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BMW 330Ci - Mena'ge-a-trois

Wink from a total stranger, a peck on the cheek, violent sex in the elevator... hmm, brief encounters can range from rank silly to achingly memorable. And I was in the middle of one. Ahead of me, an inline six that displaces 3000-odd CC for a living, was churning out all that it could in fourth gear. No roof meant I could easily make out that the BMW had barely lifted its skirt... I mean,the exhaust burble was still a burble and not that never-ending snarl. I crested the Bandra flyover that connects to the up and coming sea-link at speeds that could keep me behind the bars for a minimum of three years. It was really wonderful.

Suddenly the Beemer was a giant-wheel bucket and I, an amused kid watching well lit, multi colour, advertising hoardings go in circles. Exiting the flyover at just above 150 kph, I lifted off... paused a nanosecond to let the rev needle settle down and then, down-shifted. The same needle jumped up as if it was made from highly erectile tissue and the above-mentioned snarl now bounced off my ear drums. Power and torque are two words that mean a great deal more when you can actually feel and hear them – especially since traction control systems don’t allow tyres to smoke like they once used to. Someone in Munich did their homework right, if the BMW 330 Ci is anything to go by.Don’t get me wrong. I was not going to go all the way with this strange little 3-Series convertible. Even you wouldn’t want to do that if you have had your share of fun with a full-blown M3 not so long ago. 



While that 340 bhp automobile demanded respect – sweat on the brow and all that – you can flog this, the 231 bhp (and 30 kgm of torque) topless cousin day in and day out and people around you will still think you are the otherwise sane bloke who has a thing or two for fast cars.So what is this 330 Ci doing in this magazine, other than, of course, playing the perfect-slurpy-carnival-candy for greedy me? Oh well, the fact that you can actually buy one if you have Rs 35 odd lakh to spare, is a good explanation. Why would you want one when a weather protected C-Class Mercedes can be yours for well under Rs 25 lakh is a question that can be termed valid or invalid, depending on whether you have money, taste or both in abundance.But then you are missing the point – it can be a collector’s item.

The current generation BMW 3 Series is from the last of the line of good looking cars from Munich. It is not Chris Bangled much and that means no unwanted, attention grabbing lines. Instead the 330 Ci boasts a solid, athletic, proud silhouette with ‘purposeful’ written eight columns across it. So what is its purpose? To get you bald fast. Very fast. With an inline six up front powering rear wheels, an impeccably put together electric fabric roof and a top speed of about 240 kph, this BMW can very well be termed one of the finest convertibles in the world. And we have not yet mentioned the word ‘handling.’ Our test car came wearing 18-inch wheels and tyres thin enough in profile to make  Katrina Kaif envious. And that meant the ride quality on our roads was not exactly catwalk perfect, especially when you encounter potholes. But those Pirellis stick to asphalt and concrete like leeches to human skin and even extremely lunatic behaviour behind that crafted steering wheel couldn’t get them distracted. Not one bit. Of course, under the 3 Series skin lies a lot of technology that brakes, compresses, squeezes and damps all the time, so that you look like a superhero behind the wheel. Body roll... what is that? Pitch? Why are you talking cricket here? Alright, if at all something goes wrong – you see, the sun can rise from the west if you insist – you do get half dozen airbags and a roll-over bar to ensure that the only thing that is bruised is your ego. 

From the black leather cocooned interior, I gripped and turned  the wheel as if it was a PlayStation unit with boosted up realtime force- feedback, and the BMW went around corners as if that was its sole reason for existence. To sum up, this is not exactly the most practical car for Mumbai, or for that matter anywhere in the world. It is too expensive, since it has to come though the non-homologated, dealer route. And there are a dozen other cars that a similar amount of money will buy and some of them might even have a performance edge over the 330.But this is the car you buy to change gears and listen to the groovy exhaust bit – even when it is pouring. This the car you want to drive to a thousand sunsets. This is the car to have the best of brief encounters in.