Why I chose the BMW 330i, is a complicated story. It began before I even had a license, when I used to compile car statistics and sort them by performance figures. One brand always stood out from the rest - BMW.
The 3 series BMW is everything a compact sports sedan should be. However, they are and always have been more expensive than the competition, both to buy and to own. However, most of them have tried to emulate it. Over the years, their competing designs had forced them to compromise a lot, leading to most now being front wheel drive, but cheaper too. However, BMW has always tried to stay true to form as the "Ultimate Driving Machine", meaning its costs have remained higher, not just in $$$ paid but also in packaging to retain rear wheel drive.
Our first car, was also rear wheel drive; a 1978 Mitsubishi Galant 2000 GSL. I remember the owners of the supermarket where I had my first job had brand new gold coloured models of the same car. We bought ours in 1987 and my first car after I got my drivers licence at age 25! and still had it when we got married in 1990 and when we returned to Auckland from Wellington in 1994. Despite being underpowered, I loved how it drove with its rear wheel drive as we travelled up and down the country to visit our Auckland based families. However, like other manufacturers future Galants became front wheel drive and so too did we buy our next two Galants (1987 Galant 2000 Super Saloon and 1990 Galant GTi-16v) were also.
When the time came to buy another car after paying off our mortgage, I wanted to get a good car that would last the distance. I selected the 1996 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 Type-S Ralliart Edition in August 2003. This was seen as a car that emulated the BMW in the looks department from the rear quarter, but was also a high performance car. I also joined Club VR-4 and helped set up the NZ Club. I considered this car one of the best Sports Sedans in the world - "An executive EVO". The technical sophistication, four wheel, Active Yaw Control, Active Differential, Twin-Turbos, etc. was a techie's dream come true. Yet despite all that, it could also safely carry 4-5 people. I had spent, over the last 13 years, more than purchase price to keep it serviced and well maintained.
Over the last 18 months, I have been considering a replacement was required as the car was beginning to show its age with parts starting to break, and I was not looking forward to spending more money on it to keep it going. Even my mechanic said I should be starting to look at a replacement, knowing full well he may lose some business. So what to replace it with.
The only product from the Mitsubishi family we could consider, would be the NZ Lancer or Japanese Galant Fortis, being the current sedans they had. Looking carefully and thoroughly at their product range the Lancer VR-X with the 2.4 Litre or even the Lancer Ralliart were definitely in consideration. What keeps putting me off was the styling, it looked too high, its front was like the ugly Audi and it seemed more bulky in shape over all with a big 'bum' at the rear. All this placed against the Mitsubishi as a replacement. Finally, like a last throw of the dice, they released the Lancer GTi-2.4. I really gave this a lot of consideration as it would have been a brand new car, but would also come with a 10 year warranty! However, it still had the faults I outlined above. In addition, weighing against it was the fact the Renault-Nissan has now taken control of Mitsubishi, so this was very likely the last compact sedan they would have which is now a nearly 10 year-old design.
So I started browsing for other brands and models, e.g. Ford, Mazda and even Subaru. In an age when everybody seems to be buying SUVs (over 53% in last statistics), and even BMW and Mercedes makes them too, the family sedan seems a dying breed. I have never liked SUVs, but can understand their practicality for todays active families and hence why they are so popular. I kept browsing the dealer who sold us the Galant VR-4 I loved so much to see what other cars they had and was drawn to the BMW 3-series. A good long conversation with my brother also helped with this choice. So eventually my wife and I took a BMW 323i for a test drive. We drove it to my parents who despite initially saying "Nah", when it was seen in the flesh saying "Nice car". My wife said I looked like a little boy in a toy shop when I was driving it.
The test drive, told me a lot about the BMW 3-series car and how it felt to drive and I needed to consider a lot more to make are really good decision. I am now entering a new phase of my life, with me being made redundant from my current job, I still look forward with optimism to the opportunities the new year and beyond will bring - helping people with computers and possibly more study as well. Therefore, I am more convinced than ever that the BMW 3-series was what I should be considering as our next car.
The BMW 323i that I test drove was a detuned 2.5 litre, aimed more at economy versus performance and was in the middle $15-20,000 price range we wanted. This fact was quite noticeable in the test drive when accelerating and trying to take opportunities like entering roundabouts. So I felt I needed to consider a more powerful variant. But which one would that be. Of the 3-series range that I was considering there was a 325i, 330i, and 335i. The 335i would be the pick of the bunch if performance was the only consideration, but price was closer to the vincity of a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer GTi-2.4 I was mentioned earlier. So that left the 325i and the 330i. I was even offered a 325i station wagon at the lower end of our price range, however I do not like station wagons as they are a lot like SUVs in their utility. I wanted a sedan!
After again looking at the dealers website I noticed a silver 2006 BMW 330i, which is fully optioned and with the M-Sport kit as well. I knew then that this was the car I wanted to have. But I still have some concerns about potential repairs that may be needed over the long-term. So I contacted an independent BMW specialist and had a long conversation and discussed the opportunity for them to do a full pre-purchase inspection. This conversation also highlighted the fact that the 335i was more problematic than 325i or a 330i, due to its twin turbos and more complexity.
The check has identified a number of issues that the dealer has agreed to fix before selling me the car. I hope to get it early next week. This check, along with a four year warranty, should assure us of long life out of the car if we keep up the servicing like I did with the Galant VR-4. The cost is at the top end of our price range and with the warranty and the iDrive conversion to NZ takes us slightly above.
A semi-retired gentleman finally gets to own the 3-series he has always desired. A BMW 330i M-Sport edition.