Anniversaries are a fine time to ‘get frocked’ and this BMW 330i 100 Year Edition special has done exactly that.
In the premium medium sedan segment, the 3 Series has been ruffled first the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class with its S-Class-limousine-inspired cabin, and now by the Audi A4 and its tech-laden ‘virtual cockpit’ design.
The current-generation model turns four this year, but this isn’t a celebration of that vintage. Rather, as the name indicates, BMW is lifting the champagne flute to a century since its inception with this limited edition offering extra equipment.
The ‘3’ remains one of the finest-steering sedans around and the 330i is the best model in the lineup. Now, finally, there is the upgraded cabin to match.
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $75,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 185kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.8 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km
BMW claims the 100 Year Edition offers $13,000 worth of extra equipment for a price rise of $5000 compared with a standard 330i sedan.
Now asking $75,900 plus on-road costs, it adds a 16-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, LED foglights, sports seats with electric lumbar adjustment plus a host of BMW Individual items – including Merino leather upholstery, a leather-trimmed dashboard and door trims borrowed from the M3 flagship and woodgrain trim inserts.
The 330i 100 Year Edition is available in Luxury Line with a dark blue metallic hue, beige leather and multi-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, or the M Sport tested here with white paint, sports bodykit and a unique wheel design of the same diameter.
Each 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and eight-speed automatic transmission-equipped model – that being the only drivetrain available – also includes a commemorative 100 Year Edition certificate.
- Standard Equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, leather seat trim with electrically adjustable driver and passenger seat, automatic on/off headlights and wipers and automatic dimming rear-view mirror
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch colour screen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Spotify and news/weather/Google app connectivity, digital radio tuner and satellite navigation with real-time traffic information
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 480 litres
BMW’s cabin design for the 3 Series was nothing special when it launched back in 2012, and among newer competition it has aged rapidly. Thankfully the 330i 100 Year Edition dramatically lifts both the cabin ambience and perception of quality.
Dark leather trim with contrast stitching drapes over both the dashboard and doors, and not only does it appear stylish and high-end, but it replaces the coarse plastics of other 3 Series model grades including the regular 330i.
Typically, this treatment is reserved for the six-figure M3 sedan, although the high-quality Merino leather is available as a $2000 option on other 3 Series models, while the leather-cloaked ‘extended individual instrument panel’ asks $1600 extra.
Electrically adjustable front seats are standard on every 330i, and the sports seats featured here are nicely form hugging. More disappointingly, heated front pews continue to be a $900 option.
Technology fans will also be aggrieved that adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beam is a $2366 option, while automatic park assistance and adaptive cruise control is a further $2444 – an equivalent C-Class has both the latter items standard, in addition to automatic lane-keep assistance unavailable here.
Internet connectivity adds $200 and BMW’s recent addition of Apple CarPlay asks $479 extra.
At least iDrive is the most intuitive infotainment system in the segment, teaming with high-end graphics on the 8.8-inch colour screen. The voice control function works a treat – rare among its peers – and the Harman Kardon audio system of this 100 Year Edition cranks out loud, crisp notes.
Combine the leather dash with the high-end audio and the excellent connectivity suite, and suddenly the 330i feels ultra-competitive in this segment again, despite the still-excessive options pricing.
The 3 Series body itself is also surprisingly roomy for its size.
Around town the medium sedan barely feels larger than a (technically size-smaller) Audi A3 sedan, and yet the rear bench is tilted up nicely to aid thigh support and the backrest cushions the shoulders of outboard occupants.
BMW has clearly made the call that this is a two-seat rear with an occasional third seatbelt, however, because the backrest focuses on comfort for a pair while the rear- driven layout creates a legroom-restricting centre tunnel.
The boot, likewise, is very spacious, with a square aperture and handy 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat function. Wagon buyers can pick a 330i, but a 100 Year Edition isn’t available – if this specification appeals, a rummage through the BMW Individual options list is required.
ON THE ROAD
Engine: 185kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, RWD
Suspension: aluminium double-joint strut front, five-link independent rear, adaptive dampers
Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.3m turning circle
Ever since BMW made two-mode adaptive suspension standard on every 3 Series (except the entry 318i) this medium sedan has been able to reassert its dynamic dominance over every other premium competitor including the A4 and C-Class.
The 330i feels light, tight and right in all conditions, and teamed with nicely weighted and engaging steering, it feels responsive whether driven sedately around town or enthusiastically on the open road.
Comfort and Sport suspension settings subtly alter the damping between slightly cushy and quite firm, with the 19-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tyres the only chink in the armour – they can snag on potholes, where the equivalent (but optional) adaptive suspension in the Audi provides a slightly more insulated ride.
More astounding is this BMW’s ability to turn into the sedan version of a Mazda MX-5 on the right road. With a light four-cylinder engine up front, slick eight-speed automatic in the middle, and rear-wheel drive, the 330i 100 Year Edition turns eagerly into corners and powers through them with wondrous aplomb.
It simply makes the aforementioned rivals feel heavy and tardy by comparison.
With the engine’s maximum 350Nm of torque from just off idle (1450rpm) and holding all the way to 4800rpm, and peak power of 185kW taking over soon after (5200rpm) and staying strong until 6800rpm, there is superb response virtually everywhere.
The 1495kg 330i claims a 5.8-second 0-100km/h and it feels entirely credible. Using the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters through hilly and twisty terrain, there is a gear for every occasion, served with flawless precision.
It all reinforces that the 330i is the ‘sweet spot’ in the 3 Series range.
Somehow the $61,900 (plus orc) 320i with a 135kW/270Nm version of this engine feels slightly undernourished for this impeccable chassis. And yet the $89,855 (plus orc) 340i adds another 45kg mostly over the front wheels, its heavier six-cylinder turbo engine is thirstier, and yet it’s only six-tenths faster to triple-digit speed.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.76 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, pre-collision and pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, low-speed autonomous emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km.
Servicing: Condition-based servicing (CBS) costs $1240 over five years or 80,000km, which is highly competitive in the premium medium sedan segment.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The A4 won our premium medium comparison test by a whisker over the 3 Series – unless superb driving dynamics are a priority, it remains the pick. The XE is sound but expensive, the IS loaded with equipment but an average drive, while the C-Class is the most luxurious but only with optional air suspension ticked.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 330i 100 Year Edition makes good on the promise of superior BMW driving dynamics. There have been a few dips along the way, but this particular model grade and this special edition with its extra trimmings serves as a high point for the current BMW 3 Series range.
It would be terrific to see more equipment made standard – such as internet connectivity, Apple CarPlay and heated seats – and, for those with technology bent, the new A4 still trumps the 3 Series. But it, too, must be optioned extensively.
Major criticisms are few, however, for a model that perfectly partners luxury motoring with sports performance. If one half of the relationship wants a smooth, refined sedan, and the other a light, dynamic sporty offering, then this anniversary special should be a match made in heaven.
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