Feature Listing: 2006 BMW 330xi

Although BMW finally equalized the all-wheel drive advantage of its rival Audi as early as the E30, it would take a few generations for the company to offer a truly potent variant of the small four season executive sedan. But when it finally got around to it with the E90, it was a great package. Although the E46 was a hard act to follow, the Bavarians stepped up with an all new 330 model. Now powered by the N52B30 rated at 255 horsepower, it packed even more punch than the outgoing E46. And like its predecessor, the top-of-the-range 330 could be selected with BMW’s constantly variable x-drive all-wheel drive system.

Utilizing a central multi-plate clutch and many computers to monitor vehicle and wheel speed, steering input and throttle/braking, the intelligent all-wheel drive system took the guess work out of poor weather situations. But it was far from the only trick item in the 330’s arsenal. The N52, one of the last developments of the naturally aspirated inline-6 that had been the anchor of the BMW lineup for decades, was a truly special unit. The block was cast from magnesium with an aluminum core. Variable valve timing for both cams meant a guttural screaming at up to 7,000 rpm, yet it was able to return over 30 mpg on the highway. It’s a mind-blowing type of motor that’s just good in every situation and sounds great, too. While the change to the new square dashboard was less driver-oriented, the E90 packed serious computing power beneath its Swiss chalet look; a minimalist design with high quality materials that has stood the test of time well.

Of course, the most desirable of these models were the sport package equipped examples. And, of those, the manual transmission option is the one to get. Welcome, everyone, to just that car:

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2010 BMW 535xi Touring M-Sport

It’s been a while since I last updated you on the trials and tribulations of E61 ownership. And, there have been a few exciting events which pertain to this car. Some of that comes down to learning about the quirks of ownership. For example, the iDrive system has a habit of notifying you of problems well after they’ve occurred. Like the E46, the E61 utilized the ABS speed sensors to calculate rotation of the wheels to determine if you’ve got a flat tire. So, if you..say…swap wheels and forget to notify the car that you’ve done so, it gets very unhappy (but, not immediately – only a few miles down the road will it tell you something occurred). Navigating the menus to find specific items can be laborious, but with time it gets better and you start to figure it out. But the electronic nannies don’t end there; the “IBS” – Intelligent Battery Sensor – proved to be anything but intelligent, as it malfunctioned and decided that the car shouldn’t start. It took a lot of internet diving to determine that simply unplugging the connector would fix the problem. Of course, that sensor is directly under the drains for the sunroof, which unfortunately seem to have a habit of randomly leaking (and, according to the never-wrong internet, are almost always the cause of the woes with the IBS).

Then there’s the service warning.

Say your 11 year old car uses (read: leaks) a little oil. Fine, no problem, top it up. But the E6x FREAKS OUT that you’ve lost a little oil and basically tells you you’re about to grenade the motor. Except, it doesn’t do this when you first start the car. No, because the N52 carries some 7 quarts of synthetic it waits for the oil to warm up prior to notifying you there’s a problem. And there is no dipstick. So, you have to wait for the car to determine if it has oil, which it will do ONCE YOU REACH YOUR DESTINATION AND DON’T HAVE OIL IN HAND. And then you finally get home, pop open the special BMW oil and it only takes 1/4 of a quart. You’re telling me at 6.75 liters of oil you think the level is “CRITICAL“, car?!?! And there are the parking sensors, which don’t notify you of how close you are to the thing you’re about to hit when you’re pulling up, but when you engage reverse it then, once again, FREAKS OUT that you’re about to roll into something (even if you’re in reverse). And God forbid there be ice or snow covering those sensors, because then the car erupts in what sounds like a nuclear test warning. DUCK AND COVER. DUCK AND COVER!!!!!!

Who the hell designed these systems?

I don’t paint a pretty picture of E6x ownership, but the reality is these are coming-to-terms things. The solutions are simple once you’ve figured them out (which, admittedly can be difficult), and then you’re left to enjoy the great aspects of the car. And great it is. Dynamically, the E61 seems to defy physics. The steering is outstanding, the motor sounds great and the 6-speed automatic is almost always on point. The all-wheel drive is seamless, the seats are hugely comfortable, and the car is quiet, composed and comfortable in almost every situation. It has an awesome cruise control system – by far the best I’ve ever experienced. And it returns a shocking 30+ mpg at 80 m.p.h. average on the highway. Pop it into Sport mode, and suddenly the car is transformed, feeling light, agile and quick on its feet despite the 4,000+ lb curb weight. The brakes are awesome, confidence inspiring and yet not too aggressive, and it was able to swallow an entire bathtub basin with no difficulty. As do-it-all cars go, it’s a compelling option. So let’s take a look at one of the end-of-the-run E61s, turned up a bit over my 530xiT. This is the twin-turbocharged N54 powered 535xi Touring, and this one has the optional (and rare) M-Sport package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 BMW 535xi Touring M-Sport on eBay

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Mystic Fiver: 2006 BMW 530xi Touring

Well, it’s been a few weeks so I suppose that it’s time to introduce the newest addition to the GCFSB fleet. My wife and I spent months searching for a potential replacement to her Subaru Outback. She had bought the Subbie new in 2006, and under warranty it had been a great car. However, once out of warranty it had been problematic; unable to go much more than 10,000 miles without eating a wheel bearing, dumping oil all over the exhaust or any other number of various maladies. The “big one” was the timing belt service at 103,500 miles; already pricey on Subarus, it became obvious as we got close that the 2.5 liter boxer was suffering from the notorious head gasket failure. A $800 job soon became a $2,800 job. As my wife pointed out, those are the types of repairs you’d expect on a nicer German car, but not ones you’d associate with the stars of Pleiades. How Subaru has managed to maintain a reputation for quality is beyond me, and with prices of new Outbacks well into the $30,000 range, suddenly the gap to some of the German cars wasn’t so outrageous.

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