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BMW 3 Series Coupe
BMW 3 Series Coupe
Hot New Engines Lead 2-Door Onslaught
BMW 3 Series Coupe
BMW 3 Series Coupe
BMW 3 Series Coupe
BMW 3 Series Coupe
BMW 3 Series Coupe


Styling Anonymous, But BMW Says It Will Do A “Roses” On You
The Coupe Conundrum: Offer Less But Charge More
****  

PAU, France I hate to admit it, but sometimes there are cars that succeed, and I just don’t understand why. Every time I see an MG TF two-seater, I want to stop the car and say to the driver Hey! Why didn’t you buy yourself a Mazda MX-5, save about £2,000, and bags of trouble? I also can’t figure out why anyone would want to buy a car that was basically the same as another model, but because it only had two doors, and did roughly the same thing as the original car with a bit of added style, it actually cost more.

This is my coupe conundrum. How can a car company offer less and charge more. How do you quantify style, and is it worth paying more for?

I can understand this when the coupe version is so different, more powerful and so utterly adorable, that it would transfix buyers. The old Peugeot 406 coupe, designed by Pininfarina, was such a car. It was simply beautiful, still is, and for a while I almost convinced myself for the first time to buy a Peugeot. Needless to say the replacement Peugeot 407 Coupe doesn’t have the same effect.

Clearly, the 3 Series Coupe has been a big success for BMW, so I shall have to try and re-programme myself to see its benefits.

Who are these people buying coupes?

According to BMW there is a wide age-spread, with most sales accounted for by 30 to 59 year-olds; nothing typical there then. 82 per cent are male, although the fact that the buyer is male doesn’t necessarily mean that car is destined for a bloke. 75 per cent are “senior business people”, (or buying with somebody else’s money), and average income is £74,000 (€109,000).

“Asked about their principal motivations for buying a 3 Series Coupe, the top 5 reasons given by customers were – style, performance, handling and road holding, comfort and reliability,” says BMW.

Styling
That could apply just as easily to buyers of the 4-door version, although if style was so important, you would assume that the newest coupe would be more startling looking, more in your face. It’s also worth remembering that the 325i SE Coupe costs £28,090 (€41,200), while the four-door version goes for £25,840 (€37,900). Go figure, as they say.

The latest iteration - the fifth generation in fact – doesn’t really grab your attention at first, although it did start to grow on me after a couple of days. BMW says that externally, the coupe retains only 3 parts from the 3 Series saloon. You would think that was a formula for something radically different. First impressions suggested it was not much different from the saloon and rather dull and overweight-looking. BMW said, hold on, you will start to like it more when you get used to it. On day two, guess what, it started to look better.

BMW is using the launch of the coupe to flaunt some of its state-of-the-art high technology, super fast engines. The range-topping engine is the 335i, described by BMW as the world’s first straight-six engine with Twin-Turbo technology. This 3.0 litre direct injection petrol engine produces 306 bhp and has a small turbo which quickly gets into action before handing over to a bigger beast to handle the rest. This solves the dreaded turbo lag problem, when high-powered turbo-charged machines find it difficult to respond quickly to the need for acceleration in mundane situations, like moving from rest or slow speeds at roundabouts, or gathering initial momentum at road junctions.

Like a 4.0 litre V8
This engine shoves the car from a standstill to 62 mph in a seamless 5.5 seconds, gets to 50 mph from 75 mph in 6.2 seconds and produces an average claimed fuel consumption of 29.7 mpg (9.5 l/ 100kms). BMW says the twin-turbo engine produces the kind of performance that conventionally would need a 4.0 litre V8.

I can report that on the highways and byways around Pau in South West France, this new engine performed fabulously well. Steering and handling was just what you would expect from a BMW – impeccable. The 325 version, with a 2.5 litre straight six engine though felt sluggish, unless you really ripped the rev counter towards the red-line.

You can also choose a 330i petrol version, a 335d variable twin turbo diesel, or a 330d conventional diesel when the car is launched this month. Next year, when the range is being produced at maximum pace, there will also be a 320 diesel and 320 petrol engine.

The new coupe is bigger and more spacious than its predecessor and weighs less. There is more room for the passengers and more boot space. There is an automatic seatbelt device which feeds the belt to the driver and front passenger when the ignition is turned on and the doors closed. New technology options include Active Steering, and Active Cruise Control. The dashboard will display how the brakes are wearing, and the computerised system which controls traction and power will also dry the brakes, prime them for emergency use, and stop the car rolling back on hill starts.

Six-speed manual standard
All models except the 335d come with six-speed manual gearboxes as standard. The new six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option, although this is standard on the 335d.

The 3 Series coupe is a magnificent driver’s car which comes with all the quality and high technology you’d expect from a BMW. But I can’t bring myself to embrace the coupe concept. Maybe BMW has been toying with novelist Kingsley Amis’s famous dictum, when he said while commenting on the expansion of higher education back in 1959, that “More means worse”. If that’s true, then by offering customers less, like fewer doors, they can somehow be persuaded that it is worth paying more. So far, it seems there are a lot of Kingsley Amis fans out there, as the tactic has worked rather well.


Neil Winton – September 20, 2006

BMW 335i SE Coupe
Engine:
2,979 cc twin turbo direct injection petrol
Power:
306 bhp
Gearbox:
six-speed manual/automatic
Drive:
rear-wheels
Acceleration:
0-62-100 km/h – 5.5 seconds
Top Speed:
155 mph/250 km/h (limited)
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined – 29.7 mpg-9.5 l/kms
Length:
4,590 mm
Width:
1,780
Height:
1,380
Suspension:
double joint spring strut/5 link
Price:
from £33,420-€49,000
Competition:
Mazda RX-8, Mercedes CLK
Same for Less: Hyundai Coupe
Would I buy one?
No
Rating:
**** out of 5
For:
magnificent engines, high quality
Against:
expensive, body lacks pizzazz

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