By on April 30, 2020

2019 BMW 330i xDrive

2019 BMW 330i xDrive Fast Facts

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (255 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 1,500-4,400 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

25 city / 34 highway / 28 (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)

9.5 city, 6.9 highway, 8.3 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $42,250 (U.S) / $49,000 (Canada)

As Tested: $57,420 (U.S.) / $60,570 (Canada)

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,470 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

A lot of us pack on pounds as we age. I should know – it happened to me as I voyaged through my 30s.

We all know it’s been happening across the car world, too. Just about every model has grown in size and packed on pounds over the past two decades.

Problem is, that turns some vehicles that were once known as svelte sports sedans into bloated versions of themselves. The good news is that some of these vehicles can still do a lot of what they once did – but the swell is unfortunately noticeable.

The 2019 BMW 330i xDrive sedan is both a victim of the ravages of aging and a good example of how clever engineering can mitigate some of the problems.

While the nimbleness of previous generations – the Bimmers that bring big bucks on Bring a Trailer – is gone, it’s important to remember that things are relative, and compared to others in its class, the 330i xDrive still feels quite lithe.

2019 BMW 330i xDrive

It’s also a relatively relaxed highway cruiser; the upsizing isn’t all bad. I say relatively, because the ride errors on the side of firm, as is proper in a German sport sedan, but it’s still comfortable enough that two long freeway slogs on the same day weren’t terribly taxing.

BMWs once had arguably the best steering feel in the industry, at least among luxury sport sedans, but the advent of electronic power-steering systems has changed the game somewhat. This one is weighted nicely and the overall feel is good, but you can’t help but feel some artificialness in its operation, especially if you aren’t dialed into sport mode (which does make the car a more willing dance partner overall when selected). Speed-sensitive power assistance is standard, and if you have the M Sport package, which my car did, you get variable-ratio steering. Artificial the feel may be at times, but the 3 is responsive, ready to flex when called upon.

My test unit didn’t have the optional adaptive suspension, but it still felt fairly well dialed-in.

The 2.0-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder powers the car nicely despite the over 3,700-pound curb weight and the extra pounds put on by the all-wheel-drive system. Low-end grunt helps – all 295 lb-ft of torque are available as low as 1,500 rpm. The power gets to ground via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

[Get new and used BMW 3-Series pricing here!]

It all adds to up a balanced package, but you can’t help but wistfully pine for the lighter 3s of yore. That’s true even when you account for the amount of safety and convenience features packed into every modern car – what do you think has caused all that weight gain?

Some of those features include BMW’s loved or loathed iDrive infotainment system, which has improved in terms of user-friendliness over the years – the learning curve is much less steep, and you can get through menus much more easily. Wireless Apple CarPlay does make life simpler, for the most part.

2019 BMW 330i xDrive

The 3 Series still looks the part – BMW styling has been more evolutionary than revolutionary over time. Inside, the theme is future tech. There’s lots of orange and black coloration in the infotainment and gauge cluster fonts. The instrument layout is linear and button-heavy, with the main infotainment screen peaking over the top of the dash like a pop-up. Metallic look is a heavy theme, at least for this particular test unit.

Not only have cars gotten fatter, but so have sticker prices. You knew that, of course, and obviously, costs typically rise over time. But this Bimmer compact will cost ya.

2019 BMW 330i xDrive

How much? Nearly $60K as tested, and unlike many press cars, it wasn’t fully loaded. Well-equipped, sure, but not every option box was ticked.

We start at $42,250 for standard features such as LED headlamps, USB, Bluetooth, iDrive, automatic climate control, moonroof, and rain-sensing wipers.

Black Vernasca leather upholstery added $1,450, and a Driver Assistance Pro package added $1,700 and included traffic-jam assist and active driving assistant. The M Sport package added five grand and included the variable-ratio steering, keyless entry, lumbar support, and satellite radio. For $2,800 more, the Premium Package adds heated front seats and steering wheel, head-up display, connectivity package, navigation, more USB ports, digital gauges, larger infotainment system, 20 GB hard drive, and Apple CarPlay. A $2,100 Executive package adds ambient lighting, gesture control, and parking assist.

Remote start adds $300, wireless charging for your phone, $500, and Harmon Kardon audio, $875. With the $995 destination fee, the total sticker on this test unit checked in at $57,420.

2019 BMW 330i xDrive

I liked the 3’s balanced nature, and I can even live with its growth over time – all cars are larger and heavier now. The ‘90s Accord I owned in the Aughts is smaller than the current Civic. Cars are also safer now, and we have nicer interiors. There are benefits.

Still, there may be room to cut some weight here, to fully unlock this sport sedan’s potential. It’s engaging to drive, but it just feels a bit bloated.

Only a bit, but enough to detract ever so slightly from the experience.

There’s a lot this Bimmer can do, and do very well. All it really needs is a diet.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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31 Comments on “2019 BMW 330i xDrive Review – Wider Waistline, Still Balanced...”

  • avatar

    This is basically M2 money.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes and an 2 Series which is lighter weight, less expensive, and has just a smidge less power in non M form than a standard 3 Series is essentially a better drivers car now in our current era.

  • avatar

    HARD pass.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, $57k for a slightly heavier, run of the mill 3 series sedan is ridiculous money. These are lease queens that might fetch 19-25k in 3 years provided the CarFax is clean.

  • avatar

    The test car illustrates perfectly why white is such a terrible colour for cars. It flattens out all the sheetmetal styling. The thing looks like a fridge.

    • 0 avatar

      I was idly messing with BMWs “Build and Price” tool and was pleasantly surprised to see that BMWs extra cost paint options aren’t really any more expensive that GMs. (As long as you don’t choose a color thats exclusive to the M version.)

      This statement is more of a slam on GM than praise for BMW. ;-)

      • 0 avatar

        GM does price it’s optional paint colors oddly. Or, should I say, in a manner that is designed to extract more money than it is worth. Case in point – when I bought my Crystal Red C7, that color added $995. The very same color – even named the same – on a Traverse was $395. The SUV probably has double the painted area than a C7 convertible, yet costs less than half. I guess they figure if you like the color you will pay for it. And I did.

    • 0 avatar

      Um, I think the sheet metal was already flat.

    • 0 avatar

      That rear 5/8 view photo does this car no favors. The overall proportions look pretty good but the details, primarily the paint color and the black trim around and behind the rear doors, really look cheap. How cheap? To me they look budget compact car cheap.

  • avatar

    BMWs lost the magic about 10 years ago now. This coming from a family that has owned 5 of them in the last 20 years.

    They simply aren’t worth the money to purchase or to maintain any longer.

    At least in the past in exchange for the high prices and expensive maintenance you got truly amazing feeling, fun-to-drive, wonderfully smooth non-turbo I6s and even a possible manual transmission.

    Today? I’d honestly rather just have a Lexus. If I’m gonna get flab and mush and isolation, at least I won’t be paying 20K too much and visiting my dealer for $2000 brake jobs every couple years.

    • 0 avatar

      I completely agree, except instead of a Lexus I’d more likely go for a Genesis G70, Kia Stinger, or even Honda Accord Sport. I’ve tested these and the new 330i xDrive. The BMW might have higher performance numbers, and a much nicer interior than the Stinger and Accord, but I think all the others provide a more engaging driving experience at lower prices. The BWM is an outstanding car in general, but IMO doesn’t provide the driving feel that used to justify the premium.

      One of my buddies recently parted with his 330i from 2002, which had Sport Package and 5MT. That was a phenomenal car: tight and aggressive, yet still refined and efficient. The G70 is probably closest to this benchmark in today’s market, but, oddly enough, the FWD Civic Si reminds me of that old BMW too. It’s a similar size, and has a similar focus on the fundamentals of a great driver’s car.

      • 0 avatar

        Better performance that will get used about 3% of the time, if that. Big horsepower numbers hold way too much sway with folks over driver engagement. But what do I know, to me a Caterham is the perfect car.

        • 0 avatar

          Buyers like big horsepower numbers because they like to floor it at a light and take off like a bat out of hell. Most buyers really dont care how fast a car can take a curve, how many Gs it can exhibit on the skidpad, etc. They just like to go fast and be faster than the car next to them.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting bringing up the Accord Sport. I got a 2.0 Sport automatic last summer and think it might be nearly the best bang for the buck in new cars. I also had the chance to spend the better part of a week with a current gen 330i as a rental car in Miami last fall. The Bimmer is nicer inside, but the Accord is (to me) much more user friendly in terms of infotainment, etc. Power isn’t discernibly different. The 330 felt a little more eager to toss around, ride quality isn’t amazing but perfectly fine in either car, and both are comfortable and stable at interstate speed. I was afraid when I got the good-luck upgrade at the rental counter I’d get spoiled but the German. What I really noticed was when I flew home and got back into my own car, I had zero remorse spending nearly $20,000 less for the Honda.

        I got my license in 2001, and a 3 series was a legit dream car for me at the time (granted I had a Saturn SL1). I don’t think it’s fallen so far as much as I think everything else has gotten better. I remember the first time I drove somebody else’s E46 325i. The steering was so much heavier (in a great way) than anything I had driven and the inline 6 wasn’t fast but it was so smooth I remember wanting to push it to redline over and over.

  • avatar

    A RWD 330i with all the performance packages and a nonWhite color is about $50K. A RWD M340i has all the performance stuff standard and in nonWhite is about $55K. It also runs a [email protected]

    I think I’d be willing to make the $5K jump.

  • avatar

    I had one of these while my Jag XE was in the shop. I was pretty impressed. The engine was a real peach and the car felt legitimately fast. The infotainment was fast, easy to use and hassle free (which I can’t say for the Jaguar.)

    That said the handling wasn’t as confident as the XE, the heated steering wheel was preposterously weak, charging for keyless entry at this price just sucks and the center console felt pretty cheap and flimsy for $60k Canadian.

    It was fun to have as a loaner but I wouldn’t have it over my XE.

    • 0 avatar

      The G20 is better than the F30 in most ways, but it pays a price for getting even larger (but that’s what the majority of buyers care about – passenger space).

      Competitors like the ATS, XE, G70 and Giulia offer a more fun drive due to being more compact in size (the “tossability” factor), but they have all paid a price when it has come to sales due to their cramped interiors.

      • 0 avatar

        If you want a smaller, cheaper, more fun BMW, you want a 2-series. But don’t complain about the back seat space.

        The 3 is the new 5, the 2 is the old 3. And 5 is the new 7 and the 7 is a barge of a thing these days.

        I *love* my infamous ’11 e91 328! wagon – but I freely admit that commodious inside it isn’t. If BMW would sell me another RWD 6spd wagon, there would be a new one in my garage today. I actually prefer the lighter modern steering, mine is ludicrously heavy to the point it masks the feel. But no stick=no sale, I don’t do sedans, and I need AWD like I need a couple of ex-wives.

        And for the BMW doom and gloomers, my car needed it’s first out of pocket repair this very week – a new battery. At nine years old. My maintainer failed over the winter, annoyingly. Probably had a good few years left in it otherwise.

  • avatar

    I think that every car review I’ve read for the last 20 years has complained about cars getting bigger, fatter, more expensive.

    No, it doesn’t have the feel of good ole’ fashioned hydraulic steering (I’ll agree, this is a fair complaint that may be 10+ years old, but still legitimate), but I’d say that in comparison with the outgoing F30 3-series, the new G20 is a significant improvement in almost every other regard.

  • avatar

    How is this car not loaded? What’s missing?

    $5k for the m-sport? That better be sport seats and not just lumbar support. Still way too much for what’s included. Hopefully keyless entry and heated seats/wheel are standalones as well.

    BMW still doesn’t support Android auto?

  • avatar

    I often wonder how you consistently manage to get hold of the wrong end of the stick, Mr Healey. Do you ever keep up with other sites to see what’s happening, or do you merely regurgitate your own opinion?

    Don’t think the 3 Series has put on weight like most cars have over the years. M3’s from the ’90s ago weighed over 3400 lbs. A 2006 325iX was 3500. Now there is considerable added length and the car has got up to 3700 lbs. However, actual gas mileage is pretty phenomenal as well, considering the dig. How do I know these things? I read Car and Driver for actual, you know, measured specs. If you want true porcine excess, try a Ford Fusion Sport at 4250 lbs of road-hugging weight.

    Been enough printed about how BMW make their 3 Series EPAS numb – customers want it. We’re not talking sports sedan buyers, we’re talking 3 Series BMW buyers, a different breed. Since higher performance models are not so hopelessly afflicted, it’s obviously a conscious decision however it is “explained”. It’s also a conscious decision on my part to avoid buying a BMW, because they are ludicrously overpriced. Adding a la carte side dishes to get to a decent spec is a game I will not play.

  • avatar

    BMW needs to find an e46 somewhere in the lot or archive. Take that steering gear, pump and system. Copy it. Do Not Think. Just copy it.
    The e90 was OK. The M3 e90 I drove was amazing.
    The F30 was steering by joystick
    I was ready to accept that the M2 was better. Spent two days with one. Chassis perfect. Seats, ergos also perfect. Engine lots o’fun.
    Steering ? What steering ? The car was great, but you had to patch around the steering lack of feel.
    You lost a sale that day. Later, I drove Porsche and ATS-V which showed me electric didn’t mean useless.
    How could BMW, of all companies, blow steering feel ?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The E30 and E36 was peak BMW. All downhill since.

    • 0 avatar

      A few years ago, I read a C&D article saying BMW was catering to its customers, who prefer the numb, lifeless steering (as conundrum said). But why does it have to be SO bad? I wonder how BMW’s test drivers feel about it.

      Also, with all the adjustability, drive modes, etc., why can’t there be steering settings for feedback as well as weight? If it would require different hardware, OK, but if it’s just a matter of programming how the hardware responds to inputs BMW should offer a more enthusiast-friendly setting.

      Problem is, it would be part of some $6,000 package, which would only be “unlocked” by selecting some other package.

      I do think the G20’s steering is slightly better than the F30’s, but it’s an incremental difference. The overall impression is similar. Just about every other car I’ve tested recently has better steering feel, including competitors like the G70 and Tesla Model 3. But even the Accord Sport and Civic Si have better steering, especially the latter.

  • avatar

    I will be pretty excited the second BMW makes a new car that I would rather have than a good E92 335is.

    It hasn’t happened yet.

  • avatar

    BMW used to make cars that were fun. Now they make sporty SUVs that aren’t that great and some cars with lots of screens that aren’t as fun as they used to be but cost a lot more.
    Honda and Mazda and VW make better driving cars for MUCH less.

  • avatar

    Here are some fruitful conversations I have had with “car people” around me:

    Co-worker: “My daughter crashed her BMW X3. I gave her my wife’s old X5 and got my wife a new X5. I drive a 535i. The X5 handles just as nicely as the sedan. There is no really point in getting a sedan unless you want to save some money.”
    Me: “I drive a 2002 BMW 325i with stick shift. Let me tell you about how nice the hydraulic steering feels…”
    Co-worker: “How many miles does it have?”
    Me: “120,000 miles.”
    Co-worker: “Oh…”
    End of conversation

    Contractor who comes over to my house:
    Contractor: “Hmmm. A G70. Is it a hybrid?”
    Me: “No, but it has a manual transmission. It handles really…”
    Contractor: “Oh, it’s not a hybrid?”
    End of conversation.

    Co-worker: “We just got a new Subaru Ascent. My wife loves it! What kind of car do you drive?”
    Me: “I have an old Honda Accord. But it has a double wishbone suspension and handles really…”
    Co-worker: “Honda Accords last forever, and then you get bored.”
    End of conversation.

    Lesson learned: Nobody gives a hoot about “handling” or “structural rigidity” or “stick shift” or “hydraulic steering.” The only people who care are those who read TTAC or car magazines.

    • 0 avatar

      Most People are content to have entertainers be our thought leaders and sources of information about the world around us. These people want reward without the effort of developing technique.

      It’s all about the car now, and not the driver.

      Hard to imagine fairly raw but fun “modern” cars like 2002, 1st gen Miata, and Rabbit GTI no longer have an audience outside of The Rabid, and we see the truly great heritage sporty cars like big Healeys, early ‘vettes, Triumphs, MGs, Alfas, Loti, etc… being collector toys for the investor and/or marque enthusiast moreso than for driving enjoyment. Even Porsche has given up the ghost of rewarding driving skill.

  • avatar

    I think it’s more fair to compare this against 5 series of the old days. In that regard it’s a significant improvement objectively.

    The 2 is the spiritual successor of what we call 3s. Dimensionally it’s essentially identical to the E46 M3. And it’s an absolute riot to drive.

    Ditch the fixation on model continuity and evaluate cars through relative objectivity. There are still things I’m not crazy about, but as long as the 2 and Z exist I won’t completely give up on BMW.

  • avatar

    Not only do most folks not put handling or ride/handling balance at the top of the priority list, if you have a car that handles well and you use it, you are driving too aggressively. Many folks are scared of the kind of driving that rewards a well handling vehicle. Honestly, if you have a car that will pull .85g on the skid pad, most of today’s drivers will give up at .65. We are wusses when it comes to driving. Crowded roads do not help in that regard in addition to low skill levels in most drivers.

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