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BMW 330d 2008 review

Launched in 2004 the X3 compact crossover received a big facelift after criticism that the standard of finish was not up to scratch.

Now the most important car in its range, the evergreen 3 Series sedan has been given the treatment following its release in 2005, particularly in the area of styling after being roundly lampooned - notably by Britain's influential Top Gear television program.

The 3 Series accounts for about half of the company's overall sales.

Launched in May, 2005 the current E90 model has been the target of plenty of criticism over its bland styling and in Australia at least it is being convincingly outsold by the Mercedes C-Class.

But this week BMW lifted the covers on a major, mid-life makeover for the car that addresses many of the issues raised.

Front and rear lights have been changed and a more prominent “kidney” grille added, along with a redesigned bonnet that features a lifted centre section with twin crease lines.

The exterior mirrors have also been changed and re-profiled side skirts have been fitted - all of which give the car a wider, more aggressive stance.

The rear lights adopt the L shape common to other models.

Adding to the more aggressive stance are off set wheels with fatter rubber and a slightly wider rear track that varies in size from model to model.

The big news although it has not been confirmed for Australia yet is a new 3.0-litre six cylinder turbo diesel that will change the way you think about diesel engines forever.

This one can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds, yet uses just 5.7 litres of fuel per 100km.

That's only half a second slower than the acclaimed, top of the range twin turbo 335i petrol six and to be frank we'd have no hesitation in picking the diesel.

The car we drove in Germany this week is an absolute cracker, with a six-speed manual transmission that revs all the way to 5500rpm on the dial.

The suspension feels a bit softer than the 335i but there's nothing shabby about the way it rides and handles.

It does a fine job of walking the line between comfort and the sporty edge that Beemer drivers expect.

We drove the two cars back to back on Germany's autobahns and back roads and although the petrol model is quicker off the mark - there's not a lot in it.

We can't wait to try the six-speed auto version.

With a single turbocharger and lightweight aluminium crankcase, the two cars even weigh the same 1625kg - in auto form at least.

Like most BMWs the 330d is speed limited to 250km/h, but we had no trouble achieving this speed on the autobahn where it would have happily sat all day.

Producing 180kW of power at 4000rpm and 520Nm of torque between 1750 and 3000rpm, the car had no trouble staying with its more fancied sibling.

As maximum torque kicked in it quickly caught and matched the 335i for speed and agility, being just a fraction slower to respond to throttle changes.

The torquey engine makes light work of corner to corner squirts, changing between third and fourth and pulling effortlessly out of bends.

For a diesel it has a relatively high red line and as a result the drive experience is very like driving an ordinary petrol-engined car, with the occasional diesel rumble the only reminder of what lies beneath the bonnet.

Unless informed, most drivers would probably not even realise it's a diesel - and after driving this one - most would probably not give a damn.

Maximum power is achieved at 4000rpm so there's nothing really to be gained by going past this point but it gives the driver plenty to play with.

In fact, from 4500rpm torque is progressively limited anyway.

Pushed hard the car returned 8.7 litres/100km compared to the 335i's 13.1 litres/100km (officially the two cars are good for 5.7 and 9.1 litres/100km respectively).

After a couple of hundred kilometres behind the wheel of each car there's no downside to the diesel that we can see.

That's a big saving and huge recommendation.

BMW claims the engine sets a new benchmark for the segment in terms of performance, fuel consumption and engine emissions - the latter rated at 152g/km.

The engine is Euro V compliant and will even meet the more stringent Euro VI regulations, not due to come into effect until 2014.

The engineers tell us that turbo boost kicks in from a low 1200rpm virtually eliminating turbo lag.

In practice, the car was only caught short a couple of times on rolling second starts - but that's more a reflection of our bad driving than anything to do with the design.

Here's hoping BMW decides to bring in this model with the rest of the new range to be launched in December.

Moving inside there's a new generation iDrive system with a control knob that functions more like a joy stick and an 80Gb hard drive that you can download your music to.

The hard disk is also home to the satellite navigation system, dispensing with the need for map disks, with 12Gb reserved for music.

In Europe, the car will even be offered with internet and email access but at this sage the infrastructure does not exist to support the system here.

During the drive program we still had trouble getting the sat nav system to do what we asked, but we'll reserve judgement on this one until we've had more of chance to play.

In general terms it still requires too many clicks to access the functions that you want and in this area the company could take some lessons from the iPod people.

Crash activated dynamic head rests are now standard and are designed to move forward to cushion the neck in the event of an accident to protect occupants against wiplash.

Prices for the new range will be announced closer to the launch, but are not expected to change dramatically.

In the UK there's only a four per cent difference between the price of the 330d and 335i which in Australia sells for $107,290, so the diesel is expected to be a little cheaper.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

325i 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,900 – 18,700 2008 BMW 3 Series 2008 325i Pricing and Specs
323i 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,800 – 13,310 2008 BMW 3 Series 2008 323i Pricing and Specs
320i 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $7,500 – 11,660 2008 BMW 3 Series 2008 320i Pricing and Specs
320i Executive 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $6,700 – 10,450 2008 BMW 3 Series 2008 320i Executive Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 103 car listings in the last 6 months

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