First Sight: BMW 3 Series Coup�Mon, 24 Apr 2006 00:00:00 -0700
BMW have released photos of the new 3 Series Coup�, which goes on sale in most markets this summer. Based on the new E90 3 Series launched last year, the third generation of compact coupe marks the introduction of the first ever twin-turbo petrol-powered engine in a production BMW as well as pioneering Direct Injection technology.
Two models will be available at launch. The new 325i SE Coup� has 218hp and 250Nm of torque from its 2.5-liter engine and a top speed of 153mph. Of greater interest is the new 335i SE that develops 306hp and 400Nm of torque from its 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine. It accelerates from zero to 62mph in 5.5 seconds, and has an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph.
This level of performance is made possible by two turbochargers, each supplying compressed air to three cylinders each, and BMW's all new high-precision Direct Injection system. The use of two smaller units ensures that the turbochargers react more quickly to changes in the throttle position all the way to the 7,000rpm red line while also eliminating turbo lag.
Other engine derivatives will start production in September to broaden the 3 Series Coupe range. The new BMW 330i Coupe offers 272hp from its normally-aspirated 3.0-litre six cylinder engine while a new BMW 330d Coupe will also be offered, with 231hp and 500Nm of torque. Performance and economy are both top priorities for the diesel-powered Coupe, with the car posting a zero to 62mph time of 6.6 seconds while still delivering 43.5mpg on the combined cycle. Details of the future entry-point BMW 320i and 320d Coupe models will be announced at a later date, while cabrio versions based on the Coupe will also be offered later.
Adopting BMW's typical Coupe proportions of long wheelbase, short overhangs, long hood, cabin set to the rear and a low, sleek roofline, the new 3 Series Coupe has a classic and elegant profile. The Coupe uses the standard E90 platform, with unchanged wheelbase but a lower roofline and all-new sheet metal compared to the existing four-door car. From the front, side and rear, the car is clearly related to other 3 Series models but the overall look is notably calmer and more composed, particularly the rear end where the broad rear lights use horizontal light rods with bright LED illumination to accentuate the low, wide appearance of the car.
At the front, the headlamp outline is simpler than other 3 Series models (or the sister 1 Series) and is matched by a more classical interpretation of the twin-kidney grille, minus the separate chrome whiskers on top that are a feature on the four-door and 6 Series Coupe. The new hood has subtle creases that lead the eye directly to the grille, while the front bumper has vertical end creases that link up to the corners of the headlamps. The Coupe variant also uses more plastics in its construction, including lightweight plastic front fenders. Overall, the 3 Series Coupe is an average 10kg lighter than the Saloon variant.
Both driver and passenger in the 3 Series Coupe sit comparatively lower in the car than they do in its Saloon counterpart. This ensures the maximum headroom for occupants, even with the lower roofline of the Coupe, and also gives occupants a safe, cosseted feeling in the car. The seatbelt is now also delivered to the driver courtesy of a feeder arm integrated into the B-pillar. This only operates on the passenger side when the airbag's seat detector recognises an occupant
The previous E46 model was the last of the 'old school' BMWs still in production and remained one of the best selling models in its class over a seven year lifecycle. The new Coupe perfectly completes the current BMW line-up with its restrained classical styling and sits as the least controversial model in BMWs portfolio - maybe no bad thing. BMW are wise not to tinker with a proven formula for such a profitable model in the range and the new 3 Series Coupe looks set to continue the undiminished sales success of its predecessor. The future M3 variant is likely to offer a more stunning style for those who find the new Coupe too restrained - expect it in around eighteen months time.
By Nick Hull