- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

Lowering the convertible top on the BMW 330 Ci unleashes a work of art. Pushing one button activates a great performance, while pressing another button reverses the procedure.
In spite of the chill in the air, I pressed those buttons just about every time I drove this car. Without my having to unlatch levers at the top of the windshield, the entire roof raised itself, while a panel behind the rear seat opened. The top folded neatly into a compartment and the panel closed on top of it, creating a 17-inch-alloy-wheel-clad eye-catcher.
Meantime, all four windows automatically lowered while the top-folding operation took place. When the task was completed, the windows returned to their raised position. I soon discovered this engineering proficiency could do an encore with other window performances. I touched a button and the respective window lowered itself. By simply touching the same button, the window raised automatically. Just imagine how I felt when I flipped a central control button upward and all the windows raised in unison.
The button performance didn't end with the top and windows; power buttons were also useful in operating the seats. To get into the rear, instead of simply folding the back rest of the front seat forward, I pressed a button near the top of the seat, moving it forward and allowing more space for a person to enter the rear. Unfortunately, when the seat returned to its original position, I couldn't help but think that if a person had been seated in the rear, his or her legs might have been dinged. After getting the eight-way power seat into a comfortable position, I set that position into one of the memory systems.
BMW's 330 Ci convertible has numerous safety features, such as an optimized steering column designed to "decouple" upon frontal impact. The front safety belts have automatic pretensioners and force limiters. Other safety features include dual front-door-mounted side impact air bags. There is also rollover protection, reinforced windshield protection, and a rollover bar. In fact, with so many safety features on this car, one could actually feel safe.
The entire 330 Ci, powered by a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, furnishes an enjoyable experience. My tester was linked to a five-speed manual transmission. (An automatic is available.) At first, I had difficulty harmonizing the clutch and gas pedals and stalled a few times. But with practice, the car and I became synchronized and got along fine. I favored third or fourth gear where this car produced excellent pickup. For economy, however, fifth gear provides 28 mpg on the highway.
And this $43,745 convertible is loaded with other good qualities. In the mechanical department, road stability should be at the top of the list. I could zig and zag, and the 330 Ci hugged the road with each twist of the steering wheel.
That price also includes heated leather seats, attractive aluminum interior trim, and a great sound system with RDS. The air conditioning/heating system can be read in either Fahrenheit or Celsius, and the clock can be switched from a 12- to a 24-hour clock. An additional button on the turning signal allows for quick reference of numerous controls, such as miles per gallon and oil-change intervals.
This car comes prewired for a compact disc changer, cellular phone, alarm system and garage-door opener. Obviously, the BMW engineers really had a field day constructing the 330 Ci. Safety aside, however, I think their greatest triumph was raising and lowering the top.
MOTOR MATTERS


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