Often enough, it’s refreshing to get in a vehicle for review that somewhat serves as a brand’s bread and butter. This week, that vehicle is the admired BMW 3 Series in the 330i flavor sporting a refreshing for the 2023 model year, along with some updated interior elements, including the latest iDrive 8 system with new screen layouts.
BMW took a systematic approach to updating the 3 Series, which is a good thing considering how controversial the latest design has been for new vehicles like the BMW 4 Series, M3/M4, and even the new 7 Series. While most of the controversy of new design elements surrounding the grilles of many new BMWs, the new 3 Series retains more of a traditional design so as not to mess up a good thing, and we thank BMW for doing this. What we see in the new BMW 330i that has shown up in our driveway this week is a subtle exterior update that is easy on the eyes and doesn’t offend anyone, at least not anyone that we personally know. The body lines remain sleek, the rear is sharp with its LED tails, the front grille with its active shutters won’t get any negative press, and the updated LED headlights with its daytime runners moved to the top portion of the housing refine the 3 Series in our view. What BMW has done here is good, and we welcome more design thought like this, not because it is the safer bet but because BMW deserves to put their better design efforts back in the limelight.
Jumping into the new 2023 BMW 330i, there’s a welcomed back-to-basics feeling about the chassis. Those basics feel as if BMW has inspired some old-school feedback, even in the way the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine delivers power. That power, to the tune of 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, fills through the RPM band and doesn’t seem to give out up to redline and it starts spinning without any noticeable turbo lag. The 8-speed ZF-sourced automotive transmission continues to be the business for firing off crisp and direct shifts nearly to the level of a dual-clutch unit but all in a smooth process.
Steering effort is lighter than I would like in a sports sedan, but there’s some communication happening that I am surprised to find. The way the 330i handles itself is wonderfully, but I feel that its inspired handling compromises overall ride quality. My M Sport Package-equipped test vehicle with the Adaptive M Suspension felt a bit too far on the firm side no matter if the adaptive dampers where in the comfort or sport setting. Also, the 19-inch wheels wrapped with performance run-flat tires probably didn’t help much for the ride quality.
BMW continues to impress me with its powertrains, and funny enough, this entry-level BMW 330i sedan in a rear-wheel-drive configuration does the same. Zero to 60 mph ticks off in just 5.4 seconds using launch control, and having a limited-slip differential out back permits a little tail-happy fun with added control. There is the availability of opting for the 330i xDrive sedan, which features all-wheel drive. Overall, I’m well appeased in the totality of what the new 330i offers for being where the 3 Series starts in its lineup.
The new BMW 330i RWD sedan does everything well in the performance arena for its base level, including returning respectable fuel mileage numbers matching and often besting the EPA estimates of 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined. With a 15.6-gallon tank, you get a range of up to 530 miles when full of required premium fuel.
Just like the exterior of the new 2023 BMW 3 Series, the interior retains what many have grown to love in the hottest-selling sedan that BMW sells. Inside there’s a nicely appointed cabin that now features even more of a minimalist approach where most of your interaction takes place through the new iDrive 8’s 14.9-inch touchscreen that’s grouped in a slightly curved cluster with the driver’s digital display. Overall, the new system is very responsive and plays nicely once you overcome a learning curve that’s necessary to have an agreeable opinion about the system. To further explain, the new iDrive 8 system has a lot of components and features, most of which that you don’t have to interact with to just jump in a drive the new 3 Series. However, the system can be a little intimidating during your first use, but the simple parts surround the clever speech recognition that has a deep understanding of natural language that can be simply brought up by saying, “hey BMW.”
The lack of physical control elements isn’t much of an issue after becoming accustomed to how the updated iDrive system works through the touchscreen. Having a portion of the screen used for the 3-zone automatic climate control works well for quick access. Having a dedicated volume knob and a few select buttons for track/station seek and quick access to the defrosters are welcomed, but I do miss the panel of numbered preset buttons of past BMWs. Also, the integration of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is mostly seamless with CarPlay working without issue during my week with the vehicle.
Seating areas are mostly what I remember from older iterations of the 3 Series, where they are surprisingly accommodating for different-sized adults up front with a vast adjustment for the heated front leather seats. The rear seating appears tight at first glance, but there’s a good amount of usable space at the mercy of how far back the front occupants adjust their seats. The trunk cargo room is a tidy 13 cubic feet and can be slightly expanded by folding down the rear 40/20/40-split seatbacks.
BMW offers a full array of standard active safety features, but they are grouped into option packages, such as the Driving Assistance Package on my test vehicle adding blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and an active driving assistant to detect and warn of frontal collisions and pedestrians with the ability to help mitigate such occurrences with emergency braking. There is also the addition of an optional Driving Assistance Professional Package that adds in adaptive cruise control functions as well as an extended traffic jam assistance system that basically takes semi-autonomous control of the vehicle up to 40 mph.
The new 330i sedan is a cohesive compact luxury sports sedan package that I didn’t expect BMW to keep so aggregable in many categories. The pricing of such a sedan starts at $42,300 before any fees or options but can quickly climb to my nicely equipped test vehicle’s price of $52,890 and slightly beyond.