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Also available on my web site, but here's the skinny:

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5000 Mile Report

Jason Newquist
March 30, 2002

It's been 4 months since I took delivery of my 330i. My impressions have matured a little, and I thought it would be useful to record them.

The Drive

This car has really encouraged me to drive with more gusto than I ever had before. I think it's because I've gotten a good sense of what the engine is capable of delivering, and I want to use it. I spend a fairly even amount of time in all three driving modes: regular drive for close quarters city driving, sport drive is my default mode, and steptronic mode when I know the conditions and location and want to have some fun shifting through the gears.

With this engine, passing is a blast. Drop down to 4th, floor it, and surge ahead -- wow!

It's surprising how much torque there is between 3000 and 6500 RPM. I don't spend enough time there, and that's a primary reason I enjoy driving in steptronic mode. It's an undisputed thrill to blast onto a highway going 60 or 70 in 3rd, near redline.

The Handling

Amazing. The lack of body lean is pretty impressive. I'm sure there are superior performers, but for my money I think the 330i sedan with sport package does an amazing job. I've sensed some oversteer, but not much -- certainly a whole lot less than in any other car I've driven. I've gently pushed the car on some well-traveled strips of road on several occasions, but I've still not gotten the car to loose traction, or even the wheels to squeal. I not be trying hard enough.

The Exterior

Ok, let's catalog the afflictions:
  • One ding from some ass clown apartment neighbors who parked their Excursion next to me and opened the door into car. Ignorant of the damage, I went down to the car to leave, saw the beast sitting next to me, and saw the group of Mexicans carefully watch me approach the car. The weren't talking. I briefly (5 seconds) inspected the side of the car, saw nothing, and left. When I got out of the car a little while later (now in broad daylight), I saw it. F*ckers!
  • There's also a scratch about 3-4 inches long on the driver's side C-pillar. I have no idea how it got there, but I think it was some someone leaning against my car with a coat on or a purse or something. Apartment living sucks ass.
  • There are some chips on the windshield from specks of gravel and crap on the highways, but they're very small. There are similar chips in the paint on the nose of the car, but again - very small, and expected.
  • One very small (about 1cm long) scratch on the passenger size of the trunklid that's been there since delivery. No biggie.
As far as the aesthetics go, the car has grown on me even more. There are a few angles where I think the design isn't very appealing, though. At the same level as the lights, but off to one side, they look squinty. Standing from this same point (off to the front, and to one side), I don't like the way the trunk line looks. The spot behind the backseat doors where the C-pillar meets the body... the slope of the body line here seems weak, lacking muscle or character.

The side mirrors look very good from the front or rear, but from the side, they're far too boxy.

I am very happy with the black plastic body moldings. I think looks honest on the sedan, adding a rugged touch. Similarly, the body-colored moldings on the coupe work, too, because it adds a sleeker touch, which is consistent with that car.

With the exceptions noted above, I love the look of the exterior. I think the car's lines and shape are gorgeous. I'm very, very happy with the look of the sport package body kit -- it really completes the look of the 2002, I think.

The Interior

The interior is 95% perfect. Here's the rogue's gallery of minor problems and nits that I've collected.

I've had some squeaks. I hate squeaks.
  • When there's diagonal torque on the body frame (such as when I'm pulling into a driveway at an angle, with my front passenger wheel hitting the ramp first) I get a squeak in the rear passenger seat -- which I've already documented. This squeak has settled a bit, and doesn't seem to appear when the car is bouncing; it only occurs during diagonal frame torque.
  • The moonroof squeak has been clarified, too: it only happens when there's a front passenger. It seems to go away when I push the roof visor back, to the open position. The squeak is interior in the cloth roofing somewhere, as the position of the moonroof glass itself is immaterial.
  • When the dash heats up under direct sunlight, I get a one-time expansion creak from the area around the plastic shield in front of the instrument cluster. This is a very minor issue.
  • Finally, I very rarely get a creak from the titanium silver molding around the headlight control. If I press on a certain part of the molding, I can feel some play, and make it creak on demand. I find that if I leave it alone for a month, it'll come back at some point, then go away for another few weeks.
Other things:
  • The seatbelt is a little annoying, as you can't just unlatch it and toss it over. I need to walk it back into the retracted position, else it gets stuck by a twist in the belt.
  • Visibility over the driver's left shoulder could be a little better, but it's not a biggie. Overall, visibility in the car is very good.
  • On the plus-side, this is one car where I can scoot up the front seats and not feel terribly cramped. I'm only 5 foot 9, but I can get away with feeling pretty comfortable while giving a generous amount of legroom in the back. A testament to the awesome sport seats. The side bolstering is great -- but at the cost of making entry and exit just a little annoying. I've scratched the door panel with my key a few times because of the way I need to contort myself to get out.
  • Some people have said that the interior feels dated. This may be, but I don't feel that way. I like the look of it - sharp and purposeful, compared to the rounded and dulled aesthetics of the new Audi interiors. Audi does a great job with materials and button feel and a lot of other things, but I wish their aesthetics weren't so dulled.
  • Speaking of button-feel, many are the times when I've pressed a button on the air or audio controls, and it doesn't register (most irritatingly when I don't notice because I'm busy driving). Button feel isn't as precise as I initially thought. You need to give some buttons a strong push to overcome the slightly mushy, and ever-so-slightly grainy feel. The steering wheel controls are a lot stiffer, but have definite points of detente, so you know what is and isn't a registered hit.
  • The Harmon-Kardon sound system is overall excellent. When you really push the volume up, the front speakers vibrate under moderate bass, but this can be minimized if you fade the volume to the back by one or two steps, and reduce system bass by one or two steps.
In all, minor complaints, but observations worth making none-the-less.

There've been 2 or 3 times when I turned on the front lights and the dash registered that the brights went on, too. I flicked the left stalk back, and they went off. I'm not sure if this is an electrical problem, some one-time fu, or if I accidentally activated the brights earlier (which I doubt). I have not been able to reproduce this, and it's not happened in a month and a half, so I'll just keep an eye out for the issue. This is the closest thing I've had to a serious problem, but I can't be sure if it was human or machine error. We'll see.

Conclusion

Part of me wishes I bought a wagon. The storage space in the trunk is pretty damn good for the size of the car, but I've tried hauling my big telescope out, and it wouldn't fit through the trunk, and it was a real pain in the ass to fit onto the flattened passenger seat, and into the back. But I chose to get a car that would be fun to drive rather than able to haul stuff around. If BMW offered a 330iT, I'd be driving that right now instead. *sigh* Maybe some day...

But for now, I'm very happy. I know I have a list of nits -- but only people who have a car that's so enjoyable to use and own can make a list like this.
 

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Parking Spot Maven
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Very informative report Planet, thanks for sharing it. :thumb:

It gives me some ideas of what I have to look forward to (even though I'm going with the coupe). It also makes me worry that 12K/yr lease might not be enough. I only drive 6-8K now, but it seems that most people here drive considerably more (with a few exceptions... nobody drives much in Hawaii heh). This makes me question my decision of 12K... maybe I will drive twice as much with my 330ci just because it is that much more fun? :D

--SONET
 

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super-sexy
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247 Posts
I'm just now over 6000 miles, and I have had no real problems.

The glove compartment flashlight never worked from the start, but I just went in for the "front strut mount recall" and had them replace the flashlight at the same time. it works perfectly now.

I love the car, and am super-glad I bought the wagon, even if it meant I couldn't get the 330's extra power and features.

:)

- Cowboy
 

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Senior Slacker
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5,672 Posts
SONET said:
Very informative report Planet, thanks for sharing it. :thumb:

It gives me some ideas of what I have to look forward to (even though I'm going with the coupe). It also makes me worry that 12K/yr lease might not be enough. I only drive 6-8K now, but it seems that most people here drive considerably more (with a few exceptions... nobody drives much in Hawaii heh). This makes me question my decision of 12K... maybe I will drive twice as much with my 330ci just because it is that much more fun? :D

--SONET
There's nowhere to drive:cry:
Seriously some people put a lot of miles on their cars with a 20-30 mile drive each way, I have a 5 mile round trip commute. 10k lease for me:thumb:
 

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Planet-

Great report. I've noticed the same "diagonal creaking" that you mentioned as well as some creaking that comes and goes when the interior trim is pressed. Sometimes the radio plastic will make an expansion noise too--other times its silent. I guess you haven't been afflicted with the B pillar rattle-- that's by far the most annoying one.
I've never had any of the issues w/ buttons that you spoke of- I actually think BMW does a very good job with button and minor control feel. For example, the turn control stalk feel is better than any other car that I've sat in (including Audis).
regarding finding the high beams on when you turned the lights on-- I've found that its very easy to accidentally knock the turn signal switch forward when your signalling- thus activating the high beams. I've done this many times. I went to the auto show today as was dismayed at how cheesy the interiors of cars are getting from Toyota and Nissan to Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes-there's lots of creaky cheap plastics being used. I also don't like the trend towards high mounted navigation screens-- makes the dash look cluttered and ugly. So if someone thought the interior of my car looked dated- i'd take that as complement! It doesn't strike me as belonging to a particular era- everything is so simple and elemental its kind of hard to date it-- classic looking i'd say.

glad you're enjoying your car-- i like mine too (a 325i w/ 8000 miles).
 
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