click thumbnail to enlarge picture
To see a video of the BMW
To see a video of the Adaptive
Xenon Lights which move sideways to light up a curve.
Apple QuickTime viewer here.
2004 BMW 330Ci
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.