Since the launch of the new 3-Series sedan last year, BMW has been speeding up the arrival of other versions of the company's benchmark entry-level vehicle. The Touring followed for European customers soon after the sedan. And now, due in September at U.S. dealers is the new Coupe.
The 2007 Coupe will be available with a new twin-turbo 300-hp engine in the 335i model. The base version will be the 328i, with a 218-hp engine that will replace the existing 325i six-cylinder. Both engines will also be available in the Sedan early in 2007, when the 335i will replace the 330i.
The new turbocharged engine is the world's first in-line six with twin turbos and direct fuel injection. It is also the most powerful BMW six-cylinder save for the M versions. The engine is lighter than and as powerful as a comparable 4.0-liter V-8, but has significantly lower fuel consumption. Its reduced mass helps the Coupe achieve weight distribution near the optimal 50/50.
With the turbo engine, the Coupe's acceleration is thrilling. Zero to 60 mph takes 5.3 seconds. The limited top speed of both the 328i and the 335i is 130 mph; with the Sport Package it will be 150 mph.
My first stint behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel was with the only engine available at the introduction event in Austria, the twin-turbo six, teamed to a six-speed Steptronic automatic
transmission (a $1275 option). With 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque this 3.0-liter is, to put it mildly, potent. The new engine has variable valve timing, and BMW fits it with an aluminum crankcase and direct fuel injection. The two turbos each supply compressed air to three cylinders to build up pressure much faster than a single, large turbocharger, thus eliminating turbo lag. That theory proves true in driving: the 335i's acceleration is smooth and steady, not turbo-lumpy.
The proven driving capabilities of the 3-Series are in abundance in the Coupe. Precise and obedient steering is the order of the day. The new six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission has excellent shift response, and shifting with the paddles on the steering wheel makes driving a lot of fun.
The suspension tunings give the Coupe a stiffer ride than those on the sedan. But still, the Coupe feels firm but pleasant. My fellow Dutchman, Berard van der Meer, the BMW engineer who worked on the development of the Coupe explained: "We have a little bit gone away from a pure sporty character and given a lot of attention to comfort." The rear suspension has been reworked on the Coupe, since the turbo power required engineers to add a rear subframe for added strength.
The Coupe comes standard on 17-inch wheels with 224/45R-17H all-season tires. An optional sport package with 18-inch wheels and 255/35R-W tires is available. Dynamic Stability Control is standard on both versions of the new Coupe. It can be switched off to better enjoy the car on a closed track.
Looks like a winner
The Coupe's elegant two-door body is easily recognizable and distinct from the sedan. It also gets a unique design for the front and rear ends.
The nose has a low and sporty look with a contoured hood that wraps beyond the four round headlights and into the front air dam. Xenon adaptive headlights are surrounded by light rings that serve as daytime running lights. In the rear, LED taillights are unique to the Coupe. They extend into the trunklid and are split in two sections. The exterior mirrors have been styled specifically for the Coupe, too, to match its profile lines.
Real effort has been put into the interior design as well. Horizontal lines dominate, but the door panels have nice flowing lines. The light contour edge on the door and side panels create a sophisticated look in the cabin, which easily seats four grown-ups of normal size.
The 180.3-inch-long Coupe also offers considerable truck space; the trunk volume of 11.1 cubic feet can be expanded by folding down the rear seats. Also, under the cargo floor in the trunk is a compartment of 0.7 cubic feet.
Both 328i and 335i come with extensive standard equipment, such as cornering lights, a welcome light that automatically switches on upon unlocking and locking the car, a start/stop button, a climate-controlled front center console with a single cupholder and pre-wiring for Sirius satellite radio.
BMW will also offer a Coupe with xDrive all-wheel drive at a later date.
2007 BMW 335i Coupe
Base price: $41,295 (includes $1275 automatic transmission and $695 destination)
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six, 300 hp/300 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 180.3 x 70.2 x 54.1 in
Wheelbase: 108.7 in
Curb weight: 3571 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): N/A
Safety equipment: Anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; front, side and curtain airbags
Major standard features: Climate control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; 17-inch wheels with run-flat tires; tilt/telescoping steering wheel with fingertip audio & phone controls; eight-way power front seats; power moonroof
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles