2007 BMW 328 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
All-new version mostly keeps the faith.New generation of coupes is launched.Still the benchmark after all these years.
Competition in the convertible market has reached new heights. No longer is it enough for carmakers to have just a convertible. Now, to be truly a contender in this niche market, they must offer a hardtop convertible, one that replaces the traditional folding fabric top with a retractable hardtop. Witness the Volkswagen Eos, the Volvo C70, and the Chrysler Sebring.
Always one to avoid being left behind in any competition, BMW stepped up with a new 3 Series Convertible for 2007 that comes with a three-piece, fully automatic, one-button up-and-down hardtop. Each way takes less than a half-minute. When the top's up, the car is as close to a two-door hardtop in ride, handling and interior comfort as is possible with a removable roof. With the top down, it's everything a convertible should be but with almost none of the penalties, like overly blustery, hairdo-destroying wind and vision-blurring cowl shake, commonly associated with open-top cars.
BMW compensated for the 200-plus pounds added by the top and its supporting mechanicals by raising the energy levels under the hood. The base engine, if there is such a thing in a BMW, is the same displacement, 3.0 liters, as the top engine in the '06 convertible, but with 230 horsepower, five more than that engine. The up-level engine also displaces 3.0-liters but, boosted by dual turbochargers, pumps out 300 horsepower, up 75 from the '06's top engine. At the same time, both of the '07's engines earn higher fuel economy ratings from the EPA than their predecessors, the dual-turbocharged by four miles per gallon on the highway.
The 2007 BMW 3 Series Convertible comes in two trim designations, both two-door, four-passenger models with the marque's first-ever, retractable hard top supplanting the soft-tops of previous editions. Neither model name relates any longer to engine family. The 328i comes with the normally aspirated engine, while the 335i comes with the turbocharged engine. Standard is a six-speed manual transmission; optional is a six-speed automatic transmission allowing manual gear selection with the Steptronic feature.
Much of what has allowed BMW to claim to be the ultimate driving machine survives on the new 3 Series Convertible, and, for that matter, on its coupe and sedan siblings. It's a superbly balanced car, and in unadulterated form, sinfully fun to drive. Steering is light when it should be, that is, at low speeds, and with proper resistance and feedback at the elevated speeds the car constantly tempts drivers to explore. Nearly equal front/rear weight distribution leaves the driver in full command of where the car goes and when, with a high-threshold stability control system reassuringly keeping watch should a driver somehow manage to venture beyond the car's almost limitless capabilities. For those extreme times, the brakes, too, stand ever ready to add vital safety margins.
Sadly, at least for long-time, BMW purists, another field in which BMW feels compelled to stay competitive, if not lead the field, is in using electronics to manage its cars' functions. And the 3 Series Convertible has not been immune to this creeping plague of numbing isolation. For example, some of the electronic assists to the car's brakes are welcome, like systems that keep the discs dry in wet weather, compensate for overheating-related fade and prime the system when a panic stop seems imminent. On the other hand, the system can't seem to leave things well enough alone in normal driving, abruptly adding pressure, for instance, as the car slows to a stop quite independent of how the driver is attempting to feather the pedal to achieve a stable, non-rocking stop.
There are other features that BMW insists on improving that didn't need improvement, like Active Steering, and a few that have lost some of their excellence, like the manual transmission. But the point is that the 3 Series may well be an endangered species, the s. 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. If you're shopping for a smaller luxury sedan that puts a premium on driving satisfaction, the BMW 3 Series remains the place to start. It's one of the world's best sports sedans.
For 2007, 3 Series sedans and wagons come with powerful new engines, a couple of new colors and some minor interior tweaks. The 3 Series is expanding for 2007 with the introduction of an all-new, two-door 3 Series coupe and an all-new 3 Series convertible. (The 2007 3 Series Coupe is evaluated in a separate review.)
The 2007 BMW 328i and BMW 335i accelerate more quickly, stop shorter and turn with more lateral grip than any of their predecessors. The current 3 Series sedans are the roomiest ever, with more standard and optional equipment and more sophisticated electronic controls. BMW's x-Drive all-wheel drive system is available on the 328i.
Yet what characterizes the current 3 Series sedans as much as anything is its high-technology. We presume the car-buying public expects the latest technology in BMW products, and the 3 Series delivers in spades. It's everywhere in this compact sedan, some of it first in class and some not previously applied in any BMW.
The 2007 BMW 3 Series cars offer Active Steering that actually turns the front wheels without driver intervention, not to mention 150-mile run-flat tires, turning Bi-Xenon headlights, and an optional i-Drive interface. It was the first car in its class to offer radar-managed active cruise control, and even the standard cruise control will automatically apply the brakes if you get too close to a car ahead.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but owners of older 3 Series models may wonder where their purist sports sedan went, or at what point all the gizmos start detracting from that sporting character. Rest assured, this remains a true sports sedan, but its sporting heart is a little more difficult to find under all the stuff.
Any 3 Series model still delivers a special mix of performance, practicality and European luxury in a compact package. This car defines sports sedan, and it's the benchmark every luxury car maker from Acura to Volvo aims at. The 3 Series embodies consistent product character and values, defining what has made BMW one of the most respected brands among car enthusiasts. Above all, the 3 Series is a driver's car: accelerating, turning and stopping with remarkable agility and balance, without seriously compromising comfort or common sense.
What's New for 2007: The sedans and wagons get new engines, and a corresponding change in nomenclature. The 325i is replaced by the 328i. The new models have a more powerful version of BMW's 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, generating 230 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, for an increase of 15 hp and 15 lb-ft over the previous models. The 2006 330i sedan is replaced by the 2007 BMW 335i, featuring BMW's new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 producing 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. That's an increase of 45 hp and 80 lb-ft for the 2007 335i sedans and wagons.
The 2007 BMW 3 Series Convertible comes in two trim levels. The 328i ($43,200) is powered by a 230-horsepower inline-6, the 335i ($49,100) by a 300-horsepower, twin-turbocharged inline-6. Both engines come with a six-speed, manual transmission. Optional on both is the six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic ($1275).
Standard features include leatherette upholstery; automatic dual-zone climate control; cruise control; heated outside mirrors; remote lowering of the top; tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with spoke-mounted, secondary audio and cruise controls; a 10-speaker (including two subwoofers), multi-media audio system; multi-adjustable driver and front passenger seats, including two driver-memory settings for seat and mirrors; and choice of four interior trims, three with wood, one with brushed aluminum. Also standard: adaptive Xenon headlights that swivel in the direction of a turn to improve lighting around a curve; rain-sensing windshield wipers; halogen foglights; heated windshield washer jets; and 255/45R17 all-season run-flat tires on 17x8-inch alloy wheels.
Optional on the 3 Series Convertible are Active Steering with vehicle speed-sensitive variable assist ($1400); Comfort Access with keyless entry and remote raising and lowering of hard top ($500); heated front seats ($500); rear-seat, pass-through trunk storage with cargo bag ($175); rear-only park distance control ($350); active cruise control, which auto-adjusts speed for following distance ($2400); on-board navigation combined with BMW's trademark iDrive managing climate, entertainment and communication functions and, where available, Real Time Traffic Information ($2100); BMW Assist emergency and convenience services with Bluetooth capability ($750 for four-year term); HD radio ($500); Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription ($595); iPod/USB adapter ($400); and choice of 11 metallic paint colors ($475).
Optional on the 328i but standard on the 335i are the Logic 7 Sound System, adding a speaker (for a total of 11 including the subwoofers), DSP and simulated surround sound ($1200); Dakota leather upholstery with a sun-reflective, surface heat-reducing treatment ($1550).
The Cold Weather Package ($750) is the same for both and comprises heated front seats, retractable headlight washers and pass-through trunk storage with cargo bag. The 328i Premium Package ($2650) includes a universal, remote, programmable garage/gate opener; auto-dimming interior and outside, power-folding mirrors; four-way, front-seat power lumbar; four-year, BMW Assist subscription; and the Dakota leather upholstery. The 335i Premium Package ($1550) matches the 328i's save the Dakota leather, which is standard on the 335i. Sport Packages (328i: $1200; 335i: $1300) add sport seats with adjustable side bolsters, a specially tuned sport suspension, increased top speed limiter (150 miles per hour vs. the standard, electronically limited 130 mph) and high-performance, run-flat, 225/40R18 front tires and 255/35R18 rear tires on 18x8.0 front and 18x8.5 rear alloy wheels with styles unique to each model.
Safety features include the usual array of front and side airbags, plus lower dash-mounted, anti-submarine knee airbags. Front seat belts have automatic pretensioners and force limiters, all four seating positions have three-point belts and adjustable head restraints, and rear seats are equipped with child safety seat footings and tether anchors (LATCH). Rear seats are also fitted with pop-up roll bars behind the head restraints that deploy in a fraction of a second when sensors detect signs of an impending rollover. The driver's feet get added protection from pedals that retract during a frontal crash and a dead pedal constructed to collapse under crash-force pressures. A tire-pressure monitoring system comes standard. Active safety features: ABS, Dynamic Stability Control, electronic brake-force distribution, DCS, brake drying, brake standby, start-off. 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. BMW's line of 3 Series sport sedans and wagons includes five distinct models. True to BMW tradition, all are powered by a variant of the company's inline six-cylinder engine, with a standard six-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is offered on both sedan and wagon, and BMW's six-speed Steptronic automatic ($1,275) is optional on all models.
The BMW 328i ($32,400) and 328xi ($34,300) sedans are powered by a 225-hp 3.0-liter six. This high-tech engine is the first in mass production with a magnesium alloy engine block, to trim weight. It's light, powerful for its size and fuel efficient. The 328xi comes with BMW's x-Drive permanent all-wheel drive system.
The 328s comes well equipped, with automatic climate and headlight control, a climate-controlled center console, heated washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, a power moonroof, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD and BMW's self-braking Dynamic Cruise Control. Burr walnut trim is also standard, with BMW's Leatherette vinyl upholstery. Lighter poplar trim and aluminum are available as no-charge options.
The 328i Sports Wagon ($34,300) and 328xi Sports Wagon ($36,100) are equipped comparably to the sedans, with the 225-hp engine and all-wheel drive for the xi model. The big difference, of course, lies behind rear roof pillars and seats, where the wagons offer more load-carrying potential and versatility than the sedan, with a rear tailgate and rear window that can be opened separately.
The 335i sedan ($38,700) features a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder the generates 300 horsepower. The 335i also adds standard equipment, including eight-way power seats with memory, xenon adaptive headlights that turn into a curve with the car, and BMW's 13-speaker Logic 7 stereo, with two subwoofers and surround-style digital sound processing.
Beyond the 6-speed automatic transmission, there are three major option groupings. The Premium Package ($2,450 of the 335i, $3150 all other models) adds Dakota leather upholstery and a number of conveniences, including Bluetooth cellular phone interface, power folding side mirrors, a digital compass in the rear-view mirror and hardware for BMW Assist, the telemetric package that provides safety, convenience and concierge services. After the first year, you'll pay for the subscription.
The Sport Package ($1,500) includes sporting suspension calibrations tuned by BMW's M performance division, more heavily bolstered sports seats and a wheel/tire upgrade: 17-inch alloys with W-rated performance tires for the 328s; 18-inch for the 335i. Finally, the Cold Weather Package ($600-$1000, depending on model) adds electrically heated seats, high-intensity headlight washers and a split-folding rear seat with ski sack.
BMW's Active Steering system ($1,250) and radar-managed Active Cruise Control ($2,200) are available as stand-alone options on the 3 Series, as is a DVD-based navigation system ($2,100). Sirius satellite radio hardware ($595), the Logic 7 stereo ($1,200) and power rear-window and manual side rear-window sunshades ($575) are also available as standalone options, as are most of the individual components of the three packages, including the split-folding rear seat ($475) and BMW Assist ($750). BMW also offers various dealer installed accessories. In all, there are more than 600 choices in equipping the 3 Series sedans.
Safety features include dual stage front-impact airbags that deploy at different rates depending on the severity of impact, front side-impact airbags and full-cabin head protection airbags. BMW no longer offers rear side-impact airbags on the 3 Series, on the basis that few buyers took the option, and that the protective benefit does not exceed the risk of airbag related injuries.
Active safety features, designed to help the driver avoid collisions, include Dynamic Stability Control and the latest generation antilock brakes. The ABS preloads the brake pedal when the driver suddenly l.
The BMW 3 Series is the last of the BMW automotive family to fall prey to the marque's new-Bangled design vocabulary. As such, given that the design has encountered something significantly less than universal acclaim, the 3 Series is the least radicalized, leaving it the best looking, most cohesively styled and visually balanced BMW of the current lot.
Up front, the new 3 Series easily passes what some automotive stylists call the rearview mirror test, whether a driver can recognize a car's brand from a quick glance in the mirror. The traditional, twin-kidney grille is braced by deep-set, organic-shaped, compound headlamps that so far have been spared the drooping eyelid-look of many of its brand mates. A broad, multi-faceted bumper tops a three-segment, sharply edged, lower air intake with fog lights parked at the extremes. The outline of a low-profile power bulge traces back across the hood from the upper corners of the grille to the base of the A-pillars (the side frames of the windshield). The wide track (distance between the tires side to side) pushes the tires to the outer limits of the body, giving the '07 a solid, planted stance.
Side view shows a silhouette that keeps the faith with the traditional overall proportions of the 3 Series coupes in its long hood and short deck topped by an expansive greenhouse. Short front and rear overhangs (distance between the tires and the ends of the car's body) bear eyewitness to the car's standard-setting handling. Picking up on the seam between the hood and the front fender, the beltline flows rearward with the slightest suggestion of a wedge. The character line running the length of the car from just aft of the front wheel well to the taillight follows the prevailing BMW styling cue of a crease above compound-curve (as in, part concave and part convex) body panels; it's not the traditional 3 Series' slender groove in convex panels, but the look is close enough.
Drivers who didn't recognize the new convertible in the mirror will have more difficulty as it disappears into the distance after flashing by in a quick overtaking. The once-distinctive rear fascia suffers from the housing demands imposed by the retractable hardtop and associated hardware. The boot, or trunk lid, is lengthened, for instance, and the fenders upper flanks are widened and more vertically aligned with the lower fender panels. The final result mixes both good and not so good. That the back end looks somewhat bland, even generic, to the point some Pacific-rim cars look more like a BMW than this 3 Series, is the not so good. The good, at least to long-time, die-hard BMW fans, is that this saves the convertible from the rounded fenders with proud trunk lid of the current 7 Series and 6 Series and to a lesser extent the 5 Series. 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. The 2007 BMW 328i and 335i sedans are recognizable as BMWs in an evolutionary way, but they are substantially different from the more familiar, previous-generation models.
For starters, they are the largest 3 Series cars ever. They're more than two inches longer and three inches wider, and wheelbase has increased 1.4 inches. Most of the increased exterior dimensions translate into more interior space, particularly in the back seat.
The 3 Series shares many of its design features with BMW's other sedans. Some critics claim the 3 Series has been spared: that it has not suffered from some of the styling excess in BMW's current 5 and 7 Series. Certainly the approach with the 3 Series has been more conservative, and it's easy to understand why. This car accounts for nearly half of BMW's income. Nonetheless, spared is not a word we'd use.
The 3 Series has BMW's traditional double beam headlights, now under clear covers that wrap around the corners and taper to a point to emphasize the car's width. In profile, the sedan's front and rear overhangs seem even shorter than before. The hood line continues past the windshield pillars all the way to the rear, while the roof line is rounder than before.
Design is the most subjective of all automotive traits, and clearly the 328i and 335i retain some basic BMW qualities or character. Yet in certain respects they also look more generic than their predecessors. The sides are basically flat planes with a single crease below the door pulls and above the wheel wells, but the ends of the car are busier, and we've yet to discover cohesion to the design. Particularly in rear view there are lots of lines, and in this aspect the 3 looks as if it might have been designed in Asia rather than Munich. In short, we're still getting used it.
One thing is certain. Larger wheels and tires filling the wheel wells are almost always a good thing for appearance's sake, and we like the 328i and 335i better with the wheel upgrades (to 17-inch on the 328i and 18-inch on the 335i). The 335i can be distinguished from the 328i by more than its wheels. The 335i's windows and grille slats are trimmed with chrome, while that slats across its lower front air intakes are body colored rather than black.
The high-tech theme that permeates the 3 Series sedans is even visible from the outside. The 335i comes standard with adaptive bi-xenon headlights that turn with the steering wheel to aim into a curve. All models have BMW's adaptive brake lights, which are based on the idea that drivers in the cars following a 3 Series will know when the 3 is attempting a panic stop just by the brake lights. The LED lights illuminate more intensely, over a larger area, when the driver applies the brakes full-lock or when the ABS operates.
The trunk is larger than ever. With 12 cubic feet of space, it gives the 3 Series sedan a trunk that's more competitive, if not best in class. Moreover, the trunk opening is considerably larger, making it easier to get things inside, and the additional trunk volume does not count a new divided storage bin under the load floor (where a spare might have gone, if not for the 3 Series' run-flat tires). There's also a drawer hanging under the rear interior shelf to take better advantage of what is often useless space. The sedan is also available with a split-folding rear seat and ski sack, which expands cargo space into the rear of the cabin.
Redesigned for the 2006 model year, the 3 Series Sport Wagon is identical to the sedan from the center roof pillar forward. Rearward, its roofline tapers slightly all the way to the rear of the car, while the bottom line of the rear windows tapers upward slightly, creating something a of teardrop shape. Roof rails are standard.
The wagon's rear gate opens electrically, with a switch on the key fob or dashboard, and swings high for easy access to the load floor. A reflector on th.
Inside, there's all the grace and goodness of a BMW for people who enjoy the trip as much as getting to the destination.
It's difficult to find anything that isn't perfect or at least approaching perfection in the way the new 3 Series Convertible relates to its driver and occupants. Instruments are the picture of unfettered communication. They're old-school analogs, with white-on-black alpha-numerics and bathed at night in BMW's traditional, orange-red lighting. Perhaps the speedometer is a bit crowded, with an outer ring for miles per hour and a busy inner ring for kilometers per hour, but in this case the familiar, easily scanned white needles breed comfort.
Our main complaint with the interior centers around the push-button start and stop. We think it's a gimmick that adds complexity without adding value to the driving experience.
The audio and climate controls on the center stack could be positioned higher for easier access, and the rocker buttons for station presets and assorted functions demand more concentration than they should, but beyond these minor wishes, that area is faultless. Even the iDrive knob, which in the 2007 3 Series also controls a GPS-based navigation system, is comfortably positioned for driver or passenger to operate.
The front seats look right and at first feel comfortable but firm, with medium-deep side bolsters and, thanks to the manually extendable bottom cushions, provide ideal thigh support for occupants of any stature. Beware, though, of spending long hours belted into them. For many, their tightly drawn dimensions aren't perfect fits. This is especially true of the sport seats, which left us squirming in quest of a relaxing position less than two hours into a daylong drive. It's as if, in an otherwise commendable effort to offer an infinite spectrum of adjustments, both manual and power, the seats have been packed with so much hardware, in terms of wiring, pumps and bladders, that they've been left with inadequate flexibility for any body other than the master mold after which they're patterned. Head room, both front and rear, is respectable, with more than enough clearance in front even for people several inches taller than six feet.
The rear seats are adequate only for short stature adults or children into maybe their early teens, especially with anybody taller than 5-foot-6 in the front seats.
Against the Volkswagen Eos and the Volvo C70, the BMW 3 Series Convertible compares favorably, measuring within an inch in headroom and legroom in both front and rear seats in all but the C70's rear-seat legroom, which bests the 3 Series by a full two inches.
Cubbies and convenience features abound. Front-seat occupants get as many as three cup holders, one (which the iDrive displaces) in the console between the seats and two wimpy contraptions that pop out of the dash on the passenger side above the glove box. Two cup holders hidden under a flip-cover in the rear portion of the full-length center console serve rear seat occupants. Both front and rear seats have a covered storage bin in their respective center consoles. The front doors host hard plastic, flip-out map pockets. A lockable glove box accommodates owner's manuals and feature guides, a re-chargeable flashlight and a spare key bracket. Front seatbacks have mesh pouches for magazines.
The trunk offers more flexibility and more room than appearances first suggest, albeit in a quirky sort of way. For lowering or raising the top, a process managed by a single button and consuming less than half a minute each way, it opens like a clamshell, hinged at the rear. For use as a trunk it opens normally, hinged at the front and with an impressively low lift-over height, making it easy to load and unload groceries and heavier cargo. With the top up, it will hold a golf bag, though longitudinally, stuffed into the cargo bag that comes with the optional rear seat pass-through and that. 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. What's New for 2007: Climate control knobs in the 3 Series sedan are now trimmed with the same Galvanic Silver plastic that surrounds the start button. The three-spoke steering wheel with the Sport Package is finished with the same material.
The 3 Series cabin takes the best of several ideas introduced in the larger BMW 5 Series and 7 Series sedans, synthesizes them for a smaller car and improves them in the process. We aren't completely enamored with everything inside, but we have few real gripes.
The 3 Series sedans no longer have a keyed ignition switch, relying instead on a slot-type key fob and a starter button. We don't love it. It sometimes seems balkier than a regular key. The fob slides into a slot next to the steering column, and you push the button to fire up. The benefit of this design? We're not sure. The Comfort Access option makes everything automatic: With fob in pocket, the doors unlock automatically as the driver approaches, and the seats are waiting in their proper position. The driver just pushes the start button, and pushes it again when it's time to get out. These systems are not our favorite feature and sometimes seem like the answer to a question no one is asking.
Seats have long been 3 Series strength, and the new ones are better than ever. Even the standard-trim front buckets provide excellent support without feeling too hard. The manual adjustments work great, though we recommend using them when the car is parked. The 335i gets power adjustments with three memory positions and they are coded to the key. The power seats that come with the Sport Package are outstanding. Additional back and bottom bolstering make them a bit harder to slide into, but we'd rather have them during a spirited drive.
The instrument panels have a pronounced horizontal format, with more community and less driver orientation than before. There are actually two: The standard setup has a single bubble, or hood, over the instrument cluster, while the optional navigation system has a dash that accommodates the system with a second hood.
The front door panels are different on each side, as well. The passenger side has a sloped, vertical door pull, while the driver's door lays the door pull horizontally in the arm rest. Moreover, the new doors address one of our biggest gripes with previous 3 Series cars. Window switches are now clustered near the driver's arm rest, where they're easier to locate without glancing, rather than spread around the shifter on the center console.
The soft vinyls and plastics in the 3 Series sedans are an improvement in both touch and appearance compared to previous generations, and they put the car more closely in line with the best cars in this class. Burr walnut trim is now standard, and there's a lot of it on the dash and doors. BMW's Leatherette vinyl is not the least bit tacky. The optional leather is soft and thick. The new 3 Series follows BMW's tradition of soft orange backlighting for the instruments. Some will like it, some won't.
The automatic climate control that comes standard features separate temperature adjustments for driver and front passenger. A mist sensor measures moisture on the windshield and automatically adjusts the defroster, while a heat-at-rest feature keeps the cabin heating on for a time after the car is turned off.
The standard in-dash single-CD player is easy to operate and sounds good, with 10 speakers and separate subwoofers under the front seats. The orange readout on it is almost invisible when wearing polarized sunglasses on a sunny day, even though similar orange readouts for the climate control are perfectly readable. Switching between AM and FM and other modes is difficult and complicated while driving. The 335i comes with an upgraded system called Logic 7. This system adds wattage and three speakers, with the latest digital sound processing and surround technology. Audio controls on the stee.
From the driver's seat, the BMW 3 Series Convertible communicates its understanding and acceptance of the responsibility of living up to the brand's heritage. Unlike most of its kin, this BMW remains a car a driver puts on and wears more than climbs into. And save for a few areas where electronics numb messages the car and the driver wish to exchange, it's what people should expect a BMW to be.
Put more plainly, the 3 Series Convertible, like the 3 Series Sedan and Coupe, is a joy to drive. Step on the gas, and the car goes. Step heavily on the gas, and it flat out scoots. More rapidly, of course, in the 335i, with its twin turbos, than in the 328i. But the latter is no slouch, and is, in fact, all most everybody will ever need. Don't count on saving any money at the gas pump, however. The EPA rates the smaller engine at but one mile per gallon better than the larger engine and this only in town; on the highway, their fuel economy is about the same.
For those few who want more than they can use, there's the 335i, and for a turbocharged engine, its power delivery is decently managed. The idea is simple, really. Use a small turbocharger, which spools up relatively quickly, to get the power boost started early on at lower engine speed. Then, as that unit begins to top out, bring in a larger turbocharger that's been spooling up and hits its stride about the time the smaller one fades. This gives the best of both worlds for an atmospherically enhanced engine: decent torque at low engine speeds and more horsepower at high engine speeds. It also minimizes dreaded turbo lag throughout the power curve and, with due gratitude to the engine's electronic brain, shows a barely perceptible surge as the tachometer needle passes 4000 rpm when the larger turbo takes over. Running gear sounds making their way inside the car are muted but pleasantly mechanical. From outside, sadly, the exhaust sounds more like a hopped up Accord with a coffee can muffler than one of Germany's finest.
The Steptronic automatic gets that power to the road as effectively as the manual transmission. Not so much in stopwatch-measured quickness as in smoothness, precision and ease of use. Shifts are superbly executed, whether up or down and at partial or full throttle. Drivers intent on rowing their own can use the Steptronic to pick and hold a gear, but this is hardly necessary. The automatic's brain does a masterful job of choosing the best gear, whether it's to power out of a tight corner or to squeeze the most miles out of a tank of premium fuel on a relaxed Sunday drive.
The manual gearbox, on the other hand, feels mushy, like it's moving the gears with cables and pulleys. Perchance it's the result of cramming slots for six forward gears into a shift pattern more properly proportioned for five gears, but whatever, this is a distinct step backward from previous 3 Series manual gearboxes. Given BMW's aspirations as the premier driver's car, it also comes off poorly in comparison to the manual boxes in the VW Eos and the Volvo C70, both of which are as good, or nearly so, as the 3's; what has to be even more galling to the marque is that the six-speed manual Nissan has put in the new, sub-$30,000, '08 Altima Coupe is quantum degrees better, more like what a BMW box should be than this 3's. Overlooking the spongy touch, upshifts flow naturally from gear to gear, even if the driver skips a gear or two, a not uncommon inclination when crawling through rush hour traffic. Coming back down through the gears, drivers must take care if they wish to take a gear out of its normal sequence, as this requires some careful aiming of the shift lever to land in the desired slot.
Steering gives good feel and feedback, provided the box for the optional Active Steering has been left unchecked. This is yet another case of BMW trying to make better something that was fine the way it was. First, the basic,. 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 equip. BMW's 3 Series has always been about the driving. It has many of the attributes of a sports car with the practicality of a sedan. It offers rear-wheel drive and manual transmissions in a class increasingly dominated by front-wheel drive and automatics. Driving has never been much better than the 3 Series, or at least not with seating for five, decent mileage and a high level of all-season comfort.
BMW's x-Drive permanent all-wheel-drive system greatly enhances all-season capability, not a traditional strength of these cars. The x-Drive delivers most of the power to the rear wheels most of the time, maintaining the sporting feel associated with rear-wheel drive.
The 2007 3 Series sedans are true to their predecessors, with a couple of caveats, in our view. The typical BMW buyer will likely appreciate the technology built into the new 3, and particularly the electronic skid-control wizardry. Enthusiasts, however, may pine that the 3 Series' purity has been lost.
The heart of any BMW is its engine, and those in the new 3 Series are first rate. They remain true to BMW's commitment to straight or inline six-cylinders, as other manufacturers have switched almost exclusively to V6s. The straight six presents more packaging challenges, but its unique performance characteristics and smoothness make it a favorite among enthusiast drivers.
In both the 328i and 335i sedans, the engine is fantastic. No one will feel short-changed on performance if they make the more economical choice of the 328i. Either engine delivers quick acceleration by any standard: 0-60 mph times of 6.3 seconds for the 328i and 5.4 seconds for the 335i when equipped with manual transmissions, according to BMW.
We found the 328i fun to drive, with good throttle response that made us feel a class above other cars in traffic. Our bright red 328i sedan had the manual, which was smooth and precise, easy and enjoyable to flick between gears. It was also quick and easy shifting from first to reverse and back when parking. Clutch pedal effort made taking off easy, without having to think about it. Shifting was so easy that the clutch didn't need to be fully depressed.
The 335i is, however, particularly enjoyable, with an engine that's stronger than any 3 Series engine before, short of the limited production M3s. What's best is its linear quality, or the steady supply of acceleration-producing torque at any speed. There's more torque down low than before, but the new engine pulls like a sprinter all the way to its 6800-rpm redline and never misses a step. Moreover, the joy of a straight six isn't hidden under the high tech. It sounds great, with an emphasis on clean mechanical noise from the engine bay rather than the tone of the muffler.
The manual transmission is great, too. The shifter seems to have slightly shorter throws between the gears than before, and its operation is appropriate to a world-class sports sedan. The sixth gear adds even more flexibility to the 335i's power band and lowers engine revs at cruising speeds.
The automatic we liked a bit less, but it's hardly disappointing. With six speeds, the same advantages apply here as with the manual. The automatic can be a bit slow to react with an appropriate gear change in Normal mode, but leaving it Sport mode pretty much solves the problem, with a slight payback in more abrupt shifting. Then there is the Steptronic manual mode, which allows manual gear selection by toggling the shift lever to the left. No problem with shift response when you do it yourself.
The other half of the 3 Series equation has always been ride and handling. This is the prototypical sports sedan, or about as close as you can get to sports car driving dynamics in a practical sedan. For 40 years, the 3 Series had defined that mix: rear-wheel drive, great steering feel and balance between the front and rear axles. Moreover, the 3 had always delivered an impressive balance be.
The new BMW 3 Series Convertible proves BMW hasn't completely forsaken fans of the marque who want to believe it builds the ultimate driving machine. There are still more layers of electronic interference between the driver and the machine than many think is necessary, but enough of the connection between driver and pavement survives to make this car, and its sedan and coupe siblings, the best, most fun BMW still around.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report after driving BMW 3 Series Convertibles in South Florida and Central California. 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. The BMW 3 Series sedans and wagons remain the benchmark for the class, particularly for those who derive satisfaction from the driving experience. These cars are loaded with technical wizardry. But all this technology can be a double-edged sword, at least to old-time 3 Series buyers. Yet rear-wheel drive and manual transmissions remain crucial components of the 3 Series experience, and BMW's commitment to the combination says something about its priorities as a car company. By virtually every objective measure, from space to horsepower to performance, these are the best 3 Series sedans ever.
J.P. Vettraino filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Detroit.
BMW 328i Convertible ($43,200); 335i Convertible ($49,100). BMW 328i Coupe ($35,300), 328xi Coupe ($37,100), 335i Coupe ($40,600). BMW 328i sedan ($32,400); 328xi sedan ($34,300); 328i wagon ($34,200); 328xi wagon ($36,100); 335i sedan ($38,700).
Regensburg. Germany. Regensburg, Germany. Munich, Germany.
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($2650); Active Steering ($1400); park distance control ($350); Sirius satellite radio ($595). Premium package ($2,450), Sport package ($1,000), heated front seats ($500). Sport Package ($1600) includes M sports suspension, 17-inch wheels with W-rated tires, power sport seats and155-mph speed-limiter; Premium Package ($3,150) includes Dakota leather upholstery, Bluetooth cell phone interface, power folding side mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature on passenger side, digital mirror compass and BMW Assist telematics; Cold Weather Package ($1,000) includes electrically heated seats, high-intensity headlight washers and split-folding rear seat with ski sack; Active Steering ($1250).
BMW 328i Convertible ($43,200). BMW 335i Coupe ($40,600). BMW 328i sedan ($32,400).
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