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Review: 2006 BMW 3 Series

July 23, 2005 11:59 AM EST | BMW , Convertibles , Coupes , Luxury Brands , SUV's , Sedans | Email to Friend

View large imageImproving upon the ultimate driving machine benchmark, this is unequivocally the best car in the entry-luxury category.

Still the standard when it comes to perfectly sorted vehicle dynamics, high-quality interior materials and outstanding handling.

Still costs more than most of its competitors, lacking in interior storage space.

What's New for 2006
The 3 Series has been completely redesigned for 2006 (See 2005 Model)

The baby Bimmer has grown up for 2006. The sixth-generation 3 Series is slightly larger, heavier and faster than the previous 3, which was introduced in sedan form in 1999, followed by the coupes, the convertible and the wagon in 2000. An even better car overall, the 2006 3 Series has a bolder look, revised suspension and braking, more power and more interior space. BMW's infamous iDrive is now available in the 3 Series, but is thankfully optional (packaged with a navigation system), and the rest of the interior is a model of precision design. The new 3 will be sold initially as either the 325i or 330i, although both now use a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. The 325i is rated at 215 hp, while the 330 includes a three-stage induction system, different exhaust and powertrain software that results in 255 hp. The optional Active Steering system features a variable ratio that turns the front wheels to a greater degree relative to steering wheel movement at low speeds (such as parking lots and tight corners), and even countersteers if the stability control system senses a slide. BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG), a sophisticated transmission that combines the control of a manual gearbox with the ease of an automatic, is available on the 330i. 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. Overall, 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 and 330i sedans. Standard features on 325 models include automatic climate control, one-touch power windows, a power moonroof, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a CD player and keyless entry. The 330 model adds upgraded wheels, a sport suspension and a Logic 7 premium sound system. Various options include a DVD-based navigation system with iDrive, adaptive xenon headlights, parking sensors, active cruise control, leather seating and active steering. The optional Performance Package includes tighter suspension tuning, performance tires, a higher speed limiter and sport seats.

Powertrains and Performance:
The 325 model is powered by a 3.0-liter inline six that makes 215 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Advanced features of the new engine include Valvetronic variable valve lift, double VANOS variable valve timing, and an aluminum and magnesium block. The 330 uses a higher-performance version of the same engine, which generates 255 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include a standard six-speed manual, and an optional six-speed automatic. BMW's Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) is also available on the 330i.

Included on every model are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, dynamic brake control, front side-impact airbags and head curtain airbags for the front and rear. The stability control system integrates several brake-related features, such as wiping the pads in the rain (wet brakes don't stop too well) and snugging the pads to the rotors when the driver lifts off the throttle, which increases brake responsiveness.

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 leatherette upholstery looks and feels better than you would expect. An additional pod sprouts from the dash when the navigation system is ordered, which also includes BMW's iDrive control system.

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.

Article source: - Reprinted with permission

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