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BMW 3-Series AWD - Pros and Cons

aschribeaschribe Posts: 2
I'm considering buying a 330i and hesitate only for the lack of AWD. I've heard competing things about AWD in this car. On the one hand I've heard that it really does enhance traction in the 2-3 months/year when there's sometimes snow on the ground (New Jersey). On the other hand, some seem to think it's overrated for improving traction and actually contributes to poorer performance in normal driving conditions. My current car is a 1999 Honda Accord and I'm perfectly happy with it's snowy-weather performance. Any advice appreciated.


  • dave330idave330i Posts: 893
    Get yourself a set of snow tires and you'll be fine with 330i. No need to carry around 200 lbs of ballast all-year.
  • i'm not sure which part in NJ you are in, but from my experience we can get some pretty nasty storms. i'm working in CT now, keep going to NJ on weekends. i went with the XI. yes it heavier, but thats another advantage in winter.
  • dsurtidsurti Posts: 9
    i agree with dave330i

    i'm from NJ and i've had a 2001 330xi and a 325ci .. while the 330xi did give some extra traction, with its V rated all-seasons, stopping performance in the snow was poor, especially downhill

    with my 325ci, i had a set of sport tires on it for most of the year with snow tires on it during the winter.. the snows were enough to get me around in my daily driver, and it stopped much better than the 330xi, something that depends on your tires, not the drivetrain

    while the 330xi would give you some added traction, i still felt that it needed snow tires to fully utilize the awd system; during the rest of the year, handling wasn't like the 325ci.. the 330xi certainly handled well, but the 325ci was more fun; the extra 150-200 lbs in the 330xi also slowed it down a bit..

    IMO, get the 330 with sport package (sport tires sport suspension) and buy yourself a set of snow tires..
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,664
    while the 330xi would give you some added traction, i still felt that it needed snow tires to fully utilize the awd system; during the rest of the year, handling wasn't like the 325ci.. the 330xi certainly handled well, but the 325ci was more fun; the extra 150-200 lbs in the 330xi also slowed it down a bit..

    IMO, get the 330 with sport package (sport tires sport suspension) and buy yourself a set of snow tires..

    The 2006 330xi SP does not alter the stock suspension but I have one and it handles phenominally...drove a 330i standard suspension and my car felt more planted.
  • abfischabfisch Posts: 591
    Personally, I would get the 328 manual with the sports package, use the Honda for the winter with snows, pay for the car cash, and put the rest away for a rainy day.

  • Many years ago, I switched from RWD to FWD based on driving experiences in the Washington DC metro area and weekend journeys to mid Atlantic ski resorts. Around here, ice, sleet and freezing rain pose a real problem. Everything else being equal, I found FWD much more reassuring for me than RWD on icy roads, and less worrisome than RWD on snow covered roads; e.g., when the drive wheels on FWD lose traction, the rear end does not kick sideways.

    For many years, I never considered owning a BMW becasue they were RWD. I understand the advantages of RWD, and am not saying RWD is bad. But I only have one car and want to use it all year long in any condition, so for my own preferences and priorities, RWD is not a good choice for me.

    When I started looking for a new car circa 2003, I initially focused on the Acura TL. But then I read how the TL is fine up to a point, but beyond that point the FWD was a limiting factor, so I considered the G35x, but did not like the interior at all. I looked at the Audi A4 quatro, but then started reading about the BMW 330Xi which supposedly retained the feel of a RWD sports sedan in an AWD configuration.

    I test drove a previously ownded 330Xi and I was immediately sold. We bought a pair of 2001 330Xis, one for my wfe and one for myself. They had summer tires, and on several occasions I ran into problems on snowy / icy roads, so AWD by itself is not a panacea. But, there were a couple of critical times where I was able to maneuver the car out of trouble with the AWD, and do not think I could have done that with RWD, so I am a big fan of AWD.

    We started having trouble with the 2001 330Xis after the original warranty expired, and I did not buy an extended warranty when I purchased the cars. So, in January of this year we decided to trade both of them in for new models with new warranties. I liked what I read about the new X drive AWD, and we bought an X3 for my wife and a 330Xi for myself. We both love the sportiness of driving these vehicles combined with what we consider the reassurance of AWD.

  • I have decided that AWD is a good feature to have if you live in areas with a snowy/icy winter. My question is quite simple. Do any of you have any opinion on which wagon (BMW AWD or Audi Quattro) is the better all around year long family car? Driving conditions will be through the heat of summer and extreme cold and snow of winter. Any experiences or thoughts?
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,664
    I agree with Bruce. I bought the 330xi last dec. and love it (despite the EL42 saga). This is the best car I ever drove in the wet/snow. I have had RWD and FWD and find this car to be rewarding despite the RWD vs. AWD debate on handling when it's sunny out!. I leased mine 'cause the technology is way beyong my maintenance capabilities (oil,plugs, wires,rotor, Dist. cap)and also some trained mecchanics capabilities and this will only get more complex. Instead of purchasing additional maintenance coverage, I intend to lease again in approx. 2 more years. It's really not "cheaper to keep her" longer than 3-4 years. I love getting a loaner from my dealer when they need extra time to repair!
  • Thanks Bruce for an insight. I live in DC METRO and due to restructuring finances looking at a good used AWD Bimmer 3. Your post is helping me decide. I am looking at at 01 330xi an d325xi. May have to go with a 325xi just for budget. I wish I had known when you sold , I might have bought one of your xi's ( smile). Although I am curious what recurring issues with your xi's and how better the newer ones feel? Mostly soince I am finding best deals on 2001 ( obviously) right now.
  • msfitnetz,

    I'm at work now, so from fading memory the problems we had with our 2001 330Xi's included window regulators going out, high pressure power steering hose leaks, front suspension problems (lower control arm bushings?), and a broken rear spring with cars that only had about 35,000 miles on them. The kicker was when we started hearing a funny noise when backing up in the automatic transmission car, and the dealer diagnosed it as a transfer case going bad.

    At that point, we traded the pair of 2001's in for a 2006 X3 and a 2006 330Xi.

    The X3 has been a jewel.

    The new 330Xi is a great car, except for the Bridgestone RFTs, and just recently a problem with the steering wheel lock indicator. The car was at the dealer's for 5 days sorting that out, and when I picked it up last night there was a problem with operating the satellite radio. I'm taking it back next Tuesday for them to work on the satellite radio issue (computer reprogramming?).

    If this is any help, we purchased our 2001 330Xis (previously owned) from:

    in Manassas Park. I found they have better prices than BMW dealers for both used car purchase and for repairs, and they do a very good job with repairs.

    If I were to purchase a used BMW again, I would definitely get an extended warrantry to take over coverage after the factory warranty expires.

  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,664

    I lease a 330xi, 36 months. My thinking is that 4 year warrantee covers me and I will not need to extend warrantee after I trade. These cars are great but because of the high tech added each year, complex repairs are costly. I had only one issue with the air bag sensor that failed last March. After a computer re-set and a recurrence, they changed the entire wiring harness inside the steering wheel. No problem now.

    Car had no other problems after 9 months, 10K miles. Really appreciate the performance even with RFT issue. AWD is great in rain/snow.

    If you get a CPO, warrantee covers repairs for some time. Good luck with your decision. Great cars.
  • Hey thanks both to you and Bruce.
    I have checked a few places in my search this long holiday weekend. I have already decided the warranty is amust. Fixed budgeting so I need some little assurance with repairs. I drove another 330xi and I must say. Its like being in a glove and puts a smile on my face. The power is exciting. Although I am sure teh 325xi will work that extra kick is nice. I will check out ( or I hope to today). Carmax has a car with every option I want just overpriced and as we know they will not haggle.
    It seems everyday more cars on the market as people opt out and buy the new one doesn't help my decision any ( too many toys for a girl!).
    I do see more cars up north in NY, NJ and PA. Only concern there is if not garaged. Unfortunately mine will not be but I plan to cover it.

  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,664
    Looks like you appreciate the way these cars become you when you start driving. I feel the same way after 10K. Best car Ive driven so far.

    Good luck with your search. Did you see any CPO cars yet?
  • krzysskrzyss Posts: 848
    "yes it heavier, but thats another advantage in winter."

    mass is rarely an advantage. Most problems are from stopping (or rather not stopping) or loosing control not from being unable to get going.

  • I have owned all the current drive train technologies, RWD, 4WD, FWD, AWD and traction control. I owned cars, trucks and a van. I and tell you this much if you do not know how to drive in snow and ice, it does not matter which drive system you have. Grant it, having AWD and 4WD does help keep you from getting stuck, but if you do not know how they respond or act under various conditions it will not help you.

    I have got them all stuck and some times on purpose. When I was younger, I had available to me a very large parking lots that was not used during the winter since it was a public swimming pool and use that parking to learn how my and my friends cars & trucks would respond to various driving maneuver in snow and such.

    Ok, so I was really doing donuts ;) but I learned how to control a car when it lost control from all the fun. Everything I experienced and learned I still used today.

    The thing I find is people have a false sense of confidence when they have AWD or 4WD they think the vehical is safer or will not get stuck. It all comes down to your driving.

    Traction control is not always the best thing to have. I have gotten stuck more time with the TC turned on and not having it at all. What I found is it work for getting car moving on slick roads but once you have the car rolling turn it off because it can slow your momentum down and when trying to climb a slippery hill keeping the wheel speed up is better.

    Oh course a good set of snow tires and/or chains/cables will never let you down.
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    "I have owned all the current drive train technologies, RWD, 4WD, FWD, AWD and traction control"

    I second your comments. Today however, I would rather have AWD. I don't feel invincible with AWD, but I feel more vincbile than not. I will gladly sacrifice some handling for feelings of security in very deep now. I find it interesting that some people think anyone who has a 4WD or AWD system has a false sense of security. I guess it's better than always worrying about getting stuck or worrying about running off the road.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,664
    Imagine a RWD on a road like this...even with AWD, there are no guarantees.


    Like the title says...

  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    There are never any guarantees, we know that. :P Last winter after a snowstorm dumped several inches+ on the east coast, I went out. I saw three accidents, all within 1/2 mile of one another. Two of the accidents, by an Accord and Camry, just ran off the road at exit ramps. The third was a collision between two cars.

    Did I feel safe in my AWD? Well not really. But I wasn't worried about getting stuck. I know I don't have to say, prudent driving practices need to be followed based on conditions. But with 4 wheels pulling it does help the traction.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,664
    I agree with you and that's why I went with the 330xi last December. I want the best chance for traction during the Norther NJ winters. I really like the difference in the wet as well.

    Although the purists on this board opt for RWD and snows during inclement conditions, I tend to feel as you do and with the added weight, I do not see that much of a performance difference vs. the 330i non-SP. I drove one for 1K miles and actually feel the dry performance in my ride was better than the standard i.

    So far, at the end of this lease in Dec. '08, I will look at the 335xi as it will be in the mainstream and feedback should be good.

    Best Regards,
  • Hi,

    I'm looking at both the 2007 X3 and the 2007 328xit. I like them both. I'd appreciate any recomendations.

  • xeyexeye Posts: 168
    From the grill, it looks like a Lincoln with, no doubt, some idiot behind the wheel with a cell phone stuck in her/his ear.

    Those conditions require complete focus and a slow speed (and overgear, I might add) in any kind of drivetrain configuration.
  • xeyexeye Posts: 168
    If anyone still reads this forum, I have a new 335xi w/17" all-season ContiProContacts and I love it! I haven't driven it in the winter yet, but I don't anticipate any problems. The trick is not going too fast. Pretend you have summer slicks mounted and you'll be safe. Save the acrobatics for dry conditions. There will be those days even in the winter, but remember that your tires and colder and harder and will tend to slide more.

    The 300 hp and 300 lbs of torque will entertain you, I promise! I realized today that I haven't even revved beyond 4700 RPM, and I have so much fun left before 7,000 appears.

    This is one great vehicle!

  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    Don't make me jealous. :)
  • I'm considering '05 325 but looking at the previous posts, seems like the jury is still out there on whether the AWD really trumps over RWD in snowy conditions. I agree that it comes down to the driver but would be very interested to hear about experiences of driving RWD just when it starts snowing on the roads and it tends to be most slippery.

    Concerned Chicago Driver
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,148
    I lived in Chicago for 13 years before spending a dozen in NYC and now another 5 in New Hampshire. The snow, ice and road crap is far worse than what is typical for the Chicago area, especially because of the rolling hills and winding roads around here. That said, my RWD 530i was perfectly in its element when the snow flew with the simple addition of 4 winter tires. Our first winter up here our town got 114" of snow, and that car never missed a beat.

    I told you that as a means of illustrating that you'll do just fine in the Chicago area with a RWD BMW, just remember to buy yourself a set of winter skins (way cheaper than AWD). ;)

    Best Regards,
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 12,246
    My experience mirrors Shipo's; we've had a 1998 3 Series and a 1997 5 Series and both handled the slippery stuff just fine when fitted with winter tires. One time I was driving the 3er in a light drizzle as the temperature dropped below freezing. I wasn't even aware that the road was becoming slick until a Jeep Cherokee in front of me spun 360 degrees and ended up in the median...

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport; 2014 M235i; 2009 Cooper Clubman; 1999 Wrangler; 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2015 X1 xDrive28i Son's: 2009 328i

  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 12,246
    just remember to buy yourself a set of winter skins (way cheaper than AWD).

    Not to mention more fun... :P

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport; 2014 M235i; 2009 Cooper Clubman; 1999 Wrangler; 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2015 X1 xDrive28i Son's: 2009 328i

  • I would have to respectfully disagree that getting RWD and winter tires is way cheaper thatn AWD.
    If you get winter tires, you have the cost of the tires as well as the cost of mounting them prior to winter and switching them back out in the fall. Add up those costs over the years, and things tend to even out. Plus, with AWS there is no hassle of getting teh tires switched out twice a year.

    Just my thoughts, I went with AWD.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,148
    Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. When I said that buying a set of winter tires was way cheaper than paying for the AWD option, what I should have said was "Buying a set of winter wheels AND tires was way cheaper. A complete set of tires and wheels will cost roughly $1,200, and many shops will even store them and swap them twice a year for free.

    In my case, I had a 3 year lease on a 530i SP, and I paid $1,007 for my set of wheels and tires delivered. I then swapped them myself twice a year and stored the off-season set in my basement. When I turned the car back in I found that my factory tires still had between 1mm and 2mm of tread beyond the minimum, and as such I didn't have to spend over $1,200 on a new set of skins before turning the car in. Instant savings of $193. But wait, that's not all! I was then able to turn around and sell the used set of winter wheels and tires for $400.

    When I said "way cheaper", I meant, "way cheaper". ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • We will have to agree to disagree. While your 'best case' scenario has you saving a few hundred bucks (yahooo!!!), many of would not want to store the extra tires, or take the time to change them out twice a year. There is a lot to be said for the convenience factor.

    Also, I doubt a place is going to store 4 sets of tires for you over the course of a few years, and change the tires out twice a year, all for free, just to make profit on the initial tire sale. Just does not seem worth it for them. Maybe you are buddies with them. Plus, who wants to wait around a couple hours everytime you have that done.
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