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BMW 3-Series AWD vs. BMW 5-Series AWD

bruceomegabruceomega Posts: 250
edited March 2014 in BMW
I posted a similar question in the 5 series forum as well. Can anyone comment on the ride quality of the 530Xi versus the 330Xi? Is the 5 series any smoother, or more compliant? Corollary question, how does the handling and agility of the 530Xi compare to the 330Xi?



  • Hi, I just bought a 2004 330xi with the Sport Package, therefore it has the sport seats. I drove it from CO to CA and I could never get the seats comfortable for me. The issue is that there is a built in lumbar support which you can alter a lot of ways, but it is still built in somewhat. That is great for people who might fit the curvature of their back where the lumbar support is, but I am only 5'4" and the lumbar support is in a bad spot for me and I couldn't ever get the seat to feel good on my back the whole drive, so my back is killing me and was the majority of the drive, no matter how many times I adjusted it a million ways. From what I have read on the web, most think the sport seats are very comfortable, but they all mention they are tall people. So my guess is that the comfort of the sport seats might have to do with your height. If you're tall, they appear to be more comfortable.

    That is my experience with the sport seats. If I could choose now, I'd choose the comfort seats.

    I hope this helps.
  • Have 2006 530xi & 33i. The sports seats in 330i suit my 5'2" wife wonderfully. They are very uncomfortable to me (6'). The 530xi with comfort seats is good for both of us.
  • I used the search function but did not find specific information on this. Is there a difference in the ride quality between the 530Xi and the current model 330Xi?

    Correspondingly, is there a difference in handling and responsiveness?

  • The wheelbase differences alone account for differences, not that that alone is a bad thing.

    I would expect the 3 series to handle better.

    I would expect the 5 series to ride better.

    But, "better" is a relative term -- for some what is considered technically better, may be personally more or less responsive or comfortable.

    If possible could you be more specific, and if possible I'll attempt to respond. If I can't, I would assume there are others who can respond to your question.
  • Thanks for the response. Reason I am asking is I am looking for contingency options if I can't solve the harsh ride issue I am having with my 2006 330Xi. Its a great car, except the bottoming out on even moderate sized bumps is causing me to have second thoughts on keeping it. I do not have an issue with the firmness of the ride, but its the jarring, bone rattling bottoming out on real world roads that I find unacceptable on a car at this level.

    The Edmunds forums have been very helpful in idenfiying the RFTs as the likely culprit, and a change in brands from Bridgestones to Continentals may mitigate the issue. If not, I want to explore what other AWD cars have similar handling but ride less harshly.

  • BMW's X sedans (5X and 3X currently, but soon to be joined by a 7X) do NOT offer sport packages in the sense that most companies use the term. The sport package on a RWD 3 or 5 actually includes firmer springs, swaybars, "shocks" and lower profile, stiffer and larger wheels and tires.

    The X versions, in contrast, use Sport Package to mean, "Sport Appearance" or Sport-Like, but if you have issues with the 3X and 5X which have the "comfort" set up in terms of the suspension and tire/wheel bits (although these BMW's with the sport set ups, usually do have plus sized wheels/tires which do improve the turn in and probably does degrade, somewhat, the ride quality) you would probably really dislike a true sport package option.

    That is, if you don't like your 3 series ride, noise, vibration and harshness or whatever it is you don't like, you would really NOT like it if it had a true Sport Package -- or so it would seem, for some folks notice EVERYTHING when they have a sport suspension.

    The longer wheelbase of the 5X may soften things up a bit, but perhaps -- if you can afford this -- a tire swap would be an approach that would have merit before you made the much bigger financial plunge of getting out of your current car, most probably with a depreciation hit to the wallet.

    I regret NOT having the sport suspension in my 2005 Audi A6, but I did get the ultra low profile wheels and tires thinking it would be a good compromise of ride and handling.

    In my case, I would have preferred the slightly stiffer sport suspension -- and it was only $250 more.

    My wife has an X3 with a true sport package and it can be bone jarring on pock-marked roads, but usually the extra stiffness is appreciated by the two of us.

    At this point, I can tell you I have driven both the 3 and 5 and I found the 530xi that I drove to be every bit a quiet and comfortable as my Audi A6 -- but, as I recall, the 5X had 17" wheels on it, and I thought the darn thing was under-tired. My assumption, though, is that the 17" wheels were fitted with slightly higher profile tires and that alone has been known to make a difference.

    Trial and more test drive and a possible tire swap may be all you can do. Getting about $800 worth of tires (mounted and balanced perfectly, etc may make this a bit more) and trying them out is "an option" you may want to at least consider all things being equal.

    The 330XI vs the 530XI have many similarities and almost as many differences. I would expect the 530 to feel somewhat less responsive -- 'cause it is. I would expect the ride to be better in the 5, but the handling less crisp than the 3.

    You gives and you gets, that is.

    I've read about these RFT's, and they seem to be either not liked or folks are neutral about them. Rarely have I seen any praise heaped on them.

    I hope this helps in some small way. :shades:
  • Interesting, we have a 2006 X3 that is my wife's car. We specifically avoided the sports package, but did get the optional 18" wheels (without the stiffer suspension). Our X3 has the same model tires as my 330Xi, Bridgestone EL42s, but they are not RFTs and are slightly higher profile (50 vs 45). Our X3 does not bottom out on the bumps that my 330Xi does, and I like it's ride.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I am really having a difficult time with the language that you are using to describe the problems you are experiencing with your E90. When you say "Bottom Out" do you mean:

    1) The nose and/or tail drag on the pavement when you transition from, say, a steep driveway to a crowned road?
    2) The central portion of the body pan of the car scrapes on the ground when traversing a particularly nasty speed bump?
    3) Any portion of the underside of the car makes contact with the road surface when the car is forced down against its springs such as from a dip in the road?
    4) The suspension components "bottom out" against their rebound or "jounce" bumpers individually or collectively when rough road surfaces are encountered?

    Best Regards,
  • I may not be using the right terminology, but number 4 above is what I am trying to convey. I am not experiencing any of 1, 2, or 3.

    Basically, if I go over a moderate size or larger road irregularity (pot hole, discontinuity in road surface, freeze/thaw heaving, construction bumps, etc.), which is common in my area, and at the same speeds as the other traffic, then my 330Xi will have a sudden jolt that jars the car, makes a loud disconcerting noise, and feels like the suspension has reached the limits of travel and is slamming into the body.

    On smaller irregularities, the ride is pleasantly firm and the car does not bottom out.

    I don't have this problem with our X3.

    We previously had a pair of 2001 330Xi's. They could be a bit firm, and could hit the suspension limits on the infrequent really bad bump, but they did not bottom out on more normal bumps like my current 330Xi.

    I have an example if that would help. If I am driving north on the Geroge Washington Parkway in Northern Virginia, and I go under the 14st bridge, before the exit for Memorial Bridge there is an overpass. The overpass is concrete and the parkway itself is macadam. Where the parkway road surface meets the concrete overpass, there is a lip, or discontinuity in height especially in the left lane. This is the normal road condition, has been this way for a long time. If I go over this lip at 50 - 60 mph in my 330Xi, the prevailing traffic speed, the car shudders. To avoid this, I need to slow down to about 30 mph, in which case I feel the bump but the car does not bottom out. The problem is the other traffic does not need to slow down for this, and they ride right up on my tail and honk their horn.

    Is there a better term to use than bottoming out?

    FYI, I just ordered a set of the Continental OEM all season RFTs from Tirerack, hoping they will help mitigate the issue.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    Without driving your car and experiencing the problem for myself I'd say that the new tires you have on order will probably offer you no relief from this problem (unless one of your current RunFlats is, well, flat). Why? Because my bet is that you have a suspension problem, specifically I'm guessing that you have a bad strut (I'm assuming that you only feel the suspension reaching the limits of its travel in the front end).

    I'm thinking that you should insist that your dealer should identify and replace the bad strut(s). If they balk at doing that I would then insist that the service manager drive with you over the bump you described, both in your car and in another 330xi. If that doesn't illustrate the problem well enough to them, then it will be time to escalate this problem to BMW-NA.

    There are no "ifs, ands or buts" about this situation; your suspension should not be reaching the limits of its travel with such a trivial road surface imperfection.

    Best Regards,
  • Shipo,

    I think checking the car for suspension damage is a very good idea, thank you, as the air pressure is fine. I took my car in to the dealer on 8 Aug and they rotated the tires and did an alignment. The service note said something about a minor adjustment in the suspension, but I don't know how telling that is w.r.t. damage / bad strut.

    My salesman, who has always been helpful, is trying to link me up with what I think is the general manager of the dealership (he's above the service manager), so I can talk directly with him about the problem I am having and to ask them to do a thorough check for damage.

    Your opinion that the new tires may not solve the harshness problem agress with that of Tirerack. I do have a secondary problem with road noise, that I am told is caused by cupping on the current tires, so I'm hoping the Continentals will at least help with that. Tirerack thinks they will.

  • To follow up, I posted in the RFT thread that replacing the Bridgestones with Continental OEM RF tires really helped with the issues I was having. Didn't make my 330Xi a Lexus (thank goodness), but it did make the car civil, so I don't have an immediate need for an alternative vehicle.

    However, I am still curious about the differences between the 3 and 5 series AWDs in case I get the new car bug in the future. The 330Xi is no longer listed on the BMW web site, but from what I remember their web site showed the 530Xi and 330Xi having identical front seat leg room and identical weights, even though the 5 series is a slightly larger car. Does that make sense?

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    The weights between the E60 and the E90 are indeed nearly identical (assuming similar engine and trim levels) as the E60 uses a significant amount of aluminum throughout the body. In fact, IIRC, the entire front end including all weight bearing members are made out of aluminum. The E90 is primarily made out of steel and as such is heavier for its size.

    In the case of the 5er, the benefits of using the aluminum are quite obvious; however, there are potential issues with getting one fixed should it get crunched. Most body shops, even high end ones, have little problem dealing with steel body parts, however, working with aluminum just ain't the same. When Audi and BMW first started offering more widely available aluminum cars I heard that the insurance companies were charging higher rates vis-à-vis similar cars with steel bodies. Those reports are now a couple of years old so it might could well be that the learning curve is over and the rates have come down, however, it is indeed something to consider (and ask your insurance agent about) prior to opting for a new 5-Series.

    Best Regards,
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,622
    V, try putting a cushion on the seat to boost your position into the seat better. This is an old trick when bench seats where still in cars.

  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,622
    Bruce, I also own the '06 330 xi with SP (appperance,seats) and have the same sense of the harshness but It does not bother me. The RFT's are deffinately part of the issue but any other RFT would be the same. You can opt out of the RFT and add a donut spare and your ride quality will improve greatly. (When I had a flat on my RFT, I still have the old tire I replaced back in March. The sidewall is extremely thick which allows the car to run on 0 pressure.)

    I borrowed an '06 330i (non-sp)from the dealer for 1,000 miles and it rode a lot smoother than my car on the same EL42's but I noticed my car did have a handling advantage. I think the xi's are tuned to the xdrive with firmer suspension but need to get more info on that as more experience is known.

    I am eager to know if the 5 xi has the same ride quality or better from someone also.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,622
    Good! No suspension damage, just the super-hard EL42's! I sensed this in my car. I plan to run my tires to 20G and replace with the best RFT option at that time. I definatly "Bottom Out" by reaching the extent of the suspension travel on one particular highway irregularity on RTE 9 in Sayerville NJ that catupults anything in the cup holder out and onto the floor but is aonly a minor event in my Yuokon Denali. It is even more telling regarding the suspension setup in these cars because they are about an inch higehr than the stock 330i setup.

    Have agreat ride with your car now that you are more satisfied. Don't you love the handling though?
  • Yes, I definitely like the handling, quickness, agility, ....

    Just took my first road trip today. On top of all the performance plusses, it is also reasonably quiet and comfortable, with a very good sound system.

  • 3er xi sedan only available in one model as 328xi
  • Hey Bruce,
    What mileage are you up to on the Conti's? My 06 325xi is in, ready for pick up. I will be starting on Conti's (they are taking off the Bridgestones). They might charge 100, but, sounds worth it? Here's my last chance to bail on this deal? Words of wisdom? Sorry, didn't mean to high jack the thread.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,622
    You ment coupe only available as 328xi.
  • bpl360,

    I would guess I have about 700 miles on the Continentals. My experience to date is just as some others have posted, much better than the Bridgestones for ride quality and quietness.

  • In the wings a 335 sedan and in the +1 year from now (or perhaps a bit less) wings, a 335xi sedan and coupe.

    As an Audi lover, it seemed a lot like driving an S4 that was at least $7000 less and got better gas mileage.

    The 335xi sedan should be a threat to the Audi line up A4/S4 range -- ain't competition great!?! :shades:
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,622
    It would be but I think BMW dropped the ball because I sso no 335xi on the horizon unless it is a secret. They offer only 328 xi for 2007 with 230 HP. No threat to Audi RS4 in the power department.
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