Upgraded from an XUV 500 to the BMW 330Li: Initial impressions

I’ve been getting around 12.5 kmpl so far with a mix of city driving and some heart pounding runs on the highway.

BHPian Stryker recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Ah, the classic car owner route. (Pre-owned) Maruti Zen MH410 (what a car!) to a (new) Maruti Baleno Lxi (what a car!!) to the (then) newly launched Mahindra XUV 500 (what a car!!!) to a brand new BMW 330 Li M Sport (what a car!!!!). Hatch -> sedan -> SUV -> luxury sedan. How many times have we seen people in this very forum take that route? I am happy to be the latest addition to that illustrious list!

I’m simply unable to find any photos of my beloved first car, the Maruti Zen MH410 🙁 I remember a couple of photos taken on film and printed way back when, but just couldn’t find them. No problem, it lives evergreen in my memory! I bought this in November or December 2001, soon after my darling daughter was born and it remained with us for three and a half years.

My Maruti Baleno Lxi was delivered on 24th June 2005 and here’s me waving away happily while taking driving the car out of the dealership. Drove this wonderful car for almost exactly eight years!

Somewhere in Bangalore University campus circa 2006

My Mahindra XUV 500 W8 was delivered on 12th June 2013 and here’s me and wife watching the pre-delivery pooja before getting my hands on this beast! Drove this path breaking game changer for nine and a half years!

My BMW 330 Li M Sport was delivered on 18th December 2022 and here’s me and wife beaming (pun intended!) after unveiling the car. Hope to keep this one for as long as possible! Given the changing scenario of ICE cars and EVs, I don’t know if it will be another eight or nine years though.

I was just reading my previous ownership thread (My Opulent Purple Mahindra XUV500 W8 FWD – Going with the heart) and I found a section about “Why move from a sedan?”. Nearly ten years later, I find myself retracing that route but backwards!

Why move back to a sedan?

Well, everyone is ten years older now, more and more getting used to the finer things in life. God has been kind to us and fulfilled many of our dreams about what we wanted to achieve. Things yet remain, as ever, and hopefully He will see to it that they are achieved too, sooner rather than later.

Driving the XUV for nearly ten years now has sated my innate desire to dominate the road, project fear into that pesky small car ahead of me and lord over other lesser denizens of the highways (no offence meant to the said lesser denizens). Secondly, luxury and comfort is now a supreme requirement and while the XUV has been as comfortable as we’d want, it can’t really be classified as luxurious although that depends on your viewpoint I guess. Anyway, the SUV itch was scratched and I didn’t want another SUV in its place, luxury or not. So that ruled out all the X? models, the GL? models etc. We didn’t consider them at all, so never took a test drive or even enquired about the price for these vehicles. I was very clear that my next car would be a sedan. My wife was of the same opinion too, thankfully, so it didn’t need any convincing on my part.

Moreover, my daughter is now grown up (wow when did that happen?) and is getting ready to head to distant shores for higher education. My nephews, who generally used to accompany us on our frequent road trips, are grown up too (the elder one is even working now! Time really flies!) and fitting all of them even in the XUV was not comfortable any more. The last row is not meant for anyone above the age of 12 at most. So the idea of all of us travelling together in one car is no longer going to work. We certainly had some great road trips over the years with all seven of us (three kids, four adults) in the car. My elder nephew and daughter both now prefer driving their own cars so that is another reason why I didn’t want a large SUV.

While budget wasn’t a great constraint, I didn’t want to spend upwards of a crore for something I really wouldn’t need. The Home Minister was happy about this decision too!

Which car?

Mercedes Benz C Class

During our childhood back in the 90s, an “imported luxury” car meant a Mercedes Benz. Period. There were no BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo et al during those times. So a Merc is kind of ingrained in our psyche as THE luxury car. For me, the peak of “arrived”ness is driving a Merc. Even now. It is probably the same with most of our generation. Obviously, the first car I considered was a Merc C class, as the E was too big. To be honest, I never thought I’d even test drive another car. I had decided in my mind that I would buy the C300d and I thought that was that. So we drive down to the Mercedes showroom which is close to our home. Find that there is no C300d available for test drive anywhere! There is a C220d though and the rep insists that I take a test drive stating that I’d be impressed with that model as well. Out comes the car and although I’ve seen the car earlier too (I mean on the road being driven by someone else), its drop dead gorgeous looks floors me again. If it looks this good from the outside, then the inside should just blow me away. And it does. No question. Merc does luxury better than anyone else. That pin stripe dashboard looks very cool in real life, although it looks a bit cheesy in photos. And that giant 12” hi res screen running MBUX! Just awesome! He spends about ten minutes explaining the various features to us in the parking lot. I’m impatient to take it out and simply nod my head to everything he says.

Finally, we go out on the new six lane Mysore highway and the car behaves just like I expect it to. Smooth, refined, no drama. The rep sitting next to me asks me to floor it on a nearly empty stretch and I need no second invitation. The car quickly hits three digits and there is very little noise inside. In fact, if the 120 kmph bell didn’t go off, I wouldn’t even know I was doing that speed. The power delivery is linear and sedate. Maybe I’m in Comfort mode. I check the screen and indeed it says Comfort. I change it to Sports and floor it again. Not a huge difference, but certainly the acceleration is better and the steering stiffer.

We return to the showroom after about 20 minutes of driving. In between, we have said Hello to every single road hump! Small humps, medium humps, the car insists on greeting every one of them. When we come to an XL wala hump, the rep cautions me to do the crab walk. I look askance at him and he says there is a special underbody plate that ensure no damage happens to the car in case of scraping. So I ask him how long does that protection last. He says about 3 to 5 years depending on how many humps you cross. And then? It seems the protection needs to be changed and it will cost a bomb. Nobody ever mentioned this juicy bit of info anywhere!

Now comes the downer. Wife and daughter have been sitting in the back seat throughout and they are of the opinion that the back seat is no great shakes. “My knees hit the front seat” complains my daughter. She is quite a bit taller than my wife. Takes after me, I guess. Both of them say there is no special feeling in the rear seat. The front seats have no such problem though. I feel very comfortable driving and the shotgun seat looks good too.

Next problem. The boot space. Calling it “sad” is probably an understatement. “Non-existent” is more appropriate. The spare tyre takes up seemingly about 50% of the available space. Why Mercedes? Why? Was it so difficult to design the spare tyre to be below the floor? Even the entry level sedans do that. So forget about long trips with two large suitcases. Fitting even one medium suitcase seems to be an issue here.

Anyway, we are done with the test drive and return home with mixed feelings. I’m still gung ho for it (actually I’m in love with the big screen, brilliant graphics and all the latest tech in car), but the ladies are not convinced. So you know where this is going already.

Finally, I check with the rep about the price and delivery period. He says there won’t be much in the way of discounts, maybe a few tens of thousands only. The delivery period depends on the model and colour. I say 300d and colour we can decide later. He says the minimum wait period will be four to five months. A 220d may be available earlier but still about 45 days. I did expect some waiting period but five months is not acceptable to me.

BMW 330 Li

Meanwhile, my wife’s classmate has bought a Beemer 330i after two years or so of owning a Merc C200. So we check with them as to why they took this decision. They say “Two reasons. Rear seat is just OK for this price range and the useless boot.” Huh. So we decide to at least visit the BMW showroom before going ahead with the C. We land there one Saturday afternoon. Warm reception, friendly staff, instant attention. Unlike the Merc showroom where we had to wait for ten minutes looking around the cars on display before someone even asked what we were interested in. Now, I as a driver and enthusiast certainly know what I can expect from the BMWs. I have driven my friend’s X5 a couple of times, so the expectation is set. The rep tells me something interesting. BMW is refreshing the entire line next year (some like the XM and the new 340i have been announced now, more models probably by the time you read this) and the current line is limited to only stocks they already have. I say I’m looking at the 330i and he says those are no longer available. He says there are two 330 Li ready for delivery. One black Luxury line and one silver M Sport. Unfortunately the test drive vehicle is out being molested by someone else. So we look around some more, get some more gyaan about the Li and he says he will send the car around next day to our home for the test drive. I reluctantly agree, as I’m kind of a “here and now” guy.

He sends me a few images of when the car was on display in the showroom, as a precursor of what we can expect.

He has sensed our apprehension of the rear seat along with the boot space and points out the various differences between this and the C class. He spends more time talking about the rear seat comfort, the acres of additional leg space and the reasonably large boot space than anything else!

Right on time the next day, the car turns up at home. A bit battered looking I must say. Scrapes on the fenders, dents on one of the panels, etc. All extra visible because the car is pure white. It has run 18K+ kms on test runs! The poor thing must be one abused specimen. The interior though is pretty neat and looks good in that Cognac Brown shade. The service station must be working overtime on the interiors!

I want an apple to apple comparison, so we trace the exact same route we did earlier in the Merc. First surprise. This car doesn’t scrape on any of the road humps we meet on the way. Small, medium, large, XL. No problem at all, as long as you take it reasonably slow with the larger ones. The smaller ones are not an issue at all. No need to do the crab walk either. I find this incredible given that the car is much longer than the regular 330i or the Merc C. I ask the guy who has brought the car and he says the ground clearance is much better in this one. Around 160mm to be precise. Merc doesn’t give out ground clearance numbers officially, but I’d put it around the 120-130mm range given how it was behaving.

Next up, I floor the throttle in the same location as earlier. And we are literally pushed back in the seat! All 258 horses start prancing at once and we are up in the 150s in absolutely no time at all! The gong is going crazy and both wife and daughter are holding on for dear life! I never felt anything like this in the Merc! Ah, for this rush and this alone, I am willing to change my mind! I’m now sporting a grin like

Test drive done and the rep calls me after some time. Says he can offer some good discount if I confirm booking in a day or two. This is pure sales talk to get rid of his inventory before the refresh, but hey I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The new 3 series has a larger screen with the upgraded iDrive 8 OS. It is already all over Youtube and I can see what I’m going to miss if I buy this one now. Now comes the sweetener. The car on offer is a top of the line M Sport version. Not the lower Luxury line. 18″ wicked rims, M sport steering, scuff plates, ///M badging, the works. And they are throwing in several accessories like the add-on wireless charger (which for some incomprehensible reason BMW has decided to take away from the car), floor mats, LED door lights projecting the BMW logo onto the ground, the mild and very good car perfume, etc. All this with an immediate delivery. So no waiting at all.

So I discuss this with our CA and with his reluctant approval (are CAs ever enthusiastic about anything??), I go ahead and book it. The car will be delivered in a week’s time, mostly because of the RTO registration process.

I still have a soft corner for the Merc and would have bought it if it had had a faster delivery period, ignoring the boot space issue and the lack of back seat comfort. That’s the hold the brand has over me. Merc is losing customers like me, I hope they recognize this.

And the XUV?

It is with a heavy heart that we take the decision to sell our trusted steed. We don’t want three cars in the house for three people and anyway the steed is showing its age. It has served us superbly in the decade it was with us. It has taken us in and out of places I wouldn’t dare take a low slung sedan.

Somewhere near Rameshwaram, right down at the edge of the rocky beach, May 2022

Somewhere in the Western Ghats, bad roads and very foggy conditions, October 2016

Somewhere in Coorg district, August 2015

But we still have to let go of it. Both the Merc and BMW dealers evaluated the car and offered a very similar value, around 5.5L. I was not convinced, it hasn’t run much only around 62K kms in nearly 10 years. I have looked after it like my second baby and don’t want to undervalue it.

So I check with Cars24 and Spinny. Appointments for valuation are booked and the guy from Cars24 comes in first. He does a thorough check, points all kinds of instruments at it, pokes in weird places, peers into small gaps, takes a small test drive and pronounces the car in good condition. They will revert with a price by the next day, as it is a bit late in the evening when the poking and prodding happens.

The Spinny guy turns up the next day too and conducts a very similar operation on the car. In fact, the steps he takes are so much the same, I ask him if they are trained in some common school for this. He says there is a lot of cross employment, so the methods will be the same. Finally he too concurs on the car’s fitness and says someone from the office will revert with a price.

Apparently the way it works in both places is that they put up the car for online auction to registered re-sellers. These people bid for the car after looking at the extremely detailed report the inspector generated. The highest bid obviously wins and that amount is what is conveyed to the seller.

Cars24 reverts with a price of 7.6L and Spinny hems and haws for another day. They revert with a much lesser price, 6.25L. I’m sure the most of same re-sellers will be registered with both companies and they will see the same car up for auction on both sites. So they’ll probably know what is being quoted by other re-sellers for the car on both sites. I wonder why there is such a big difference in price. Maybe one gives them some benefit over the other? Whatever, I decide to sell it off to Cars24, a no-brainer decision if ever there was one.

The process is so smooth, once the decision is made. Another guy visits me with all the documents required, gets them signed and leaves them with me. These are to be handed over to the person who comes to collect the car. The car is to be handed over only after the full payment has been credited to my account. The driver comes around in the evening to take the car away, conducts a mini inspection to ensure everything is as mentioned in the original report. He then contacts their coordinator and confirms that all is well. Within seconds, I get the money transferred to my account! As simple as that! I hand over the keys and documents to the driver and he drives away with my heart going out after him, telling him to take good care of it, ensure it goes to someone who will love it as much as I have. Bye bye dear car

D Day!

I consult our local temple priest for a delivery date, he says Sunday 18th Dec is best. So I call the dealership and confirm the date with them. “It’ll be ready sir” he says. Thankfully the wait is only a few days, so no long period of dreaming about the car! Sunday rolls around and we take delivery in the morning. We meet another owner who has come for taking a 2 series sedan home and we congratulate each other on the respective cars.

Driving it out of the delivery area, my first drive in my car

“No further driving until the pooja is completed” says High Command and we wait until the evening for this event. The pooja is duly performed at the Ganesha temple inside our apartment complex and the car is blessed. May it give us years of happiness and sheer driving pleasure!

The iPhone Night Mode photography is awesome, it was quite dark. And the car looks sweet, doesn’t it?

Once the pooja is completed, I take the car out for a drive on the NICE road near our home, along with my daughter and the two excited nephews (who were like “Are you serious? A BMW??” when I first told them). I put the car in Sports mode and floor the throttle. And hear absolute screams of delight from all three of them! This in itself has made it worth the money!

A quick photo shoot

I take the car to office the next day (a rare occurrence as I travel almost exclusive by Metro given the convenient location of both our home and the office) and take a few photos at the parking lot next door.

Continue reading BHPian stryker’s review of his BMW 330Li for more insights and information.

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