New generation of coupes is launched.



By Larry Edsall

Introduction
The BMW 3 Series coupes have been completely redesigned for 2007. These all-new, fifth-generation coupes follow on the heels the new BMW 3 Series sedans that were introduced last year.

With sleeker styling and carrying less weight than a four-door sedan, the two-door or coupe version of BMW's 3 Series model has special appeal for drivers who demand sporty driving dynamics but need a back seat and a decent sized trunk.

If you think of a coupe as merely a sedan with two less doors, you need to change your thinking as it applies to BMW. The coupe is nearly two inches longer, more than an inch trimmer and has a roofline that is more than two inches lower than the sedan's. In fact, the only exterior component the coupe shares with the 3 Series sedan is door handles, and the coupe needs only two of them, so right there, one segment of component weight is cut in half.

Handling is sharp, responsive, precise, yet the ride isn't harsh, in spite of the fact that a sport suspension comes as standard equipment.

The 2007 BMW 335i coupe features a new twin-turbocharged engine that puts out 300 horsepower, which makes for the ultimate driving machine. We found it to be an extremely responsive and pleasing car, with none of the turbo lag associated with turbochargers. Meanwhile, the 328xi features all-wheel drive, which enhances traction in wet or snowy weather. A new convertible with a retracting hardtop and the next ultra-high-performance M3 are anticipated for launch in calendar year 2007.


Model Lineup
The 2007 BMW 3 Series coupe is available in three versions: 328i, 328xi, and 335i. Variables among the models include engines, transmissions, drivetrain and standard and optional equipment. The 328i and 335i are rear-wheel drive; the 328xi is all-wheel drive.

The 328i ($35,300) and the 328xi ($37,100) are propelled by a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that pumps out 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. They offer a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

The 335i ($40,600) also has a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, but two small turbochargers and special fuel injectors boost the engine's output to 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. That power flows to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The 335i adds matte 18-inch wheels (vs. 17s on the 328i and 328xi), larger brake discs front and rear, chrome exhaust tips, eight-way power front seats with memory on the driver's side and a 13-speaker Logic 7 audio system.

Safety features that come standard on all 2007 3 Series coupes include frontal, side-impact and side-curtain airbags; dynamic stability control with several advanced braking technologies including one that helps remove water from the brakes in rainy weather, run-flat tires with a tire-pressure monitoring system. The 328xi features BMW's xDrive system for improved stability in adverse conditions.

Standard equipment on all 3 Series coupes includes leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control, xenon headlamps, fog lamps, heated windshield washer nozzles, door handles with ground lighting, adaptive brake lights that alert trailing drivers to harder braking by the BMW driver, a start/stop button rather than a traditional turn-key ignition, power mirrors and windows and locks with remote locking, tilt and telescoping steering column with audio controls on the steering wheel, power front seats, a choice for four interior trims (two shades of walnut, gray poplar or brushed aluminum), a power moonroof, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, front and rear cup holders, fold-down rear seatbacks and a four-year/50,000-mile warranty with free maintenance (including oil changes and wiper blades) and roadside assistance. The rear-wheel-drive 328i and 335i come with Sport suspension much like that which was optional on the previous generation of the 3 Series coupe.

Options include automatic transmission ($1,275), active steering ($1,250), Comfort Access ($500) that allows entry (unlocking) and exit (locking) with the key in your pocket or purse, heated front seats ($500), rear park distance control ($350), active cruise control ($2,200), satellite navigation ($2,100), Sirius satellite radio ($595), leather upholstery ($1,450).

The Sport package ($1,000) includes sport seats with adjustable side bolsters, 18-inch alloy wheels with performance tires. The Premium package ($3,150) includes leather upholstery, digital compass in the interior mirror, universal garage door transceiver, power folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming for all three mirrors, memory seats and four years of BMW assist safety plan that automatically notifies emergency services in a collision as well as providing concierge, traffic, weather and other information; it costs less on the 335i. The cold weather package ($750) includes heated front seats, headlamp washers and a ski bag; it costs less on the 328xi.

     

Walkaround
BMW's design brief for the 2007 3 Series coupe was to give it an elegant yet athletic look that would clearly differentiate it from the four-door sedan introduced a year earlier. While the two vehicles share their 108.7-inch wheelbases, they share no sheetmetal.

The coupe is longer and lower and not as wide. By using standard Xenon headlamps, its front light fixtures are smaller, and are nicely set off above the deep front fascia with its wide array of air inlets to feed the powerful twin-turbocharged engine.

The hood is long and includes a subtle power dome to indicate that there is substantial horsepower underneath. The hood line, which actually starts down in the front apron, leads up and back toward a roofline that is long and smooth and inches lower than that on the sedan (but don't worry, there's plenty of headroom even in the back seat).

The sides of the car feature BMW's flame surface treatment, a design that accentuates the way the light is reflected to make the car look like it's accelerating even when it's sitting still. Even the new rear view mirrors were designed to enhance aerodynamic efficiency. Short front and rear overhangs add to the aggressive profile.

One purpose of the design was to lead the observer's eyes toward the rear wheels and quarter panels as a way to visually express that this is a sporty car propelled by its rear wheels.

Seen from the rear, the new 3 Series coupe looks wide and low, with prominent tail lamps above dual exhaust tips that provide a visual clue that the car ahead has a powerful engine.

While sleek and elegant, the coupe's new body also is strong and lightweight. Compared to the sedan, the coupe is 22 pounds lighter even though it carries more standard equipment. The use of composite materials for things such as the front fenders helps keep the car light and the use of high-strength steel helps keep it strong and rigid, some 25 percent more rigid than the previous generation.

 

Interior Features
Like the car's exterior, the interior of the 2007 BMW 3 Series coupe is elegant while also being sporty, and roomy.

BMW gives 3 Series coupe customers many trim choices, including beige, saddle brown, black, gray and red upholstery and burl walnut, brown or gray poplar or brushed aluminum trim.

While the interior has design cues similar to the 3 Series sedans, there are many subtle changes, such as additional tick marks on the gauges.

The cockpit will look and feel familiar to BMW 3 Series owners, though they'll appreciate the new ambient lighting system at night and the way their shoulder belts are presented to them by arms that emerge from little doors built into the rear side interior trim panels. It used to be that the driver and front-seat passenger had to reach way back to find their shoulder belts, but now they simply sit down and close the doors and the belts come to them.

Particularly impressive is the care given to the rear seating area. For one thing, the rear seat is designed for two people and thus provides them with good space, and even a lot of leg and head as well as shoulder room. They have ventilation controls they can manipulate and lots of storage areas and a wide armrest with cup holders.

It's almost like sitting in a small limousine. There are even buttons on the outside edge of the front seats, in the shoulder area, so someone sitting in the back seat can reach up and power the front seat forward to ease exit from the rear of the car.

If you need to carry cargo rather than people, the rear seatback is split and each side folds forward to expand the trunk from its standard 11.1 cubic feet of capacity. The trunk lid features compound hinges, not gooseneck hinges that can crush your luggage.

 

Driving Impressions
The 2007 BMW 3 Series coupe represents the newest and fifth generation of a vehicle that traces back nearly four decades to the BMW 2002, one of BMW's most famous cars and which many consider to be the original European sports sedan (in this case, "sedan" means four- or five-passenger car with a fixed metallic roof, as opposed to a two-seat roadster or convertible).

The new 335i is the first BMW in some 25 years to have a turbocharged engine. BMW was committed to increasing on the 255 horsepower provided by the inline six-cylinder engine used in the previous 3 Series coupe. One way would have been to switch to a V8, but BMW opted to another solution, one that would combine the power of a V8 with the fuel economy of the inline-6.

That solution was to develop an engine that incorporated two small turbochargers, fan-like devices that boost the air pressure within the engine to enhance the fuel combustion cycle, therefore getting more power without increasing the number of cylinders. Another drawback BMW saw with the V8 was that it would be heavier, and would add weight to the car's nose, which does not help the sort of dynamic handling qualities on which BMW has built its reputation.

The key to the twin turbo engine's performance isn't just its forced induction system, but also the engineers use of special and so-called piezo fuel injectors. By precise control of the air/fuel mixture and its placement within the cylinder, BMW is able to optimize the engine's performance not just in power output but also in fuel economy and in a reduction of as much as 20 percent in harmful exhaust emissions.

Even while delivering 300 horsepower, the twin turbo engine is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway with the manual transmission and at 20/29 mpg with the automatic. To put those figures in context, the 230-hp engine in the new 328i, which does not have the special injectors, is rated at 20/30 in fuel economy.

Turbocharged engines often have what is known as turbo lag, a period of hesitation between the time the driver tips into the throttle and the time the turbocharger spools up to boost the power. To the driver, it feels as though nothing is happening, and then suddenly the engine explodes into action. But by using two smaller turbos, and by keeping them turning even at slow speeds, BMW was able to fine tune the system to eliminate lag. Instead, power is provided in a smooth and linear delivery as the needles on the tachometer and speedometer sweep their arcs across their respective dials.

By spooling the turbos earlier, maximum torque is achieved at just 1400 rpm and holds steady all the way to 5000, just about the point at which horsepower is reaching its peak. Thus this six-cylinder engine has torque delivery much like that of a V8. While we enjoy shifting gears, the engine is strong enough that on our drive on wonderful winding roads through the hill country between San Francisco and Bodega Bay in northern California, we could be content to simply pick third or fourth, depending on the speed we wanted to travel, and enjoy the scenery while the engine's broad power band kept the car's momentum flowing.

After driving a 335i with a manual transmission in the morning, we switched after lunch to a 335i with the automatic transmission, one equipped with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Again, we found the car very responsive even when we let the transmission shift on its own. For those who like paddle shifting, BMW notes that it had cut the transmission's response time to the paddles in half to enhance the driver's sense of control.

To make sure power is used most efficiently, BMW uses different transmissions for different 3 Series coupes. The 328i has either a Getrag I manual or GM-sourced automatic. The 328xi gets a Getrag H manual or the GM automatic. The 335i has either a ZF Type G manual or a ZF high-performance 19 TU automatic.

Some might worry that equipping the 335i with Sport suspension as standard equipment would make the ride too harsh. It does not. Instead, with aluminum suspension arms and other changes, the Sport setup not only reduces unsprung weight, thus making the car more responsive to steering inputs, but with such a solid chassis, the suspension can be fine tuned to provide both the dynamic ride that enthusiast drivers like without sacrificing the smooth ride qualities that pleases their passengers. The Sport suspension may be jolted by potholes, but it responds immediately and maintains control rather than seesawing up and down.

Turn-in with the 335i is quick and sure, even with the standard steering gear. BMW's active steering system is available as an option and is designed to help the driver's control by providing a variable steering ratio that makes low-speed maneuvers easier but that also enhances on-center steering control at Interstate or even autobahn speeds.

Also helping the driver maintain control is the inclusion of dynamic stability control as standard equipment. This computerized technology works with the anti-lock braking system to apply individual brakes to help keep the car on the driver's intended path. BMW's newest version of this technology also does such things as keeping the brakes drier in wet weather, thus shortening stopping distances.

The 335i also has very large brakes: 13.7-inch discs on the front wheels and 13.2-inch discs at the rear. BMW is known for its marvelous brakes, and to help keep its cars from being rear-ended in emergency stops, the German automaker equips cars such as the 3 Series coupes with adaptive two-stage tail lights to signal those behind of hard and fast stops.

BMW says the 335i accelerates to 60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds. Even the 328s are quick, with the rear-wheel drive version hitting 60 in 6.2 seconds and the 328xi getting there in just 6.8 seconds.

 

Summary
For drivers who want a two-seat sports car but need a back seat and trunk, the new BMW 3 Series coupe may indeed be the ultimate driving machine. That's especially true with the 300-hp BMW 335i. Yet the new 3 Series coupe is also available with the sure-footed traction of all-wheel drive, meaning that those living in the snow belt can enjoy their driving machines in the winter.

NewCarTestDrive.com contributor Larry Edsall filed this report from Marin County, California.

 

Model Line Overview

Model lineup: BMW 328i Coupe ($35,300), 328xi Coupe ($37,100), 335i Coupe ($40,600)
Engines: 230-hp 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve inline-6; 300-hp 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve inline-6
Transmissions: 6-speed manual or automatic
Safety equipment (standard): dual front and front-seat side airbags, roof-mounted curtain air bags covering both rows, 3-point harness for all seating positions, child seat tether anchors and LATCH system, anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control, run-flat tires and tire-pressure monitor system, adaptive brake lights, daytime running lights
Safety equipment (optional): active cruise control, rear park distance control, cold weather package with headlamp washers, xDrive all-wheel drive
Basic warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in: Regensburg, Germany

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): BMW 335i Coupe ($40,600)
Standard equipment: leatherette upholstery, automatic climate control with air conditioning, 8-way power front seats with memory for driver's side, power windows, dark burl walnut trim (with light poplar, gray poplar or brushed aluminum as no-cost options), remote locks, start/stop button, rechargeable flashlight in glove box, title and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, power moonroof, Logic7 audio system with 13 speakers, split and folding rear seats, 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires, Xenon adaptive headlamps, fog lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washer jets, power and heated exterior mirrors, ground lighting in door handles, dual chrome exhaust tips, chrome-trimmed doorsill plates
Options as tested (MSRP): Premium package ($2,450), Sport package ($1,000), heated front seats ($500)
Destination charge: 695
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested (MSRP): 45720
Layout: rear-wheel drive
Engine: 3.0-liter dohc I6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 300 @ 5800
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 300 @ 1400-5000
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 19/28
Wheelbase: 108.7
Length/width/height: 180.3/70.2/54.2
Track, f/r: 59.1/59.6
Turning circle: 36.1
Seating capacity: 4
Head/hip/leg room, f: 37.1/55.3/41.8
Head/hip/leg room, m:
Head/hip/leg room, r: 36.1/51.9/33.7
Trunk volume: 11.1
Payload:
Towing capacity:
Suspension, f: independent
Suspension, r: independent
Ground clearance: 4.9
Curb weight: 3571
Tires: 225/40R18 front, 255/35R18 rear
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity: 15.9

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 2006-09-01 00:00:00.0 .
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-334-4BMW - www.bmwusa.com


Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.
New Car Test Drive

Copyright © 1994-2009 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

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