- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

BMW's 3-Series has become the quintessential "I've made it" automobile.

More than a few people have worked hard to be in a position in their lives to put a 3-Series in their garage. At one time that seemed to turn from beneficial to a liability as the label, "yuppie" became prevalent.

As the pendulum seemingly always swings the opposite direction, that has changed. The "Y" word has all but disappeared from our vocabulary. Today, owning a 3-Series is something even more people proudly strive toward. The reason for that admiration has changed as well.

This entry-level BMW has the stature of being a vehicle meant for motoring. Owning a 3-Series tells everyone you are a discriminating motoring enthusiast, albeit on a budget. At least a more limited budget compared to those who are able to park a BMW 7-Series in their driveway.

Performance and luxury are melded into a group of vehicles that will put excitement back into your commute. In fact, you must be careful to complete your morning drive to the office, and not fall under this BMW's spell.

Making that exceedingly harder to do is the 330 Xi. This car is a wonderful example of BMW engineering, which is a surprise to no one. But, what just might be a surprise to everyone is this 3-Series is not just equipped with a new more potent engine, it also has the added stability of all-wheel drive. Like other all-wheel-drive European sedans, the 330 Xi has a system that is nearly seamless in its ability to make this car handle exceedingly well.

As most everyone knows there is a huge difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is meant for hearty off-roading and extreme conditions. All-wheel drive, on the other hand, has the ability to make a vehicle handle better in normal dry conditions, adding increased stability in rain or light snow and ice.

I think almost everyone would agree with me that BMW automobiles are exemplary in their delivery of exciting handling and performance. Although the 3-Series is the entry-level model, it embodies all that is BMW, albeit in a more economical package.

The addition of the 3-liter six-cylinder engine brings more of the smooth power that is expected from BMW. This engine is also no disappointment in its responsiveness to the driver's right foot. No matter if you are starting from at rest or passing on the highway, you can feel the torque impressively propel the car.

The 330 is equally all BMW throughout the interior. Supportive seats hold you in place even during heavy cornering. Although to some, the seats may be too firm, I find I prefer the European-styled seat design. The interior is as you would expect, precise with a fit and finish that makes other car manufacturers struggle just to come close. The instrument panel is truly Teutonic. The caveat I have about BMW interiors is the complexity of the switch layout. I am sure that after a few weeks of ownership no one would have a problem, but getting in the car for a week makes things a little rougher. Trust me, I am not going to complain long because the nimbleness and the abilities the 330 Xi displays make any minor annoyance disappear quickly.

The present 3-series with the 3-liter engine is such a wide jump over what the 3 once was. It is easy to see why BMW is winning enthusiasts back into the entry-level, sport luxury category.

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