal. Like a zip-up sheep costume the coupe’s inconspicuous clean lines nicely conceal the wolf within. At the front BMW’s wide kidney grille sits prominently between excellent LED element headlights. A sharp crease line tracks along the sides below elegantly curved windows and a raked forward C-pillar. The rear proportions are just right with minimal overhang, a black diffuser and twin chrome exhaust tips hinting at performance intent. Our test vehicle was further upgraded with the M Sport body kit and nicely matched 19-inch double spoke alloys (17-inch is standard). Overall, the 330d Coupe has an understated elegance that may not appeal to the ostentatious, but will still illicit plenty of sideways glances at the lights.
The genteel styling continues inside with high-grade black plastics and contrasting silver trim surrounding the driver. Instrumentation is typical BMW with warm orange illumination and dials that are simple but well presented. The revised i-Drive controller dial sits in the centre console and controls a high-mounted colour display screen that’s recessed into the dashboard. It’s an intuitive system that operates various functions like the satellite navigation, entertainment system and trip computer.
The leather seats are well contoured for comfort but also offer plenty of lateral support and various electric adjustments to get them ‘just right’. The 3-Series Coupe is quite a compact body shape and with the bulky dash and door trims, larger drivers will fit in snugly. Luckily there’s a clever ‘Seatbelt Handover’ system that automatically gives the front occupants their seatbelts and prevents twisting round to reach for them. The rear seat offers fair space for two people and with a reclined seatback there’s enough leg and headroom for most, but taller passengers may still struggle for comfort. You don’t need gymnastic flexibility to get in there either with a single lever flicking the front seats forward. There’s good capacity in the 330d coupe’s boot with 440-litres available, only slightly less than the sedan and the rear seats can fold down and have a opening in the middle for skis or long items. The only areas where the interior loses points are in the limited small storage options and the dash-mounted cup holders that would be hard to trust with a scolding hot cup of coffee over your passenger’s lap.
The 330d Coupe comes well specified with a standard equipment list that includes Bluetooth, satellite navigation, cruise control with brake function, M leather steering wheel, USB audio interface, 8-speaker stereo, park distance control and a high-beam assist system that automatically dips the full beams when a car approaches on the open road.
So the 330d Coupe is one athlete that’s backed by the latest technology and certainly looks the part, but the big question is — how does it perform?
The answer lays under the car’s bonnet where BMW has jammed in its latest diesel-powered marvel — an all-aluminum straight-six 3.0-litre engine. Few could argue that it’s not cutting edge, using a variable geometry turbocharger and direct fuel injection to deliver 180kw of power and an M3-beating 520Nm of torque. This massive compliment of torque is available from 1,750rpm and launches the 330d from standing to 100km/h in just 6.1 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 250kph. It’s an engine that’s well endowed in all areas; it’s flexible so power is underfoot at any speed and it doesn’t frizzle out at the upper end of the rev range. It’s also a refined motor and the rattles at idle traditionally attributed to diesel motoring are notably absent.
The 330d Coupe has a single transmission option for the NZ market, a six-speed automatic. It’s an impressive unit that reads driver intent well. While cruising it provides smooth shifts and chases fuel economy with higher gears, but flick the gearstick over to sports mode and the 330d is ready for action. The sports mode expertly extracts all available grunt from the 330d but if you want to do it yourself there are steering wheel paddles available. These are engaging to use and work on a fingers for up-shifts, thumbs for downshifts system. The slick auto ‘box and advanced diesel engine combine to give the 330d a quoted fuel economy of 6.2l/100km. For a sports coupe that moves like the 330d, this figure is an amazing result and makes it one of the first vehicles to genuinely mix high performance and comfort with low running costs.
Dynamically the 330d Coupe will score highly from all judges, the chassis is beautifully sorted with a high level of balance. There’s masses of grip during cornering and the rear driving wheels track the front wheels effortlessly around bends. That said, with the large amount of torque on tap the 330d rewards smooth gas pedal work by keeping the traction and stability control systems dormant. Steering is precise and well weighted and the run-flat tyres provide good feedback on how much power to send to the rear treads.
The ride was compliant and comfortable in our test vehicle, while it had the M Sports Package the sports suspension settings hadn’t been applied. For those seeking a compromise between sporty suspension and comfort this may prove a good option. Our test vehicle never felt too soft or floaty when cruising and showed no signs of body roll while cornering.
When it comes to safety the 330d is equipped with dynamic stability and traction control, ABS brakes, cornering brake control and a full cache of airbags.
So what’s the verdict on the 330d Coupe?
To call it impressive would be an understatement. Building a high-performance diesel-powered sports coupe carries a high degree of difficulty but BMW executed the 330d brilliantly. It’s a rapid point-to-point vehicle with an engaging drive and elegant modern styling. It has robust BMW build quality inside and out with enough space to transport four adults with luggage. But its greatest trick comes with the high-powered yet thrifty engine that could alter the opinion of even the most hardcore diesel skeptics. Simply put, the 330d Coupe is an accomplished all-rounder with strengths in all areas and that will always get scorecards reading high.
Price: from $115,900 as tested $125,190
What we like:
- Broad all round appeal
- Quiet and economical diesel engine
- Masses of torque
- Elegant styling and robust build quality
- Sharp driving dynamics
What we don’t like:
- Few interior small storage options
- Expensive optional equipment
- Short 2-year vehicle warranty
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo