► CAR's long-term 3er Touring
► Ben Barry runs this petrol estate
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The first long-term report I filed for CAR was in 2006, when I'd taken over the mag's E91 330i Touring. It was metallic blue with cream leather, equally creamy straight-six and a ride that turned every B-road into Belgian pavé – blame early runflat tyres for that. But that car made quite an impression: soon after I entrusted my new family to an E46 320i Touring for four years, and we've been running an E91 320i Touring for almost six now.
The kids are probably sick of them. But almost 14 years since that first story, I'm excited to be once again running a 330i Touring, this time the new G21 – now the second generation of 330i to use a four-cylinder turbo. With me a serial BMW owner, you could argue this 330i is pushing against an open door. Equally, though, it's got – ahem – large boots to fill.
Sensible hat on, it's possible to justify choosing petrol over diesel, because the 330i has a healthy 254bhp, 38.7-39.8mpg, and benefit-in-kind of 31 per cent, which compares very favourably to those diesels. The 318d/320d four-cylinder turbodiesels cost only £2k/£1k less, offer 100bhp/60bhp fewer horses, and no benefit-in-kind incentive. Okay, so they do 50mpg or so, but then diesel is pricier per litre.
The 330d is more tempting with its smooth six-cylinder motor, but it's almost £4k pricier, only around 3mpg more efficient and just a whisker more potent, has inferior C02 and is heavier. Though, yes, torque is a big 428lb ft win (a 330i's 295lb ft matches the 320d).
Even if the figures hadn't stacked up quite so well, I'd have still been drawn to the most powerful petrol in the line-up (though the 340i Touring comes on stream soon).
The 330i cost £39,670 in our M Sport trim. Our test car dials up the driver focus with the £2200 M Sport Plus package, which includes 19-inch alloys, adaptive M suspension, and the limited-slip diff – the first one BMW has offered on non-M cars. M Sport Plus also includes uprated brakes for lesser models, but they're already standard on a 330i.
The remainder of this car's £8040 of extra kit goes on the £1900 Technology Package (head-up display, Harman Kardon hi-fi, gesture control, wireless charging, wi-fi), £500 Vernasca leather with blue stitching, the £1900 Premium package (panoramic sunroof, electric seats with driver memory and lumbar support), and the Comfort package (heated steering wheel, keyless access, extra cubbyholes for £890). And we have the £650 Parking Assistant Plus with its 360º camera.
All in that's £48,495, and highly desirable it all seems. We'll be putting both the car and those options under the microscope over the coming months.
Logbook: BMW 330i Touring
Price £39,670 (£48,495 as tested)
Performance 1998cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 254bhp, 5.8sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 38.7-39.8mpg (official), 32.9mpg (tested), 163g/km CO2
Energy cost 17.1p per mile
Miles this month 503
Total miles 1494