2001 330 New Car Test Drive
BMW's 3 Series continues to be the benchmark for sports sedans. It's been that way since the late 1970s, and the 2001 lineup continues this tradition with 10 different models, all of which are truly outstanding automobiles. In addition to the sedan models, there are sport coupes, convertibles, and a sport wagon.
BMW uses the word sport when describing its 3 Series models and it's apt. All 3 Series models corner, accelerate and stop swiftly. These are highly refined machines. If you're more interested in kicking back and cruising than you are in driving, then these cars may not be the best choice. They put drivers in touch with the road instead of isolating them, but their ultra-sharp steering response demands close attention. Interiors are well-equipped and comfortable, but are all business.
Several significant changes highlight the 2001 3 Series lineup, but the headline news is more power. Through engine refinements, the 2.5-liter gain 14 horsepower and now produce 184 horsepower. They are also awarded a new badge: 325i; this replaces last year's 323i designation and reflects their true engine size. At the same time, the 2.8-liter 328 gets a real increase in displacement, to 3.0 liters; it comes with a new 330i designation, and 225 horsepower, which is up substantially over last year's 193.
The 3 Series is the smallest of BMW's three sedan lines. But it has grown to 10 models, and includes coupes, convertibles, and wagons. All are based on the same platform (chassis and drive train); however, coupes and convertibles share few body panels with the sedans and wagon. Sedan, coupe and convertible are now available with 2.5- or 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engines; the wagon comes only with the 2.5-liter inline-6.
The 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine is used in the 325i sedan ($26,990); 325i sport wagon ($29,400); 325Ci coupe ($28,990); 325Ci convertible ($35,990).
The 225-horsepower 3.0-liter engine is used in the 330i sedan ($33,990); 330Ci coupe ($34,990); and 330Ci convertible ($42,400).
Coupe and convertible prices include a slightly higher level of luxury equipment than in the sedans and wagon. All models come with a five-speed manual transmission, an unusually enthusiast-friendly policy even among sports sedans. Of course, an automatic transmission is available: A superb ZF-built five-speed Steptronic, it adds $1275 to the price of any 3 Series model. (A conventionally controlled automatic is no longer offered.)
New for 2001 is a sophisticated all-wheel-drive package that adds $1750 to the price of a 325i sedan or sport wagon or 330i sedan. It also adds an X to the model designation, thus 325Xi and 330Xi.
Look for a super-high-performance M3 model this year.