2019 BMW 330i First Drive Review

For years — decades, even — the BMW 3 Series was the standard by which all other premium sports sedans were judged. And, with over 15 million units sold since 1975, it’s been an unmitigated success. The 3 Series is in some ways the soul of BMW, but the last generation or two of 3 Series sedans haven’t hit enthusiasts’ heartstrings with quite the expected verve, losing steering feel and precision and in the process losing sight of its mission statement of being a great car to drive on entertaining roads.

The 2019 3 Series is exactly the course correction that BMW needed to put its standard-bearing sports sedan back into competition at the top of its segment. Problem is, it should have happened years ago. The 3 Series’ segment just isn’t as important as it once was. The “four-door sedan” may as well be a four-letter word. Crossovers are rewriting the family car rule book, while the trunk seems destined to follow the minivan straight into the historical dustbin.

Much has been written about the lack of a manual transmission in BMW’s latest 3 Series. The reality is that next to nobody would have bought it anyway. Fortunately the ZF-supplied automatic’s programming is well calibrated, firing off reasonably quick shifts, both up and down, right when the driver wants them. Sport mode forces it to hold gears longer and downshift more readily in concert with the driver’s right foot. And if that’s not good enough, there’s a pair of paddles on the steering wheel.

If there was one seemingly universal complaint about the driving dynamics of the sixth-generation F30 BMW 3 Series, it’s that its steering is lifeless, devoid of the feel and feedback that had long been a hallmark of the series. We’re happy to report that the 2019 model’s steering is a big improvement over the outgoing car.

Brand new for 2019 is BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant. It’s basically Siri for your BMW, and the car’s occupants can say “Hey BMW” or “Hello BMW” to access its processing power. One cool feature is that it’s possible to change the name of the assistant. We named ours “Is it me you’re looking for” and then had Lionel Richie in our heads the rest of the day.

The 2019 3 Series is what the market used to want – not what it wants now. Instead of copying BMW’s playbook, others are rewriting it. And that leaves the 3 Series – even if the 2019 model is a legitimately, objectively good driver’s car – teetering on irrelevance.