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.
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.
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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?
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.
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.
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.