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: