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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 16, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



For too long, stray thoughts crossed my mind of the time spent behind the wheel of the new Mini Cooper. Like a song that gets stuck in your head, until you get one to supplant it, the old one remains. So it is with the Mini, and then along comes the new BMW 330i.

On paper, many cars have the right stuff, but the real test is behind the wheel. The new 330i carries a lot of expectations, coming from a brand that is so highly regarded when it comes to sport sedans. The new BMW lives up to the hype in most instances, and to some extent surpasses them. Only a few errors mar the perfect score.

The 330 has plenty of good reasons for BMW to crow about it. Perhaps the primary aspect that gets one excited is the way this car behaves. The six-speed manual is the missing link between man and machine. The feel is very natural. I become one with the car, with all limbs working in harmony with the car to create a dynamic experience that isn't replicated by the manually shiftable automatic tranny (or most other manuals, for that matter). BMW turns the mildest-mannered driver into a predator. Each corner is worth pursuing. Driving the BMW, I'm a leopard and the masses that surround me are but gracefully inferior antelope. Only this animal need not settle for the weakest of the pack.

Though the agility and street prowess is a highlight, it's but one of the many impressive parts of the newcomer to the Bavarian family. One look at the car, and the family resemblance is noticeable. While the latest offering takes cues from the other designs, the 330i does retain the overall look of a 3. Those who take glee in pointing out their disapproval of the other BMW's hinnies will have nothing to harp about with this machine. The closest I heard to displeasure had to do with the tail lamp design. Personally, as wild, and un-BMW 3 Series as they appear, I think they balance out a rather explosive shape on the body, which does seem a tad busy. Well, no one will confuse this with a bland sedan.

Inside, I'm taking a liking to the changes over the outgoing model. All the materials are suitable for a car of this caliber. While the cabin feels more confined than some other cars, if one wants more space the dealers will be only be too happy to sell a 5 or 7 series car. I also find the way the door panel mates up to the instrument panel is a much better resolution than before.

I have a love-hate relationship with the seating. Extra brownie points go to those who designed and manufactured buckets that can just as easily be considered fine furniture. They are adjustable in nearly every way a seat can be. The leather is, dare we say, perfect.

Sadly, the pedal distance forces shorter drivers too far forward so as to properly work the clutch. This in turn brings the torso way too close to the wheel and dash. If the seat back is raked rearward in order to accommodate the distance, the driver takes on a classic low-rider stance. I can't imagine this is what BMW had in mind when producing this. Maybe those in engineering just happen to be extra large, but they need to remember one size does not fit all. Adjustable pedals would rectify this as it would on another car or two in their product line up.

After a short duration with the 330i, I am feeling enlightened and eager for another spin. Will this be the replacement for my pick of fun cars to drive? Only time will tell if I change my tune.

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Vehicle: 2006 BMW 330i

Price: $36,300, as tested $42,390

Engine type: 3 liter DOHC six-cylinder engine with composite magnesium/aluminum block, Valvetronic system

Horsepower: 255 @ 6,600

Drive configuration: Front engine/rear drive

Gas mileage: EPA 20 city, 30 highway

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