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Car reviews - BMW - 3 Series - Coupe range

Launch Story

BMW logo22 Sep 2006

By LUC BRITTEN

BMW’S all-new 3 Series Coupe has been launched in Australia ahead of its official release here on October 10, spearheaded by the storming new 335i – BMW’s first ever twin-turbo petrol production car and only the second to feature direct petrol injection.

Three variants of the E90 sedan-based two-door will be available, starting with the 335i and 325i next month – just one month after the US took delivery and almost simultaneously with its European release. An entry-level 323i version of the redesigned E92 will hit BMW showrooms in December.

Priced from $69,900 for the six-speed manual (up from $65,300 for the current E46 2.2-litre six-cylinder 320Ci coupe), the 323i employs the same N52 magnesium-aluminium 2.5-litre straight six as the more powerful 325i (and for that matter the 130kW E90 323i sedan and E91 323i Touring variants launched in June), but in this case produces 140kW at 5900rpm and 230Nm of torque between 3500 and 5000rpm.

BMW claims quicker 0-100km/h acceleration of 7.7 seconds (8.6 for the auto), a faster 235km/h top speed (auto: 233km/h), lower average combined EU fuel consumption of 8.4L/100km (auto: 9.0L/100km) and lower CO2 emissions of 203g/km (auto: 218g/km).

Kerb weight is 1405kg (auto: 1430) – 15kg less than the (five-speed manual and auto) 320Ci. BMW says the 323i coupe is more powerful, quicker, more frugal and lighter than it most direct competitor, the Mercedes-Benz CLK200K ($85,400), which is not available as a manual.

Priced at $81,500 as a manual (up from $73,200 for the 325Ci coupe), the 325i offers 160kW at 6500rpm and 250Nm between 2750 and 4000rpm (up from the E46 version’s 141kW/245Nm). Claimed 0-100km/h performance is 6.9 seconds (auto: 7.6), top speed is 247km/h (auto: 245) and both fuel consumption and exhaust emissions mirror the 323i. Kerb weight is 1420kg (auto: 1450) – 25kg less than the 325Ci.

The range-topping (at least until the next-gen M3 surfaces within 12 months) 335i carries a sticker price of $108,500 in manual guise – a big $14,600 up from the 170kW/300Nm 330Ci ($93,900) it will replace. Powered by BMW’s new direct-injection twin-turbo 3.0-litre all-aluminium straight six, it delivers 225kW at 5800rpm and a muscular 400Nm between just 1300 and 5000rpm.

Blasting to 100km/h in a claimed 5.5 seconds (auto: 5.7) – just one-tenth slower than the current M3 and more than a second quicker than the E46 330Ci – the 335i offers an electrically limited top speed of 250km/h in both six-speed manual and auto forms, as well as average combined EU fuel consumption of 9.5L/100km and CO2 emissions of 228g/km for both transmissions.

Despite the fact BMW claims the 335i engine is 70kg lighter than "a comparably powerful 4.0-litre eight-cylinder engine", kerb weight is still up 35kg on the 330Ci manual at 1525kg, while the 1540kg 335i auto is 10kg heavier than the 330Ci (five-speed) auto.

BMW is quick to point out the 335i offers far more power, torque and acceleration – along with less weight and lower fuel consumption – that its closest rival in Mercedes’ V6-powered CLK350, which for $120,100 offers 200kW and 350Nm.

A six-speed ZF automatic transmission with manual-shift mode (and optional thumb-shift steering wheel toggles for the 335i, priced at $200) is available with all three variants for an extra $2600. Sports suspension - which lowers ride height by 15mm and comes standard on the 335i - costs $600 on 323i and 325i, while active steering is also available across range for $2700.

Other key options include metallic paint ($1600), alarm ($900), sunroof ($2750), a powered rear sunblind ($550) and active cruise control ($2900). High Gloss Black interior trim is standard on all three variants, but woodgrain and brushed aluminium trim are no-cost options.

The flagship 335i comes standard with lumbar adjustment for both front seats (which costs $600 on 323i and 325i), front parking sensors (which cost $530 on lesser variants), High Beam Assist ($300 for the 2.5-litre cars), Adaptive Headlights with cornering function ($860 on 323i/325i) and Business Bluetooth mobile phone preparation ($500 in the non-turbo variants).

BMW’s basic Business satellite-navigation system with 6.5-inch colour monitor costs $3600 in the 323i and comes standard in the 325i, while the Professional version with TV, voice control and 8.8-inch monitor is standard in 335i and costs $3300 in 325i and $6900 in 323i. Similarly, sports seats and power driver’s seat adjustment with memory are standard in 325i and 33i, but cost an extra $1250 and $1500 respectively for 323i buyers.

All E92 coupes come standard with twin front, twin front side and twin front and rear head airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, front seatbelt force-limiters, DTC traction control, DSC stability control, CBC and DBC braking systems, Dakota leather trim, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear foglights, LED tail-lights, cruise control with brake function, bi-Xenon headlights, remote central locking, power windows/mirrors, automatic climate-control, anti-dazzle interior mirror, trip computer, rear parking sensors, basic Bluetooth mobile phone preparation, a multi-function leather sports steering wheel, run-flat tyres with pressure monitor and microdot vehicle identification.

Both 323i and 325i run on 225/45-section tyres but feature different 8.0 x 17-inch wheel designs, while the 335i features staggered-width wheels and tyres comprising 8.0 x 18-inch rims with 225/40s up front and 8.5 x 18-inch alloys with 255/35s at rear. Optional 18-inch wheels are available for 323i and 325i, as are optional 19s for the 335i.

Lower (at 1395mm), wider (at 1782mm) and slightly longer (at 4580mm) than the E90 3 Series sedan, the E92 is also on average around 10kg lighter than the sedan upon which it’s based – but with which it shares no body panels. BMW claims the E92 is 25 stiffer than the E46 coupe it replaces and concedes it’s also torsionally more rigid than the E90 sedan.

The company says it already holds 250 orders for its newest four-seater coupe, an unprecedented 60 per cent of which are for the top-shelf 335i. BMW has sold more than 10,000 examples of the E46 coupe since it replaced E39 two-door in Australia in June 1999, with more than 460,000 sold globally in the past seven years.

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