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2006 BMW 330i

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Story by Joe Leary

The mission appeared simple enough: Come to the dealership, take a 2006 330i for the weekend, and give us your comments.

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As the owner of a 2004 330i, I pretty much knew what to expect going in. Or so I thought. While the task of test driving the car may have seemed simple enough, upon leaving Brian Jessel’s Boundary Road facility and heading up the Lougheed Highway to start my mission, one thing became abundantly clear: BMW has once again raised the bar with this latest evolution of the jewel in the 3-Series crown. The body has undergone a slight, yet sleek redesign, but it’s behind the wheel where the real change has occurred.

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I was immediately impressed with the increased power of the vehicle and the incredible ease of handling. The overall output of the 2006 in-line six-cylinder 330i has increased by 13 percent to 255 horse power, and with the BMW-patented Valvetronic engine, coupled with an automotive industry first a magnesium-aluminum crankcase and reduced un-sprung weight, the vehicle’s fuel efficiency has actually decreased by 12 percent over the 2005 model.

In short, the 2006 offers better fuel economy in a vehicle that is wider, longer and bigger than its predecessor. And to illustrate the vehicle being bigger, one needs look no further than the back seat, where the comfort factor and increased leg room are immediately noticeable. Up front, the instrumentation panel remains uncluttered and tastefully appointed.

But the other most noticeable upgrade in the 2006 3 Series lies within the sound system. And talk about high performance! The Harman/Kardon Logic 7 13-speaker surround system completely envelops the car, offering full concert-hall sound. My experience driving down Highway 99 while listening to Frank Sinatra with the Count Basie Orchestra gave me the feeling I was sitting at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas back in 1966. The in-dash CD player now also plays MP3s and BMW engineers thought of every convenience by also offering an I-pod jack in the centre console.

Standard features on the 2006 330i include an upgraded Standard Cruise Control with brake function, Brake Standby, ensuring faster brake response and Dry Braking, a system whereby brakes are dried when driving on wet surfaces using rain sensors—an incredibly innovative safety feature. Whether my weekend was spent cruising along the Upper Levels highway where I could kick it up a couple of notches, or simply meandering through Yaletown, the performance and handling of the 330i was incredible. This was truly a unique driving experience.

As Brian Jessel BMW celebrates its 20th anniversary, the BMW 3-Series celebrates 30 years, and what better gift to mark the occasion than the 2006 330i. It’s no wonder that it’s been named car of the year for 2006. The 3-Series maintains its reputation as the signature sports sedan line in the world, making 15 consecutive appearances on Car & Driver’s 10 best list. In fact, the only thing I don’t like about the 2006 330i is the fact that I don’t own one. . . yet!

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