2002 330 New Car Test Drive
BMW's 3 Series offers a full line of driver's cars. The 3 Series is composed of sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons. They vary in price, power, and packaging, but all are superb cars. Each is a great driver's car within its respective price range.
All 3 Series models are highly refined machines that corner, accelerate and stop swiftly. These cars put drivers in touch with the road instead of isolating them. Their interiors are well-equipped and comfortable.
Styling revisions freshen the sedans and sport wagons for 2002.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the BMW 3 Series continues to serve as a benchmark for other automakers.
The current generation of 3 Series cars debuted in 1999 and has since grown to 10 models. All 3 Series models are based on the same chassis and all ride on the same 107.3-inch wheelbase. However, the two-door coupes and convertibles share few body panels with the four-door sedans and wagons.
Two engines are available; both are inline six-cylinder engines. As the nomenclature indicates, 325 models get a 2.5-liter engine, while 330 models get a 3.0-liter engine. Wagons are only available with the 2.5-liter engine; sedan, coupe, and convertible are available with either engine.
The 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine is used in the 325i sedan ($27,100); 325i sport wagon ($29,500); 325Ci coupe ($29,100); 325Ci convertible ($36,100).
The 225-horsepower 3.0-liter engine is used in the 330i sedan ($33,990); 330Ci coupe ($34,990); and 330Ci convertible ($42,400). In addition to the increased power, 330 models come with more standard equipment and design upgrades. One example: 17-inch wheels with V-rated tires in place of the 325's standard 16-inch wheels with H-rated tires.
All-wheel-drive 325xi ($28,850) and 330xi ($35,740) sedans and the 325xi sport wagon ($31,250) offer much better traction and control in slippery conditions. For 2002, these all-wheel-drive models, denoted by the x, get Hill Descent Control added to the upgraded Dynamic Stability Control system.
The higher price of coupes and convertibles includes a slightly higher level of luxury equipment than what comes standard on sedans and wagons.
All models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. Automatic transmissions are available: A superb ZF-built five-speed Steptronic ($1275).
For 2002, BMW has added functions to the standard Dynamic Stability Control system, including a new traction-control mode. New optional run-flat tires with a monitor are available for 330 models. Also optional are new wheel designs and 18-inch wheels and tires.
Smart front and front side-impact airbags come standard. Also standard (on all but the convertibles) are head-protection airbags that deploy from the headliner along the length of both sides of the cabin. Rear side-impact airbags are optional.
Which model? The 325i sedan is a terrific car and you may never miss the power of the 330i. The sport wagons add space and versatility and the only way we could tell we weren't driving a sedan was to glance into the rear view mirror; it's taut. Coupes add sports appeal with their two-door styling, while split rear seats offer some versatility. The convertible, well, do you have to ask? The 330 models add a lot of performance to the equation. All-wheel drive offers winter capability to a car not noted for that and is equipped with a more sophisticated Dynamic Stability Control system.
Bi-xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps offer much better visibility on stormy nights and we recommend them. BMW's Park Distance Control ($350) works great, beeping to warn the driver of objects behind the car during parking maneuvers.
Related to the 3 Series are the M3 coupe ($45,900) and M3 convertible ($53,900), which boast much higher levels of performance and handling. (Look for separate review of the BMW M3 at NewCarTestDrive.com.).