Sun, 25 May 2003

BMW 330i blends power, speed and comfort

Novan Iman Santosa and Primastuti Handayani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

What is the perfect partner for a brand-new, luxury car? Golf seems the right answer.

So, here we are at the Jagorawi Golf and Country Club (JGCC) in Cibinong, Bogor, driving the newly launched BMW 330i. From its three courses, the JGCC management allows us to take pictures at the Z-nine, its latest, nine-hole course.

The sun is bright, the panorama is beautiful and the car is superb.

What else is missing? It seemed nobody paid any attention to us until a group of working girls, who eventually sat near to us at the JGCC clubhouse restaurant, recognized the car.

Perhaps they didn't realize the difference between the BMW 330i and its predecessors but the covetous look in their eyes was enough to fill us with pride that we were driving a BMW.

Was there anything else missing? Hmm... the car's performance.

Yepp, we didn't try the car, for, as usual, both the Jakarta and Jagorawi toll roads were very crowded on Wednesday.

After maneuvering the car along the narrow, twisting paths in the Z-nine for photographs, we sped the car along the toll road.

Unfortunately, we could only reach a speed of 140 kilometers per hour (kph) -- although the car's top speed is 240 kph -- due to the heavy traffic, not to mention that many police cars were patrolling the toll road.

The six-cylinder engine capacity, at 2,979cc, is the largest of the three-series, giving a maximum output of 219 horsepower at 5,800 revs per minute (rpm) and a maximum torque of 300 Newton- meters at 3,500rpm.

Two other variants in the three series are the BMW 318i, which has a 1.8-liter engine, and the BMW 325i, which has a 2.5-liter engine.

The 330i's exterior is only slightly different from its two predecessors, with an additional spoiler on the trunk giving it a sporty look compared with the others. Xenon headlights, foglights in an oval design and BMW Motorsport double-spoke alloy wheels with 225/45 R17 front tires and 245/40 R17 rear tires give an even sportier look to the car.

The interior is equipped with leather, Montana sports seats and wood paneling on the dashboard and gearshift.

Other premium features offered with this car include park distance control, rain sensor and automatic headlight control, onboard computer and car telephone installation.

Reaching the Ciawi toll gate, we decided to test the car's performance through the Puncak to assess its climbing ability. With such power, everything seemed so easy and smooth, even when we had to travel slowly behind buses or trucks on our way to the Puncak Pass.

On the twisting road past Gunung Mas tea plantation, the car showed that it was worth having as it had no trouble at all in maneuvering at high speed.

This beauty is offered at Rp 547 million (US$64,352) off the road, and PT BMW Indonesia has not set a specific sales target.

"We will only sell the car based on customer's demands and have not set a specific target due to the car's specific characteristics," company head of public relations Helena Abidin told us before leaving Jakarta.

Helena also said there was a stock of some 30 units available and that the company had received several orders already.

Driving back home, we decided to try the sporty transmission, which enable us to reach a speed of 160 kph on the toll road.

A black car driver seemed annoyed with the BMW's speed and seconds later, just as in The Fast and the Furious, we were racing it. Thank God, the police officer was busy ticketing a truck driver and did not see us driving the car as though it were a bat out of hell.

Luckily we had selected the S (sporty) mode of the car's transmission, which gave us more power and response, before entering the toll road.

Before long, we were engaged in a tense dogfight, zigzagging in the packed traffic, taking any chance, even the slightest.

The car was stable in such a high-speed chase with tricky maneuvering, thanks to the sporty suspension, which is somewhat sturdier than that fitted to earlier models.

As the traffic was getting heavier, we both decided to end the chase and peacefully went our own ways.

Weren't we afraid of any accidents that might have been caused by our crazy driving? Well, we trusted completely BMW's safety system in which the 330i has eight airbags: Two for the driver and passenger, plus two front head and four side airbags for front and rear passengers.

Not to mention the anti-lock braking system (ABS), automatic stability control, cornering brake control and central locking with electronic immobilizer and remote control.

If you decide to buy this car, our suggestion is don't use a driver. Why should he have all the fun?


Dimensions. Length: 4,471 millimeters (mm), width: 1,739 mm, height: 1,415 mm, wheelbase: 2,725 mm.

Engine. Capacity: 2,979cc, maximum output: 219 hp at 5,800 rpm, maximum torque: 300 Nm at 3,500 rpm, top speed: 240 kph, tank capacity: 63 liters.