Thursday, December 19, 2013

1999 BMW 328i

The Really Important Stuff
Engine 2.8 L I6
Transmission 5-Speed Manual
Power 193 hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque 206 ft-lbs @ 3500 rpm
Fuel Economy City/Highway 18/26
Curb Weight 3197 lbs
Base Price When New $33,970
Market Value (Excellent Condition, 100K miles) $5,099

At first glance, the E46 BMW 3-series is just another compact sedan.  But make no mistake: this car is in a class of its own.

It’s clear from the styling that this car is sporty.  A low roof-line, long hood, and purposeful curves give the car a profile that suggests speed.  The entry level 3-ers (318i, 323i, and 325i) may not live up to their image, but the 328i, equipped with a 193 hp straight-6, is indeed fast.  There is ample torque from low RPM in the first three gears, and once you get the revs above 3500 in any gear, there’s enough to press you firmly against the backrest.

Inside, the atmosphere is one of warmth and comfort.  The soft leather and shiny wood trim provide the ambiance of a cozy living room.  Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, memory power seats, one-touch windows all around, a fuel economy gauge in the main cluster, and steering wheel audio controls—small conveniences that become hard to live without once you've become accustomed to them.  Options include a sport package that upgrades the already nimble suspension, and a premium Harmon Kardon stereo that is specifically tuned to fill the car with crisp, bright sound.  Unlike most new cars, your available options are not limited by selecting a manual transmission.  And you’ll certainly want to go for the stick shift if you want to properly appreciate the incredible driving experience this car can provide.

Driving a 328i is an adventure in intimate human-machine bonding.  The steering is feather-light, but unlike other cars with this much power-assist, it remains communicative.  The suspension is supple, but you will be shocked to discover that through it, you can still feel the texture of the road and the grip of each wheel.  The engine is unceasingly compliant; you will never encounter unexpected throttle lag or over-revving.  As a consequence of this elaborate dialogue between car and driver, the 328i is easily mastered and with little effort becomes an extension of your own body.

I wish I could offer even one small gripe about this car, but the truth is, it's perfect.  The 328i just gets everything right.  My only complaint is that I don't own one.

  • Peppy straight-6 engine
  • A plethora of minor convenience features add up to make a major difference
  • Luxury-car refinement
  • Standard 5-speed does not restrict other options
  • Attractive styling calls attention to the sportiness

  • Double the price of entry-level compacts
  • Expensive parts and labor precipitate a steep cost of ownership

The Bottom Line:  This car may cost twice as much as a Corolla or Civic, but it's worth every penny.

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