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2005 BMW 3 Series

June 11, 2005 09:07 PM EST | BMW , Luxury Brands , Sedans | Email to Friend

What's New for 2005
2005 BMW 3 SeriesA power moonroof and Myrtle wood trim are now standard on all models. Brushed aluminum column trim is available as a no-cost option. Front lumbar support has been added to the Premium Package for all 325 models; a power top is now standard on the 325Ci convertible; and new star-spoke wheels are standard on the 325Ci coupe and convertible. The 330Ci convertible gets an auto-dimming rearview mirror, lumbar support and a universal garage door opener as standard. This year, the sequential manual gearbox (SMG) is available only on 3.0-liter models, and only in combination with the Sport Package. Buyers can now order both the Performance and Premium Packages together. Lastly, a flat tire warning and white indicator lights are now standard on all models.

The fifth-generation 3 Series was introduced in sedan form in 1999, followed by the coupes, the convertible and the wagon in the 2000 model year. All-wheel-drive versions of the sedan and wagon arrived in 2001. In 2002, BMW freshened the lineup with subtle styling revisions to the front and rear fascias (and if you're a serious enthusiast, you also know that the company tightened up the steering again after a misguided effort to appease the masses with a lighter setup in 2001). The Performance Package for the 330i arrived in 2003, which brought it a tad closer to the capability of the high-performance M3. In 2004, select 3 Series models became eligible for BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG), a sophisticated transmission that combines the control of a manual gearbox with the ease of an automatic. The 3 Series is BMW's top seller in the U.S., and for good reason - endowed with world-class suspension, steering and brake components, these cars have an ability to communicate with their drivers that is unmatched in the entry-level luxury class and, indeed, unmatched by most cars at any price. Lest you think this adroit handling comes at the expense of ride quality, rest assured that BMW still realizes the importance of comfortable cruising. Whether you choose the standard suspension or the optional sport-tuned setup, you'll be able to go about your weekday routine without feeling that you've sacrificed ride comfort for the sake of weekend thrills. Luxury inside the cabin is understated compared with peers like the Audi A4, but 3 Series cockpits are dignified and laden with most of the requisite features (among others, automatic climate control, one-touch windows and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel). However, leather upholstery and power adjustments for the seats cost extra on all but the 330Ci convertible. Moreover, on the whole, the 3 Series cars tend to cost more than the competition, but if you go easy on the options, we think you'll find that the price of admission is well worth it.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The lineup includes the 325i sedan and wagon, 330i sedan, 325xi all-wheel-drive sedan and wagon, 330xi all-wheel-drive sedan, 325Ci coupe and convertible and 330Ci coupe and convertible. Standard features on 325 models include 16-inch wheels, automatic climate control, leatherette (vinyl, that is) upholstery, one-touch power windows, a power moonroof, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a CD player and keyless entry. Additionally, coupes have a sport-tuned suspension, and coupes and wagons have a split-folding rear seat (optional on sedans). The 330 models add 17-inch wheels, a sport suspension (optional on the 330Ci convertible and not available on the 330xi), and a Harman Kardon sound system. The 330Ci convertible also gets power leather seats. You can get any of these features in one form or another on other models; a DVD-based navigation system, bi-xenon headlights and parking sensors are stand-alone extras for the entire lineup. There are also several wheel and tire upgrade packages. The 330i sedan is eligible for the Performance Package, which incorporates a few drivetrain modifications, even tighter suspension tuning, 18-inch wheels and suede upholstery.

Powertrains and Performance:
All 325 models are powered by a 2.5-liter inline six that makes 184 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. All 330s use a 3.0-liter engine that generates 225 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque. On 330i sedans with the Performance Package, output goes up to 235 hp and 222 lb-ft. Transmission choices include either a five-speed or six-speed manual, depending on the model, and a five-speed automatic. BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) is also available on 3.0-liter rear-drive models equipped with the Sport Package. Either engine is more than ample for everyday travel, though the 3.0-liter is by far our favorite as it's able to propel a manual-shift 330i to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds.

Included on every model are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, dynamic brake control, front side-impact airbags and head curtain airbags (convertibles get rollover protection) for the front and rear; rear side-impact bags are optional. The 3 Series earned a "Good" rating (the highest) in IIHS frontal offset crash testing, as well as four stars for the driver and five stars for the front passenger in government frontal impact testing.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The 3 Series' interiors provide a restrained show of luxury, wherein the emphasis is on driver comfort and involvement (hence the supportive seats and clean analog gauges). Materials are high in quality and build quality is exceptional; indeed, even the standard vinyl upholstery looks and feels better than you would expect.

Driving Impressions:
The 3 Series never fails to impress us. Its world-class suspension, steering and brakes provide hours of entertainment on twisty two-lane highways -- beyond simply feeling rock-solid when hustled around turns, this car communicates with the driver in a manner that inspires confidence no matter what kind of driving you're doing. And you don't have to give up a comfortable ride to get this kind of athleticism.

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