Category Archives: BMW

2016 BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle (1119)

By Vince Bodiford

BMW effectively invented the sport activity vehicle segment with the launch of the original BMW X3 back in 2003. In my opinion, the BMW X3 is among the best in the segment – not only because it’s a BMW, but for blending great styling with sufficient power, room for everyone and flexible utility for active lifestyles. X3 is an outstanding performing and driving machine – on top of its authentic utility.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

2016 BMW X3 sDrive 28i – $38,950.00

(multiple models and options available)

Vehicle Model Road Tested: 2016 BMW X3 xDrive 28i AWD.

Engine: 2.0-liter In-line 4-cylinder gas engine, VANOS, Valvetronic, EFI Turbo.

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates: 21-mpg City, 28-mpg Highway.

Road test environment: Southern California streets and roads, including Pacific Coast Highway.

Vehicle Highs: Authentic utility for active lifestyles, there are tons of brilliant conveniences that make the X3 as handy as a Swiss Army knife, with the driving passion of a BMW. Legendary BMW brand and quality, and superior dealer network to back it up.

Vehicle Lows: It is priced higher than most rivals. I found the operation of the center-console mounted gear selector particularly aggravating, always forgetting to push the side button and slide the lever forward to select reverse, or push to top button down and the lever up to select park, and so on. There is a simpler way to do this, but BMW insists on the most counter-intuitive movements, not just on the X3, but every BMW gear selector is this way, likely as complicated as the control yoke of Boeing Dreamliner.

Vehicle Rivals: Porsche Macan, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Acura RDX, Infinity QX50, Lexus NX.

Many new BMW models feature an 8-speed automatic transmission, which brings smooth shifting, sportiness and efficiency to new levels of perfection.

This new automatic’s attributes have been achieved via an innovative concept that provides the two additional ratios (7 and 8) with no increase in bulk or weight. In an arrangement never before employed in an 8-speed automatic, four planetary gear sets and five clutch packs are controlled in a way that no more than two of the five clutch packs are freewheeling at any given time.

The wider spread of ratios allows the engine to run at lower speeds, often in the “tallest” gear, 8th. Yet even with this wider spread, the steps between adjacent gears are reduced; in turn this means a stronger, smoother flow of power during acceleration. And for the same reason, faster shifts are a further benefit because only one clutch pack is disengaged to shift up or down by one or two gears.

Safety, comfort and infotainment.
The new BMW X3 sees BMW ConnectedDrive providing further evidence of its role in the link-up of the driver, vehicle and outside world. Among the outstanding new features from BMW ConnectedDrive is the latest, enhanced-capability generation of the Navigation system, complete with ECO PRO route guidance and an iDrive Controller with integrated touchpad. The touchpad allows drivers or passengers to use their finger to write letters for text inputs – a navigation destination, for example. Among the other systems available as an option to further enhance safety is Active Driving Assistant with ACC Stop & Go, which includes features such as Lane Departure Warning, Frontal Collision Warning, Pedestrian Warning, and City Collision Mitigation. Aiding comfort is the Parking Assistant, which automatically steers the vehicle into parking spaces parallel to the road.

The standard inclusion of the BMW Assist eCall function provides another boost to safety. This system springs into action automatically, as well as when help is summoned manually. As soon as the crash sensors report an airbag deployment, BMW Assist eCall uses the integrated SIM card to send the vehicle’s exact location along with all key information to the BMW call center, enabling rapid and effective assistance at the scene of the accident. BMW Assist eCall is now standard with 10 years of service.

Conclusion: The BMW X3 leads the pack of SUV’s in this segment. It will deliver years of driving service and utility, and its design will remain fresh long after the rivals look old and out of fashion. It sings every note out of the BMW playbook without missing a single key. Highly recommended.

 

Remember – Life’s a trip, Enjoy the drive! Always buckle everyone up and obey all traffic laws. This test vehicle road tested by a professional driver in a controlled environment. Vehicle specifications are provided by BMW and deemed accurate at the time of publishing.

2006 BMW 325-i (615)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the new for 2006 BMW 325-i and incidentally it was reviewed while traveling through much of the state of Oregon from top to bottom and side to side. At the top is the Columbia River Gorge and if you haven’t seen it and will, you are in for a treat. Beautiful country.

I don’t know if this BMW was necessarily in style with its Barrique Red Metallic paint job, but I always enjoy driving BMW cars even if it is the compact 3 – series. Surely the handling prowess of this cat makes up for its small size. And don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all “That” small and for a compact it has a nice size trunk and seating is quite comfy.

Public Service: Reduce Road Rage – if you’re not passing traffic in the slower lane to your right, that’s the lane you should be driving in.

Handling & Performance:

German cars have for the past half century been known for their mechanical genius. The Japanese have risen to the occasion to rival the world and equalize the playing field of automotive excellence. Today it is apparent the big three have taken on a whole new meaning. In my view it is no longer GM, Ford and Chrysler but the global community makes it America , Germany and Japan .

Think about that for a moment and then see if you see the same interesting result of WWII as relates to the auto industry. I suspect the Space Race will have made a similar impact on the miniaturizing of all electronics that has given birth to so many wonderful gadgets like this computer I’m writing with. Our space age navigation systems that are simply wonderful no matter in which continent you happen to be traveling. Now as you probably know there are portable Nav systems and I’ll be reviewing those shortly as they apply to all autos you drive. Of course it is safe to say they, like all electronics, will get so cheaper over time and I’ll bet you will have them in every vehicle you own so you won’t need a portable version. But until then portable is good and they only cost about $600.

Styling:

I don’t have the answer to how they could design the low cowling better but I have a problem with low profile cars like this BMW that hit parking cement stops. The low profile makes handling better but makes for a parking nightmare.

Fit and Finish:

Quite good but the use of plastic nearly everywhere makes you appreciate real material like wood whenever you find it. All plastic simply loses the warmth of real or natural materials.

Cost:

The base price is good at $30,900 but that is pretty bare bones in my opinion. To get it equipped the way I like it with leather, sports seats that hug you all around and several power options you’re looking at nearly $40,000. Hello, that’s a lot for a 3-Series.

Conveniences and comfort:

I’m wondering why the ignition system is designed the way it is. You put the blunt key fob into the dash and then push a start button and push it again to turn the ignition off. Then you remove the key fob.

Sirius satellite radio is good but I’m partial to XM Satellite, perhaps because it’s the first. But then I like Pepsi even though I grew up with Coke.

Cup holders on the dash are really bad. Don’t these engineer guys ever drive their own cars and spill coffee, or other drinks all over themselves and the car like I did? Perhaps they should consider having the press drive these cars before they go into production.

The seat cushions on the side have pillows that expand to hold you snug in the seat. The first time I experienced those was in a Corvette I tested in Colorado . It was apparent they are “Race Age” devices that hug you in the curves to make you feel you’re a part of the car. Wonderful and you’ll love ‘em.

Cruise control is one of my favorite conveniences because I do a lot of driving on the highway. But I have to say Mercedes and BMW place the control levers in lousy places. They are so close together that you must always think about which lever you are using. Not good. I believe GM has engineered this feature the best of any of the competition. I did however like the unique improvement of allowing you to click one notch for a one mile per hour increase or decrease or two notches to jump four miles per hour up or down.

Consumer Recommendation:

If a compact car is your thing at this point in your life and the budget will afford mid $30,000 prices this is a nice option to consider. But the competition is real stiff and capable. It has to be a tough decision for anyone. Hell, flip a coin out of the list below.

Recognized Competition:

BMW 3-Series $30-45,000, Volvo S40 $24-29,000, Mercedes Benz C-Class $29-54,000, Audi A4 $28-45,000, Saab 9-3 $26-42,000, Volkswagen Passat $23-32,000, Subaru Legacy $22-34,000, Jaguar X-Type $32,330, Lexus IS $30-35,000, Infiniti G35 $31-34,000, Acura TSX $28-30,000, Cadillac CTS $29-51,000, Lexus ES 350 $33,170.

Good News:

Well thought out cruise control settings, nice handling and wonderful manual transmission shifting characteristics and decent fuel economy. I like the His and Her climate temp controls because she’s always menopause hot and I’m on the cool side (sound familiar?).

Bad News:

Poorly placed cup holders, questionable ignition design (key would be better), poor cruise control location.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter 225 horsepower inline 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, twin tube gas pressure shocks, engine speed sensitive power assist steering, run flat tires with flat tire warning, dynamic stability control and dynamic traction control, dual airbags with front seat side airbags, front and rear seat head protection system, haloge4n lights and fog lights, rain sensing windshield wipers and auto headlight control, ground lighting in door handles, keyless remote entry, power and heated mirrors, tilt and telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel, climate control with activated charcoal micro filter ventilation and left / right temp controls, 6-way adjustable front seats, anti theft stereo, CD and MP3 player audio system, computer and 2-way power glass moonroof.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 30 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $30,900.

 

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair

2003 BMW Z4 (438.5)

Another View:

This week I had the opportunity to visit with an open critic of the BMW Z4 Roadster. To the naked eye – mine – I didn’t see the problem, but then I’m not a car designer.

Merkel Weiss is a professor and automotive design engineer who’ve I’ve known for many years. From his work at Chrysler Corporation to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, he has always been an automotive voice asked for or not.

Well, I asked Merkel what he thought of the new BMW Z4. He owns an M3 so I figured he would surely have a good thought, but I got another view.

Merkel says he was in the dentist chair for X-rays and the tech said he was doing very well controlling his gag reflexes. Merkel explained he had spent a lot of time analyzing the form of the Z4, which he surmised was a complete non sequitur to her.

Me too, until Merkel explained. “ A gag reflex is a protection feature of the human anatomy that is completely autonomic. It is certainly possible, through practice to learn to control the gag reflex. But that thought came to me while I was thinking about certain aesthetic features of modern car design which are accepted as good work, and that which is not – specifically the BMW Z4.”

“Ok, Joe, I am not an old fogie and reject any reference to old fogyism that one might attribute to this aesthetic consideration, mainly because I taught car design for years. I know many car designers, and I enjoy all aspects of modern design, but only the good ones that are, by the way, good today and tomorrow. They may date themselves but the good part stays good.”

Merkel, how do you evaluate the good ones?

“It’s really not too difficult. First you need an adult view of sculpture. When we were kids we drew pictures with all kinds of stuff in the composition. The picture got busy and we liked it that way. I think of a busy stylistic treatment as an immature aesthetic, like Datsun’s of the 70’s.

So what’s your beef with the Z4?

“It is a tremendous achievement for BMW’s design department because it is something that ordinarily should not be possible. The joining of concave and convex surfaces through a 45-degree sculpture line through the front fender is really a work of genius, except for one thing. It fails to mate by definition, making the front of the car separate from the back. For one thing the rear haunches are way too weak, and the ducktail is way too tall, dropping off on either side of the center duck tail like Niagara Falls and giving the car a saggy butt Bertha look. The tail edge drop-off here should be reduced to no more than about a third of what it is, but no drop-off at all (like a Ford GT40 ducktail) would be better yet. And with the top up it turns dreadful.”


Ford concept GT 40.

Wow, Merkel. Don’t hold anything back; tell me how you really feel.

“Joe, you know I own a BMW and they drive great, but I loathe the body of the Z4 simply because I want to like it so much and it is such a departure from the nicely sculpted BMW’s of the past. And while I’m on a roll, the 7 series trunk treatment also brings out the barf bag. The pasted on trunk is just plain undignified in a car of this stature.


2003 BMW 7 Series


2003 BMW 7 Series

I believe that the same ingenious thought process has led BMW down the path of over analysis to such a degree that the original function got lost in the translation. This flame surfacing and trunk pasting direction is simply bad. I think GM got it a lot better with the Holden Monaro/GTO, Porsche with the Boxster, Honda with the S2000 and Audi with the TT.    

        
GM’s Monaro                             Porsche Boxster

                    
Honda S2000                                       Audi TT

While I applaud BMW for inventing and building something completely new, I think someone inside BMW should have stepped up and barfed. Only now in the darkest corners of the empire are shadowed figures beginning to whisper,
hey, the Emperor has no clothes on…”

Consumer Recommendation:

Don’t ask Merkel.

The Competition:

2003 BMW Z4 $33-40,000, Audi TT $33-40,000, Mazda MX 5 Miata $22-26,000, Mercedes SLK $40-55,000, Porsche Boxster $42-52,000, Toyota MR2 Spyder 24,570.

Good News:

Drives Great.

Bad News:

Flawed styling.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2003 – An Automotive Love Affair

 

2000 BMW X5 4.4i (301)

Overview: 

This BMW X5 reminds me that competition in the world is alive and well, thank you. And as the competition heats up, marketing genius follows with amazing technology. Consider the latest news. You will soon be able to watch your car being built right on the Internet. Yep, you place your order and they e-mail you when your car will hit the production line. Then you can log on to the manufacturers web page and watch the actual car you bought being put together. Wow. I hope meat packers don’t pick up on this. On the other hand it could be very revealing and the best quality control force ever. How would you feel if your customers watched you doing what you do for them? Pretty scary, eh?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I tested this X5 under normal driving conditions and didn’t take it off road, because it is almost too pretty to get muddy. There is little to complain about but we can all find something to bitch about, right? As to this BMW, the first thing my friend Mark did to his Beemer was to disable the passenger rear view mirror from tilting down when in reverse. I found this feature useful when parallel parking, however, when I drove straight back I felt disoriented. It forced me to rely on the other mirrors or yanking around to see what’s back there. The second thing I thought was poorly designed is the placement of the driver’s power window controls. If you’re like me you use them a lot and will be annoyed by their being tucked away under a door handle.

I can’t tell you much about the feel of the all-wheel-drive system because it is transparent to the driver. All wheel drive is great in the real world so you won’t have to think about when it’s needed. The car knows that better than we do for the driving conditions at hand. And since this X5 will never get off road anyway, it really doesn’t matter. If I were going to do any serious off roading I’d buy a Jeep or a Hummer.

Handling & Performance: 

Outstanding.

Styling: 

I don’t know. I guess it’s in good company with the Lexus RX 300 and the Mercedes Benz ML 430. Similar cut off look in the rear. Shorter than an SUV should be. It’s like a wanna-be passenger car. Most are doing that, and that’s what the public must be asking for.

Fit and Finish:  

Outstanding. 

Conveniences:  

There is a lot of standard equipment that make this truly luxurious.

Cost:  

In keeping with all the stuff that comes standard, you’d expect the cost to be high and they didn’t disappoint me.

Recommendation:  

The competition is pretty similar except for the Cad Escalade that is clearly a big boat that is not really in the same ocean. The Land Rover Discovery was nice but fits more on expedition with National Geographic. All the others are workhorses in tuxedos hardly expected to get off the black top. So if luxury cars are your thing and cost is no object, you’re going to love this newest of new SUV’s. Gee, I can’t wait for the Porsche SUV. That ought to be a trip too. Until then or something better comes along, this is a fun utility to drive and surely the fastest SUV I’ve ever driven. It is hard not to put your foot in it because it is truly amazing how responsive it is to drive. By comparison the rest are slugs

The competition:

Cadillac Escalade $46,225, Infiniti QX4 $34,150-35,550, Jeep Grand Cherokee $26,895-34,635, Land Rover Discovery $33,350-34,150, Lexus RX 300 $33,005-34,605, Mercedes Benz M Class $35,300-64,900.

Good News: 

Fun to drive, faaaasst. 

Bad News: 

Poorly placed power window controls, marginal visibility, and poooor gas mileage.

Standard Equipment: 

4.4 liter 282 horsepower V8 engine, 5-speed Steptronic auto trans, power 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, Dynamic Stability Control for All Wheel Drive and Dynamic Brake Control, dual front and side air bags, climate control, power steering, power windows with one-tough up and down, power door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, power leather seats, stereo with cassette, remote keyless entry and security system, and child safety locks.

 Gas Stats:

13 City and 17 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $38,900 – 49,400.

 

2000 BMW 323 Ci Convertible (299)

Overview:

What’s not to love about this BMW 323 Ci Convertible? If you don’t just love this convertible you and I need to sit down and have a talk. As Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk?”  It seats four and if you’re in the market for a convertible you probably don’t need more seating. In fact I can’t think of another convertible that accommodates more, or seats them better. If there is I’m sure someone will tell me about it.

BMW used to be a high maintenance vehicle and although I cannot attest to an improvement, I will say that it has been my observation from friends who have owned other models of BMW for a few years now, seem to be more trouble free than past decades. When brother John and I owned a repair shop my observation was very negative about BMW. I would never have opted to buy one. I guess the most troublesome cars to keep running were manufactured by BMW, Jaguar, Fiat and Ferrari. The Jag’s and BMW’s were in a lot and cost a lot to fix. Fiat was also in a lot but the cost of repair was low. Ferrari was in often and the cost was astronomical.

Anyway, I do worry about the mechanical stuff a bit. In general, however, most new cars benefit from the latest and greatest technology and that has translated to nearly trouble free drive trains. That is reflected in the fact that most cars don’t need tune-ups until they reach 100,000 miles. The convertible top, on the other hand, is new technology but also untested by Father Time. It is totally new and also totally automated. You just push one button, sit still and in about a minute the top is up or down and neatly stored. Well, I guess you do need to watch the red light next to the button to confirm the top is completely up or down. Additionally, it is so well done that when it’s up, you’d think it were a hard top.

Equipment is abundant and high quality. The dual-zone climate control has an automatic re-circulation control system that switches to inside air when the outside air is polluted and then switches back to fresh air intake when the air outside has cleared.

Handling & Performance:

The engine is smooth and sophisticated. Its aluminum block makes it lighter. The 24 variable timing valves should produce improved low range response but with the short-range low gear it is sluggish off the line. This was the one thing that bothered me and I found I was redlining in first gear a lot. Second was longer but getting there was slow. Aside from that problem, this car is flat fun to drive. Steering is precise and the Dynamic Stability Control system helps out in the corners or when you need to swerve to avoid unexpected road conditions.

Styling:

I think I’m in love.

Fit and Finish:

Continues to improve over the years.

Conveniences:

More than enough, but I’m easy to please.

Cost:

Enough for some, too much for others.

Recommendation:

If you’re in the market for a convertible and the price doesn’t scare you off, you’ll buy this Beemmer. The cars in the competition noted below really aren’t comparable because none are convertibles, but they’re the closest I have.

The competition:

Acura TL $28,400-30,400, Audi A4 $23,990-28,790, Cadillac Catera $31,010, Infiniti I30 $29,465-31,540, Lexus ES 300 $31,505, Lincoln LS $31,415-35,290, Mercedes Benz C Class $31,750-53,000, Saab 9-3 $26,100-44,995, Volvo S40 $23,400.

Good News:

You gotta love this car because it’s clean and elegant. Smooth, fast and handles extremely well when you get moving on the highway, lots of nice features. Great one button top control. Well priced.

Bad News:

Slow off the line was bothersome, limited cargo area because of the top down apparatus.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 170 horsepower inline 6 cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front and side airbags, power ABS disc brakes, traction control, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power seats, radio with cassette.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $34,990.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright ©1998 – Automotive Love Affair

2000 BMW 323 Ci Coupe (275)

Overview:

I totally enjoyed the ride to Scottsdale Arizona in this 2000 BMW 323Ci coupe. It is one of two new coupes for 2000. The other is the 328Ci and sports a 2.8 liter engine with 23 more horsepower. But the 2.5 liter 170 horsepower in this 323Ci is more than adequate. It has the power and handling characteristics of a sports car. And if you only have need for a two door coupe this is a nice quality automobile built for the autobahn’s of Germany and the world. On our trek to Arizona for a wedding we had to deal with typical cross winds but they lasted non-stop for the entire trip. Even so, I felt no worse for wear because the seats are comfortable and the ride was smooth. We arrived rested after a 5 ½ hour drive from L.A.

The rear seat is also comfortable and roomier than I expected for a coupe. And I was impressed with how they made entry and exit for the back seat easier than most coupes. Each front seat glides forward almost 4 inches when you pull the backrest forward. Thus the seat is up and out of the way much better than conventional seat movement. The trunk is also quit spacious. It easily held two suit cases, a gift the size of a suitcase, my golf clubs and all the other stuff women seem to need for a long week end. We didn’t bring the ironing board or the sink because I thought the golf stuff was more important. Ok, the truth – I was simply too lazy to remove them before we left. Well I confess, I had hoped to be forced to play a round of golf while there. As it turned out the groom and his support group did play 18 holes. If I had known, I would have left the night before. My kind of wedding.

In addition to the luggage in the trunk we had hanging suit bags on both sides of the back seat and some junk food snacks. I really thought it would take much longer, but thanks to the speed limit increase in Arizona you can really make good time. I love that state. It reminds me of the old west when men were men and women were women and you could tell the difference between them. On occasion you’ll even see a dude or dudette with a pistol holstered to their side. Never know when you’ll be attacked by snakes. I hate snakes. But I love to drive and I love speed, and if you’re like me you’re going to be as impressed as I was with how much power is available from this inline 6-cylinder.

BMW says there is more difference between the sedan’s and the coupes than just going from 4-doors down to 2-doors. But quite frankly the differences are not all that significant. The biggest dimension difference is that the coupes set 1.8 inches lower than the sedans and the windshield is raked 2 degrees more. More noticeable to me were the frameless windows like those on convertibles. Typically they don’t seal well and you get a lot of wind noise. BMW had the good sense to make the window drop slightly to clear the weather seal while opening and closing the door.

The rear windows open out like prior coupes but are now power activated rather than manually operated. On-board computers are standard on these coupes and although there are a few manual features for this entry level BMW it is as full featured as I would expect for the money, and arguably as much as you need. Cost is kept down with things like leatherette in place of real leather seats and the tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjusts manually. I’m not the biggest BMW fan because of the high repair cost typical of model years of Christmas’s past. However, I could see myself buying a BMW today in light of the improved quality over the years. It’s a cute coupe that handles well, is comfortable and has lots of power.

The competition:

1999 Acura TL $28,400,  2000 Audi A4 $23,990-$28,790, 2000 Cadillac Catera $30,860, 2000 Infiniti I30 $29, 465-$31,540, 2000 Lexus ES 300 $31,405, 2000 Mazda Millenia $24,995-$30,995,  2000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class $31,750-$53,000, 2000 Saab 9-3 $25,900-$44,995, 2000 Volvo C70 $34,000 – $45,500.

Good News:

Roomy interior, nice styling, good fit and finish, smooth ride and in the hunt with the competition.

Bad News:

Steering is desensitized so you get less road feedback.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter inline 6-cylinder 170 horsepower engine, five speed manual transmission, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, Dynamic Stability Control, traction control, dual front and side airbags, antitheft system, halogen headlights and fog lights, keyless entry system, climate control, tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, audio system with cassette, 6-way front adjustable seats, split fold down rear seats, 4-function computer.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $28,990

 

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair

1998 BMW Z3 Roadster (Convertible) (181)

Overview:

This week I had the opportunity to revisit a man’s Miata, the BMW Z3. I drove the first year (1996) model and it looks pretty much the same. Not so surprising for cars that come to us from Europe. I’ve driven most of what BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) has to offer and I suspect I love BMW partly because they retain the same look and feel from year to year plus they are different from other cars on the road. Jag has that same quality. Cars like this stand out in our memories because they are faithfully recognizable. Like an old friend or your favorite slippers, sweats or dog spot sitting next to that couch potato you call your spouse. They are tried and true.

The changes since ’96 have been refinements mostly except the 2.8-liter 6-cylinder engine that was sorely needed. The larger engine is accompanied by a 2.5-inch wider rear track and 3.4 inch wider body stance. The 1.9-liter engine just didn’t put it in the performance class it needed to be in, and thus the comparison with the Miata. Some of the other refinements for ’98 include roll bars, power soft top or removable hard top options and improved seats.

You know, life can be boring enough without settling for “cookie cutter cars” that all blend together and are all too abundant on America’s roads. Think about it. You simply can’t miss a Mercedes Benz, BMW or a Jag coming down the road. Unique and exciting cars like Acura’s NSX and the new Porsche Boxster renew my hope for sports car enthusiasts. I have to say I’ve warmed up to this Z3 since I contrasted the ’96 model to the Mazda Miata. American consumers obviously did too as they bought a whopping 29,000 of them, since 1996. They were manufactured in Spartanburg, South Carolina…say what? Yep, right here in America, and 70% of that facilities production was exported in the same period. Hold on here – does that mean wages are less here than in Europe. Moving right along, this time I found myself comparing the Z3 to the NSX and Boxster. This maturing Z3 is more than an upscale Miata. Handling characteristics of these three emerging competitors is unmistakably similar and I expect BMW will push even harder to be a player in this portion of their market. My opinion changed mostly because of the Boxster where the comparison was especially apparent on the demanding conditions of Angeles Crest Highway and Willow Springs racetrack. The Z3 stood proud at the end of the road.

Ilona wonders why I drive the way I do. I don’t know Ilona. Perhaps it’s because guys have different genes than women. They have that age-old need to perform. They have deeper voices, grow hair where they shouldn’t, grunt, spit and scratch in places gals only do in private. Perhaps I just love driving and I especially love driving BMW’s because they are great performers. They love to handle the curves as much as I do.

Cool:

Distinctive styling, recognizable badge, classy, great performance, comfortable, lots of features and fun to drive.

Un-cool:

Past history of high frequency of needed repairs and higher cost of parts than logic would dictate, high price tag for that badge and I just can’t warm up to the red instrumentation.

Standard Equipment

Most everything is standard and the same on both the 1.9-liter 4-cylinder and 2.8-liter 6-cylinder engine. 5-speed manual trans, anti-lock braking system, dual airbags, 4-wheel power disc brakes, theft protection, central locking system, engine speed sensitive variable assist rack and pinion power steering, cruise control, foglights, air conditioning, anti-theft AM/FM stereo cassette radio, 4-way driver and 2-way passenger power seats, power windows and outside mirrors.

Gas Stats:

23/19 city and 32/26 highway mpg on the 1.9 and 2.8 liter engines, respectively.

Pricing

MSRP for is $29,425 for the 1.9 and $35,900 for the 2.8 liter. What do you get for the extra six grand? 6-cylinder engine, 3.4 inch wider rear body, 4-way power passenger seat, leather, upgraded radio, ventilated front discs, limited slip differential and front spoiler with grid air intake. Let’s see, $6 K over 36 months…..

 

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair