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Drove the best 3 ever today...

29 August 2003
Houston, TX
I test drove BMW's new E90 330i today, and without a doubt, it's the best so far. I really don't take the M cars into account when I say the "best ever" because the M cars always seem to lose some of the magic that the normal bimmers have. They're too stiff and uncomprimising to be luxury sedans and too sedan like to be true sports cars. The normal bimmers are the real sweet spot, true sports sedans. Anyway, enough with the digression. The motor on the new 3 is outstanding. It's strong, smooth, and rev-happy. It's also quite a piece of engineering with a magnesium block et. al. The interior is a vast improvement (and you CAN get a 3 without iDrive). The brakes in the 330 are very solid, and quite large (13"f/13.2"r). The 325 has smaller brakes. I was wondering what the difference between the engines was on the 325 and the 330 since they are the same 3.0l motor, same compression, etc... Apparently the 330 has a different intake manifold (three different air volumes at different engine speeds) that accounts for the increase in torque and horsepower. One interesting thing to note is that the current 330 has 15 more horsepower than the older (E36 '95-'98) M3. I didn't drive the sports package car, though I would buy one so equipped. The chassis is a solid improvement over the E46 (which I owned for two years right when they came out). DSC is very unobtrusive compared with the previous version of the traction control that still had a very hard cut off unlike the new version. I was worried about the looks of the new 3 because the pictues make it look just God awful, but in the flesh, the car is much better looking. I'm still not a fan of the front bumper, but the aftermarket companies already have different versions for those so inclined to make a change. Unfortunately,the demo car was a steptronic, not a manual, but the car still moved on much more briskly than even the Performance Pack E46 330 that I drove last month. People have been complaining that the new car seems less powerful. Fortunately, I did not find that because the car I was driving was broken in and the salesperson (a LONG time bimmer salesperson) had no problem letting me ring the sucker out. It probably also helps that I'm used to a rev-happy engine in the NSX. Anyway, if I decide to buy a more practical car than my NSX, that's the one I'll get.