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2004 BMW 330Ci

Why has BMW won so many awards?  Why has the 3 series been adored by so many automotive enthusiasts? What makes a BMW 3 series so special?  Is it the standard to judge how all other vehicles should drive and is it worth the MSRP?  These are just some of the questions we wanted to answer during this test drive. 

The current 330Ci is still one of the few models that has not been fully redesigned to the 'new look' of BMW.  But that is approaching shortly we hear.  While much a clamor has been created in the past year over the redesigned Z4, 5, 6, and 7 series; the 3 series is still treasured by all. 

            BMW's engineering prowess lies in its glorious tradition of vehicles that have always exceeded expectations.  BMW's racing efforts have helped create a vehicle rock stable at speeds of 130 mph on the Nurburgring.  Individual parts are tested and built to last through millions of motions.  Each vehicle is tested with consistent attention to detail before leaving the factory to meet exacting specifications, something even Mercedes Benz cannot claim in its mid-range models.  Trust me I have been to the factory in Munich.  The resulting vehicle is dependable, long lasting, stable, and solid. 

            The BMW 330Ci coupe is part of the extensive 3 series lineup.  The 3 series features models with two or four doors, 2.5 liter or 3.0 liter engines, rear wheel or four-wheel drive, and even convertibles and wagons.  The 330Ci coupe is prefect for a couple, yet provides comfortable rear seats for friends as well as easy extension of the trunk by way of split folding rear seatback for extra long cargo. 

For those familiar with the previous 3 series, new for the 2004 model year are rain sensing windshield wipers, auto-on headlights, a redesigned climate control, xenon headlights which guide with the road, a redesigned grille, headlights and bumper, adaptive brake lights, and BMW Assist telematics.  New 18-inch wheels adorned our tester with ultra low profile Z-rated performance tires which fitted tightly in the fenders sometimes even going into the fenders providing a track racer look many envy.  A new 6-speed manual transmission is also standard providing shorter shift throws and a quieter relaxed sixth gear. 

            When we initially drove the BMW 330Ci, two words screamed from our mouths, 'liquid smooth'!  There is nothing that compares to a BMW engine, and this 225 horsepower inline-6 is true to the BMW tradition for making award-winning engines.  The power flows continuously and smoothly, delivering an unmistakable feeling to the driver of a BMW.  Simply, nothing compares. 

            The liquid smooth engine mated to a manual transmission that is equally smooth and easy to use makes for a perfect driving experience.  The BMW 330Ci is a luxury car, and it drives as such, while at the same time delivering a level of driver feedback only slightly less than Porsche.  Compared to the Infiniti G35 coupe, the BMW lacks the fast and furious feeling of a hard clutch and a very short, stiff shifter.  The true difference between the BMW and the Infiniti is that the 330Ci blends luxury, performance, and solidity in a much better manner. 

The size of the 330Ci coupe along with very sticky wide 18-inch wheels and tires provides a feeling of being one with the road.  Yet comfort levels are mastered in a small car category like no other make.  These wheels and tires coupled with a masterful suspension makes for a fun car that is difficult to slide at the hardest limits.  Power is a significant bump over the 2.5 liter engine and this difference can be felt easily.  A quieter engine, more exhaust growl, and a quicker, sportier ride, is what you pay for in the 330Ci. 

            The interior of the 330Ci is spacious and comfortable.  Optional leather trim makes for a soft and thick feel on seats and door trim.  The leather has a very strong grainy feeling, reminding you of yet another trait of a BMW.  The optional Sport Package upgraded the front buckets to feature larger side bolsters and adjustable thigh support.  We truly liked the comfort level in these seats, the side bolsters were not very firm and provided just the right level of support without any electronic wizardry.  Both front seats are powered with three memory buttons for all your drivers in the house.  Each seat also manually folds forward for easy and quick entry into the rear seats which are also remarkably comfortable and cozy.  The rear seats are set deep and offer good thigh support and legroom.  Pleasant touches of leather and aluminum trim can also be found on the armrest on each outer side of the rear compartment and true to a rear cabin, a fold down armrest exists.  Rear windows are motorized and open outward with a touch of a button for ventilation. 

            Up front the renowned BMW ergonomics shine through.  The central dash is slanted slightly towards the driver.  A new smooth aluminum trim was used on our 330Ci model which we did not like at all.  A large piece on the dash and on the door grab handles puts it everywhere you look and we thought it did not look very luxurious at all in a $40,000 vehicle.  On the other hand, the polished aluminum door handles looked and felt great.  We also did not like the simplistic gear shift lever, which was a bit too tall and a bit too 1980's looking.    

Two small storage compartments are found in the center console along with two cup holders near the armrest.  The redesigned ventilation controls are still simple yet the rounded buttons add a touch of the future to a car becoming dated.  The automatic climate control worked well and was not noisy; an air filter can easily be engaged with the touch of a button.  We would like it if the air conditioning compressor could also be automatically engaged and only deactivated manually.  The automatic rain sensing wipers worked well and controls were placed easily within reach.  The automatic headlight switch is a welcome addition and worked quite well.  The size and feel of the steering wheel was also perfect.    Buttons on the wheel for stereo, phone if installed, and cruise control are easy to use and stylish.  The wheel also features manual tilt and telescoping adjustment.   The all important sunroof is very useful in a car of this size providing a convertible feeling at the touch of a button.   

            If we really had to complain about something in this 330Ci it would be the low seating position in front.  While the seats could be raised, moving them to a comfortable height caused us to be much too close to the roof.  More headroom is needed in the next 3 series model.  The BMW stereo system was also another disappointer.  The speakers may be good, carrying the Harmon-Kardon brand name, however the bass was weak and noisy and the unit lacked heart pounding thump as we have heard in Bose models.

Our tester was laden with a plethora of options.  Leather, cold weather package, sport package, moon roof, xenon adaptive headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and destination turned a $36,300 sticker price into $42,595. 

One option that we definitely recommend is the adaptive headlights.  We were amazed at the moving eyes in front of our 330Ci.  The beams worked very well on curvy back roads, especially while using the high beams.  The bi-xenon beams moved with the road, sensing our speed, g-forces, and steering wheel movement.  At the end of this article we have a link to a video of this system.  If we could upgrade all our personal cars with this system we definitely would.  While the headlights were not as bright as those on a Mercedes SL, they were quite good and the turning function, amazing.

What we really loved about this car was the distinctive BMW styling.  The front end was stunning.  The stylish aerodynamic front sport bumper along with riveted 18-inch wheels really made this car stand out.  This 330Ci in electric red and sand leather puts other BMW's with dark colored interior colors to shame. 

Few vehicles look as ferocious as a BMW coming up behind you in your rearview mirror.  While very little competition exists in a GT coupe category in the $35,000 price range, we were able to come up with a few competitors.  The Infiniti G35 coupe offers similar luxury and some extra gadgetry like DVD navigation and dual zone climate control along with a V6 producing 280 horsepower at a price of $37,290.  Comparing this to a softer riding Mercedes CLK with similar options, we found a MSRP of $52,675.  The new Mazda RX-8 is a very competitive vehicle to the 330Ci.  It features an easy entry rear compartment with inside opening half door, distinctive styling and a balanced Boxster-like ride for thousands less.  It is not as luxurious as the 330Ci nor as comfortable a daily driver.  But it is worth a test drive when comparing vehicles in this category.  

How BMW compares to its German counterparts is something most buyers likely want to know.  BMW's are generally softer and more comfortable than Audi, but not as comfortable as Mercedes.  Porsche's are about as comfortable as BMW's but offer increased road feel, more so than both BMW and Audi in a package that is better on the track.  The BMW engine has a very different feel than any other German manufacturer.  While the Japanese are catching up and at some levels pushing the German automakers, the main reason to go Japanese will still be price as prestige is still in German hands.  

What is special about the 330Ci and what can justify its high price are a few simple things.  First, the BMW engine is liquid smooth and refined.  Second, the solid feel and build quality of the BMW is noticeable right form the minute you step in.  For example, the doors are heavy and provide a secure feeling when closed.  Interior parts are all top-notch, from the aluminum door handles to the sporty comfortable seats.  One tester recently sold his 3 series after reaching 50,000 miles in three years without having any problems at all.  He just wished the warranty was longer.  Finally there is the name; BMW commands a higher price simply for the prestige of owning it.  Exclusivity comes at a price even in this category. 

Base Pricing 33,650 36,800
Destination Charge 695 695
34,345 37,495
Sequential Manual Gear Box. 1,425 1,500
Automatic, 5-Speed w/Overdrive & Steptronic 1,210 1,275
Cold Weather Pkg 685 750
Performance Pkg. Includes Enhanced Sport Suspension, Aerodynamic Front Spoiler, Trunklid Spoiler, Side Sills & Rear Apron, Black/Anthracite Cloth & Alcantara Seat Trim, Alcantara-Wrapped Steering Wheel, Alcantara Headliner & Black Cube Interior Trim. 3,550 3,900
Premium Pkg   Includes Myrtle Wood Trim, 4-Way Power Lumbar Support, Leather Surfaced Seat Trim, Inside Automatic Day/Night Mirror & BMW Assist Comunication System.Power Glass Moon Roof. 3,005 3,300
Sport Pkg. • 330Ci Sport Bucket Seats & M Double Spoke Alloy Wheels. White Turn Signal Indicators & (2) P225/45ZR17 Front & (2) P245/40ZR17 Rear Tires. 545 600
Moon Roof, Power Glass 955 1,050
Communication System, BMW Assist 685 750
Headlamps, Xenon Turning 730 800
Navigation System, On-Board
Includes Upgraded On-Board Computer.
1,640 1,800
Park Distance Control, Rear 320 350
Restraint System, Rear Side Impact Air Bag 350 385
Seat Trim, Leather 1,320 1,450
Seats, Heated Front 455 500
Wheels, 2-Piece Double Spoke Composite Alloy 18inch 910 1,000
Wood Trim, Myrtle • 330Ci 455 500
Metallic Paint 430 475


Bore/stroke 3.31/3.53 inch
Compression ratio 10.2 :1
Fuel grade Unleaded premium
Liter/type 3.0/inline 6
Max. torque/rpm 214/3500 lb-ft
Nominal output/rpm 225/5900 hp
Fuel Consumption 3
6-speed manual transmission - City 20 mpg
6-speed manual transmission - Highway 30 mpg
Acceleration 0-60 mph 6.4 sec
Drag coefficient 0.32 Cd
Top speed1 1 128 mph
Tires, wheels and brakes
Front-vented 12.8 in
Material Cast alloy
Rear-vented 12.6 in
Tire dimensions 205/50R-17 all-season (standard)
Wheel dimensions 17 x 7.0 (standard)
Automatic gear ratios (:1) 3.45/2.21/1.59 I/II/III
Automatic gear ratios (:1) 1.00/0.76/3.17 IV/V/R
Final drive ratio 3.38 :1
Final drive ratio 2.93 :1
Manual gear ratios (:1) 4.35/2.50/1.66 I/II/III
Manual gear ratios (:1) 1.23/1.00/0.85/3.93 IV/V/VI/R
Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) TBD :1
Unladen 3285 (3362) lbs
Weight distribution, front/rear - Automatic Transmission 50.6/49.4 %
Weight distribution, front/rear - Manual Transmission 50.1/49.9 %


Performance and Efficiency
3.0-liter dual overhead cam (DOHC), 24-valve inline 6-cylinder engine
Electronic throttle control
Double-VANOS steplessly variable valve timing
Dual resonance intake system
6-speed manual transmission
Handling, ride and braking
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), with All Season Traction
Strut-type front suspension with forged-aluminum lower arms
Multi-link rear suspension with cast-aluminum upper transverse arms
Front and rear anti-roll (stabilizer) bars
Twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers
Engine-speed-sensitive, variable-assist power steering
4-wheel ventilated anti-lock disc brakes with Dynamic Brake Control
Sport suspension calibration1
Exterior and Aerodynamics
17 x 7.0 Double Spoke(Styling 98) alloy wheels, 205/50R-17 all-season tires
Chrome2 and body-color detail trim
Halogen free-form foglights
Heated exterior power mirrors and windshield washer jets
Interior seating and trim
8-way power front seats with 2-way manual headrests; 3-driver memory for exterior mirror and seat positions; automatic tilt-down of passenger's side-view mirror when vehicle is shifted into reverse gear
Leatherette upholstery
3-spoke leather-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheel with fingertip cruise, audio and accessory phone3 controls
Front-seat center armrest with storage compartment
Front seatback storage nets
Split fold-down rear seats with center armrest
Titanium-finish interior trim2
Comfort and convenience
Vehicle & Key Memory
Remote entry, including 2-step unlocking and remote trunk release
Automatic climate control with micro-filter and air recirculation
Tilt/telescopic steering wheel column
Power front windows with "one-touch" up/down operation; power rear window with "one-touch" open
Cruise control
Front/rear map-reading, footwell and visor mirror lights
Locking glovebox with rechargeable take-out flashlight
Electric interior trunk release
Fully finished trunk with reversible mat and drop-down tool kit
Rain-sensing windshield wipers and Automatic headlight control
BMWAmbiance Lighting
Pre-wiring for cellular phone, alarm and garage-door opener
Audio System
Harman kardon AM/FM stereo/CD audio system with 12 upgraded speakers(including 2 subwoofers) upgraded amplicfication, and vehicle-speed sensitive equalization; pre-wired for 6-disc CD changer4 and compatible with auxiliary audio input adaptor4 for audio connection of portable music players
Instrumentation and Controls
Service Interval Indicator with miles-to-service readout
Check Control vehicle monitor system with pictogram display
4-function on-board computer
Titanium-finish instrument rings
Safety and Security
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Adaptive Brake Lights
Head Protection System (HPS)
Driver's and passenger's front airbag supplemental restraint system (SRS) with "smart"dual-threshold, dual-stage deployment and sensor to help prevent unnecessary passenger's airbag deployment
Door-mounted side-impact airbags
Height-adjustable front safety belts with automatic pretensioners and force limiters
Insofix automatic-locking retractors (ALR) on all passenger safety belts (for installation of child restraint seats)
Interlocking door anchoring system to help protect against door intrusion in side impacts
Battery SafetyTerminal
Automatic fuel cut-off, triggered by airbag deployment
Central locking system with center console switch (leaves gas filler door unlocked), double-lock feature and 2-step unlocking
Coded Driveaway Protection
Crash sensor that automatically turns on hazard lights and interior lights, and unlocks doors
Daytime running lights (via Vehicle Memory system - programmed at BMWcenter)
Performance and Efficiency
5-speed STEPTRONIC automatic transmission with Adaptive Transmission Control
6-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) with Automated,Manual and Sport programs and Dynamic Driving Control (Sport button)2, 5
Exterior and Aerodynamics
17 x 7.0 Double Spoke(Styling 98) alloy wheels, 205/50R-17 run-flat all-season tires6 and Flat Tire Warning
Double Spoke Composite (Styling 71) alloy wheels, 18 x 8.0 front, 18.5 rear; 225/40R-18 front, 255/35R-18 rear performance tires7,8
Xenon headlights with auto-leveling and Adaptive Headlights
Metallic paint
Interior seating and trim
Montana leather upholstery
3-stage heated front seats
Aluminum Brushed Columns trim9
Aluminum "silver cube" interior trim10
Comfort and convenience
2-way power glass moonroof with "one-touch" operation, sliding interior sunshade, and wind deflector
Park Distance Control (PDC), rear
Instrumentation and Controls
On-board navigation system with 16:9 screen and high-function on-board computer
Safety and Security
Rear side-impact airbags
BMW Assist integrated wireless communication and global positioning system

Optional Packages
Cold Weather Package
Retractable, high-intensity headlight washers
3-stage heated front seats
Ski bag
Performance Package
235-horsepower engine
More aggressively tuned sport suspension
8-way power front sport seats with 2-way manual headrests and thigh support; 3-driver memory for exterior mirror and seat positions; automatic tilt-down of passenger's side-view mirror when vehicle is shifted into reverse gear
Anthracite interior headliner
Alcantara/cloth upholstery
Aluminum "black cube" interior trim
M 3-spoke Alcantara-wrapped multi-function sport steering wheels with fingertip cruise, audio and accessory phone3 controls
M Double Spoke (Styling 135M) alloy wheels, 18 x 8.0 front, 18 x 8.5 rear; 225/40R-18 front, 225/35R-18 rear performance tires7,11
High-Gloss shadowline exterior trim
Matte stainless steel, 35mm dual exhaust pipes
White turn-signal indicators
Aerodynamic package
Tachometer with 300 rpm-higher redline and red needles
Short, sport gearshift lever
Premium Package
(not available with 330Ci Performance Package)
4-way power lumbar support for front seats
Montana leather upholstery
Myrtle wood trim
2-way power glass moonroof with "one-touch" operation, sliding interior sunshade, and wind deflector
Automatic-dimming inside rear-view mirror
BMW Assist integrated wireless communication and global positioning system
Sport Package
Sport suspension calibration1
M Double Spoke (Styling 68M) alloy wheels, 17 x 17.5 front, 17 x 8.5 rear; 225/45R-17 front, 245/40R-17 rear performance tires7
White turn-signal indicators
8-way power front sport seats with 2-way manual headrests and thigh support; 3-driver memory for exterior mirror and seat positions; automatic tilt-down of passenger's side-view mirror when vehicle is shifted into reverse gear



  2004 BMW 3 Series
330Ci Rwd 2dr Coupe (3.0L 6cyl 6M)
2004 Infiniti G35
Rwd 2dr Coupe w/Leather (3.5L 6cyl 6M)
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class
CLK320 2dr Coupe (3.2L 6cyl 5A)
2004 Toyota Camry Solara
SLE V6 2dr Coupe (3.3L 6cyl 5A)
 2004 Mazda RX-8
4dr Coupe (1.3L 2rtr 6M)
Pricing   3 Series G35 CLK-Class Camry Solara RX-8
MSRP   $36,800 $32,450 $44,350 $25,995 $26,680
Destination Charge   $695 $590 $720 $515 $520
Warranty   3 Series G35 CLK-Class Camry Solara RX-8
Basic   4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 60000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi.
Drivetrain   4 yr. / 50000 mi. 6 yr. / 70000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi.
Base Engine   3 Series G35 CLK-Class Camry Solara RX-8
Base Engine Type & Cylinders   Inline 6 V6 V6 V6 Being Researched
Base Engine Displacement   3.0 liters 3.5 liters 3.2 liters 3.3 liters 1.3 liters
Valvetrain   24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
18 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
Not Available
Horsepower   225 hp @ 5900 rpm 280 hp @ 6200 rpm 215 hp @ 5700 rpm 225 hp @ 5600 rpm 238 hp @ 8500 rpm
Torque   214 ft-lbs. @ 3500 rpm 270 ft-lbs. @ 4800 rpm 229 ft-lbs. @ 3000 rpm 240 ft-lbs. @ 3600 rpm 159 ft-lbs. @ 5500 rpm
Driven Wheels   rear wheel drive rear wheel drive rear wheel drive front wheel drive rear wheel drive
Limited Slip Differential - Rear   Being Researched Standard Not Available Not Available Standard
Tires   P205/50HR17
all season
all season
all season
Wheels   alloy rims
17 x 7.0 in.
alloy rims
18 x 8.0 in.
alloy rims
16 x 8 in.
alloy rims
17 x 7.0 in.
alloy rims
18 x 8 in.
Fuel Data   3 Series G35 CLK-Class Camry Solara RX-8
Fuel Tank Capacity   16.6 gal. 20 gal. 16.4 gal. 18.5 gal. 15.9 gal.
Fuel Type   premium unleaded premium unleaded premium unleaded regular unleaded regular unleaded
Length   176.7 in. 182.2 in. 182.6 in. 192.6 in. 174.3 in.
Width   69.2 in. 71.5 in. 68.5 in. 71.5 in. 69.7 in.
Height   53.9 in. 54.8 in. 55.4 in. 56.1 in. 52.8 in.
Weight   3285 lbs. 3435 lbs. 3515 lbs. 3439 lbs. Being Researched
Wheel Base   107.3 in. 112.2 in. 106.9 in. 107.2 in. 106.4 in.
Interior   3 Series G35 CLK-Class Camry Solara RX-8
Front Headroom   37.5 in. 39.2 in. 37.1 in. 38.1 in. 38.2 in.
Rear Headroom   36.5 in. 34.7 in. 35.8 in. 36.9 in. 36.8 in.
Front Shoulder Room   54.5 in. 53.7 in. 53.2 in. 56 in. 54.8 in.
Rear Shoulder Room   52.7 in. 52.7 in. 49.3 in. 53.9 in. 53.2 in.
Front Hip Room     53.6 in. 53.7 in. 54 in.  
Rear Hip Room     48 in. 45.9 in. 50.3 in.  
Front Leg Room   41.7 in. 43.8 in. 42 in. 42.1 in. 42.7 in.
Rear Leg Room   33.2 in. 31.4 in. 33 in. 35.5 in. 32.3 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity   9.5 cu.ft. 7.8 cu.ft. 10.4 cu.ft. 13.8 cu.ft. 7.6 cu.ft.
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