2007 328 New Car Test Drive
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.