I went back to the same dealer where I drove the M3 and talked to my no-cares salesman Tom. He gave me the keys and let me take the 330Ci out all by myself! The car was really clean and in excellent shape. It didn’t feel 9 years old. When I got in my head hit the roof, which confused me. But then I remembered fancy cars have power seats with lots of adjustments and I got the seat set nice and comfy.
Coincidentally, I took the 330Ci out on some of the same roads where I test drove my Charger for fun nostalgia. I tried to go on as twisty of a road as you can get out here (http://goo.gl/maps/KF7bq) and the freeway.
The 330Ci is like the M3 after it went to obedience school. Same animal, just less aggressive. The engine noise is quieter, the suspension just a little bit smoother, the acceleration just not quite as fast. But I could still hurl it into corners and it stayed totally in control. I took a 10 mph curve at 40 and it was totally cool with it. Now I see why I couldn’t drive as fast down twisty canyon roads in my rental Volkswagen CC as a friend could in his 330Ci. It wasn’t all superior driving skills!
Acceleration is totally decent, although not as fast as the M3, and it doesn’t feel as fast as the OMG I’M GONNA DIE FR-S. It felt as fast as the Charger but without the feeling of certain destruction if you accidentally turn the wheel even a little bit. It’s still tons of fun! The automatic transmission was smooth and it downshifted quickly when I expected it to.
I really, really want to try a M3 coupe with a stick. I loved driving the 330Ci – it feels accurate and composed but not too smooth and “luxury”. But I think I like the growling aggressive attitude of the M3 more. The only e46 M3 manual coupe I can find right now is with a private seller in North Dakota. But Salesman Tom will call me that very second if they get one in. Meanwhile, this pretty blue 330 tugs at my heart strings…
Up Next: 2011 Mustang GT, 2012 Nissan 370Z Coupe, and 2013 Hyundai Genesis 2.0T R-Spec
Ann Morey isn’t an automotive journalist, but she’s probably doing a better job of it than most of us. She’s a mid career marketing manager who only recently learned how to drive a manual transmission. She’s got a classic Charger in the garage and a boring Accord in need of replacement, so she’s out to test drive every mid-20-thousands dollar sports car out there. Her test drives run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
You can see the rest of the series here: Test Drive ANNLimited