Long Wheelbase Galore - BMW 330Li LCI
Does 10cm make a huge difference to the way the BMW 3 series drives? Let's dig deeper into the world of this extravagant modification BMW did for the Indian and Chinese markets of their most enthusiast-friendly car on sale and break down what and why this happened.
On the face of it, it doesn't look very prominent a change to be honest, The 10cm shoved into the total length of the car visually appeals more like 2cm, that is how well the integration has been done. In a country where people are still buying the 3 series as a chauffeur-driven executive car rather than an outright performance-friendly steam wagon, giving extra space for one's knees was pretty much a great business opportunity. BMW saw this and in addition to the existing 3 series with standard wheelbase and engine sizes going anywhere from a 2 L diesel to a full monty inline-6, the long wheelbase model was launched. The demands were already huge in our neighbouring country of China for this long-wheelbase 3-series so it was less homework for the Indian subsidiary to design this iteration from scratch.
Looking at an equally huge popularity in India where consumers of 5-series and 3-series (standard wheelbase) moved to this long-wheelbase 3-series gave BMW India a green flag that the idea of normalising this trend is anything but a bad move. So come 2023, and with the introduction of the 3-series LCI or 'Life Cycle Impulse' as they call it in BMW's own lingo which refers to Mid-Cycle updates the standard wheelbase 3-series is only discounted to the much more powerful M340i with the insane inline-6 twin-scroll turbo engine and xDrive all-wheel-drive system which has the capability of sogging underwears of passengers and drivers with less experience.
But as much as the M340i is a hardcore daily-driven rocketship, the car that I have has a more humble 2-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine which produces 258 bhp and 400 Nm at the crank. That is about 215-220 bhp at the wheel considering there is anywhere between 15-18% power loss through the 8-speed automatic gearbox and supply of power to the rear wheels. These are class-leading numbers and on the ground, it comes out to be even better.
I devised a small test where I shot this car from a standstill to 120 kmph, which is also the highest speed limit on any expressway in India and braked really hard to a standstill.
The G28 330Li LCI managed a 0-100 kmph time of 5.8 seconds which is amazing and it touched 120 kmph in a mere 8.3 seconds which is still lesser than the time we did a 100 kmph in the Mercedes Benz C200. An overall score of 12.11 seconds in doing 0-120-0 kmph
is a second slower than the time I take to open the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of Masala Soda and take 3 sips of it. Blistering indeed.
Now in isolation, the G28 does look really nice. It has the muscle lines in the right places and nowhere does it look like an overdone side job, in this guise, we have the M-sport package coupled with the 30Li specification which gives you an addition of a few 'M' bits like sportier looking alloy wheels which remind me of the F10 generation of M5, there are 'M' badges in a lot of places that shout out that this is an M-sport version. There are sportier-looking front and rear bumpers, and also a pair of real exhaust pipes at the back with brushed metal surrounding and a non-functional rear diffuser.
On the inside the opulence level of the 3-series Gran Limousine is retained quite well. There is ample amount of space for 6 footers and the way the seats are contoured for the rear passengers enhances the comfort quotient by a huge margin in comparison to the regular G20 3-series with 10cm less wheelbase.
What I also like is the addition of soft Alcantara pillows on the headrest that come as standard fitment on the Gran Limousine and make long-distance drives an absolute breeze.
What I solely miss, however, are the blinds for the side and the rear windows. It is quite an odd omission in this segment because even cars like the Audi A4 and the Toyota Camry which are substantially more economical to buy have them fitted.
During the hot summer days, the passengers at the rear ought to crib about the sharp sun tearing through their sensitive skin. What is also a silly omission is the crystal ball adorning gear lever which was there in the pre-facelift and honestly made so much sense in this car, since BMW does promote driving pleasure over absolute comfort.
What a miss! And now instead we have a tiny little plug which looks like a corner of a paper cutting blade. Get my Swarovski crystal back, please.
I might be a little nit-picky in a few areas which concerns me a lot as a driver because a person owns a BMW to drive it every day, and these are essential touch points in a car which you cannot mess with being an enthusiast-friendly brand.
Talking of driving it daily, this 2-litre twin-scroll turbocharged engine is also one of the most efficient mechanical packages out there on sale. In our previous test, we had the pre-facelift model with the same engine and gearbox configuration, and we extracted a fuel economy of 28 kmpl over the 80+ kms that we drove on the highway.
This fuel economy number was achieved thanks to the 3-series's excellent aerodynamics, great weight distribution and a solidly engineered fuel management system which ensures that it sips just the right amount of fuel in ECO-PRO mode.
In my test where I drove the G28 330Li LCI at 100 kmph at a stretch, the car was still achieving a maximum economy of 21.1 kmpl which was better than a Volkswagen Virtus with the 1.5 L engine we tested and had cylinder deactivation mode.
These are some staggering numbers from a car that can easily eat most cars at doing autocross at a race track, truly a momentous feat in BMW's engineering prowess. Verdict. There is no way one can match up to the engineering and packaging prowess of the BMW 330 Li, It truly is a great car to live with daily and with utmost comfort.
At ₹71 lakh (on-road Delhi) it is quite expensive for a 3-series and brings it very close to my other chauffeur-driven favourite, the Lexus Es300h which is larger, more luxurious and twice as efficient to drive daily. But if you want to delve deeper into a rear-wheel-driven performance-oriented executive sedan. Look no further than this.