coupes have been known for stylishness and igniting a passion for driving since the earliest days of the automaker. Its revamped 2007 3-Series coupe continues that tradition.
Chicago's Near North Side and affluent suburbs just wouldn't be the same without many BMW
3-Series models running around.
The rear-drive 3-Series line, with its sedan, convertible and wagon models, long has been BMW
's top-selling model, although the last-generation coupe has had a 1999 design.
LIKES: New looks. Available all-wheel drive. New twin-turbo engine.
DISLIKES: Long clutch throw. Somewhat notchy shift action. Rather tight rear seat.
The new generation 3-Series sedan and wagon were redesigned for 2006, and the coupe typically follows those versions by about a year with sportier styling.
A new 3-Series convertible probably won't arrive until the 2008 model year. And the higher-performance M3 model has been dropped for 2007, although it returns in a year with V-8 power.
The slightly longer, wider new coupe is more rakish than the 3-Series sedan, with such items as a long, more aggressively sculpted hood, new BMW
"kidney-shaped grille," Xenon headlights, reverse L-shaped taillights and a low, sleek roofline that seamlessly slopes into the trunk.
The new car also is more powerful than its predecessor. And it's offered for the first time with an all-wheel drive system, which goes to the 328xi model. The advanced system enhances agility and stability on dry and slippery roads, besides optimizing traction.
The 335i version has the world's first inline (not V-shaped) six-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers. The 3-liter engine produces 300 horsepower and loads of neck-snapping torque. It tops the 255 horsepower inline six in the new 2006 3-Series coupe.
My test 328i test coupe had the regular 3-liter inline six with 230 horsepower, quite a jump from the 184-horsepower inline six previously offered in the base 3-Series coupe. The 328xi has the same engine.<
All versions of the new coupe are fast. The 300-horsepower model does 0-60 mph in 5.3-5.5 seconds, and the 230-horsepower version hits 60 mph in 6.2-6.8 seconds, with the faster numbers gotten with the manual gearbox.
All have a standard six-speed manual gearbox that's smooth but has a shifter that occasionally gets notchy when rushed. It works with BMW
's typical long-throw clutch.
Optional is a six-speed "Steptronic" automatic transmission that replaces a five-speed unit and has normal, sport and manual shift modes. The 335i can be equipped with optional steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters if you order the Sport Package.
The 3-Series coupe has sharp steering, a supple sport suspension and powerful brakes with good pedal feel. Nearly 50/50 weight distribution helps handling, as does the new 5-link rear suspension.
My test car had a keyless engine start feature, with a "start-stop" button that started the engine when the "ignition key" was inside the car and the clutch was depresed.
Estimated fuel economy of the 230-horsepower engine is 20 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway with the manual transmission and 21 and 29 with the automatic. The figures are 19 city and 29 highway with the turbo engine and manual and 20 and 29 with the automatic.
The 328i lists at $35,300, while the 328xi costs $37,100. The 335i is priced at $40,600.
All 3-Series models are precisely built premium cars, so they're nicely equipped with comfort, convenience and safety features.
Standard items include leatherette upholstery and automatic climate control with separate left/right temperature settings. Front side air bags and head-protecting side air bags for both seating rows also are standard -- as is an enhanced stability control system; it even has a brake drying feature that optimizes brake performance when it's wet by using the brake pads to periodically dry the brake discs.
Options include heated front seats, leather upholstery, rear obstacle detection and adaptive cruise control, which maintains a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead. There's also a navigation system, but it requires that you order BMW
's complex iDrive control system.
The 3-Series coupe has room for four tall adults in its quiet cockpit, although there's little room to spare in the rear, where two individual seats are separated by a console. A center armrest makes things more comfortable in the rear, which requires athletic moves to reach despite efforts made to allow easier access.
My test car had a rear ashtray -- an unusual item when found even up front these days. (At least it prevents rear-seat smokers from using a portable ashtray -- or worse.)
Front seats are supportive for spirited driving, and all-around visibility is good from the driver's position. An easily read new instrument cluster includes an oil temperature gauge put below the tachometer; BMW
knows that many of the car-savvy drivers who like a 3-Series model will appreciate that gauge. Cupholders that pop out from the dashboard can be used easily.
The large trunk has a wide opening and a lined lid that opens smoothly on hydraulic struts.
The hood glides open on hydraulic struts to reveal an engine compartment with lots of plastic covers. Most fluid filler containers are easily reached, but one is almost buried at the rear of the compartment.
The new-generation 3-Series coupe has been a long time coming. But it's significantly new enough to have made it worth the wait.