- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 1999

VEHICLE TYPE: Two-door coupe
MILEAGE: 18 city, 27 highway

For those who appreciate the sporty style of a coupe, BMW now has two eye-catching cars. They are the 2000 3-Series 323Ci and 328Ci models.
These coupes are not just trimmed-down versions of the award-winning 3-Series sedans. They are new from rubber to roof. Very few parts or panels are borrowed from the sedans. The only common ground the coupe shares with the sedan is the driving performance associated with 3-Series BMWs.
The engine defines the numerical differences in the cars’ identifying names. The latter has a stronger 2.8-liter six-cylinder engine, a few extra niceties and a higher price tag. The 328Ci lists for $34,560 compared to $29,560 for the coupe with a 2.3-liter engine. Both are slightly more expensive than the sedans.
Since the coupes have a sportier appearance, it’s appropriate that they are built with a standard sport suspension. They come with 16-inch tires instead of the 15-inch that are on the sedan. For even better handling, the option of a Sports Package for the coupes includes 17-inch alloy wheels and performance tires.
To make driving even more enjoyable, a Steptronic system is available. It allows the driver to shift up and down at the touch of a button on the steering wheel. Incidentally, whether the car has a manual or automatic transmission, there will never be a need to change or even maintain the transmission fluid. A small point, but typical of BMW.
A buyer gets a lot more than just a car with this manufacturer known for advanced automotive thinking in all parts of the vehicle. For example, the redesigned windshield wipers now operate more effectively at high speeds. The door handles have been redesigned, so they can be more easily pried open from the outside in the event of an accident.
Safety is primary with BMWs. These coupes are structured for better occupant protection in a head-on or side or rear crash. The steering column now provides even more protection for the driver. The cars have front air bags, side air bags and rear-seat, side-impact air bags, plus differential deployment systems to determine the velocity of a crash to deploy bags and belt tensioners accordingly.
Ever hear of HPS? It stands for Head Protection System, another desirable feature. It’s all part of BMW’s quest for safety. Still another: in a severe crash, the high voltage between the battery and the starter will be disengaged to prevent a possible short circuit.
I usually focus my reports on the quality of the sound system, or the plush interior, or the acceleration or stability of each vehicle. The coupe has all that, but to ignore what BMW has accomplished in safety areas would be ignorant on my part.
Their cars aren’t built just to appeal to the aesthetic senses of a buyer, or built solely for barreling over a country road. BMW has advanced its engineering in areas of a car that most people will never see. Also, low maintenance and high durability are part of its philosophy.
The downside of any coupe, of course, is the sacrifice of easy access to the rear seat. For easier access, the front seat glides forward when the backrest is lowered, but still, it’s a struggle.
These coupes have leather, a 10-speaker sound system, a luxurious interior, and all the bells and whistles. Only on close scrutiny will one find why these cars live up to BMW’s slogan: the Ultimate Driving Experience.

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