What's New for 1996
BMW's highly acclaimed 3 Series receives new engines across the board. The six-cylinder models drop the 325 designation for 328, thanks to a new 2.8-liter inline six. While the new six offers a negligible gain in horsepower (now 190), acceleration is significantly improved by a 14 percent increase in torque (now up to 207). To go along with the heartier engine, 328 models get vented rear disc brakes to minimize brake fade. The 318 models keep the 318 name despite an increase in engine displacement to 1.9 liters, which yields a slight increase in torque. Automatic climate control is standard across the line, except in the 318ti, and upgraded sound systems are optional on all models.
BMW has added an M3 model to the 3-Series lineup for 1995, and it's been winning rave reviews from the press and public. The M3 has a 240-horsepower inline six purring away under the hood, suspension modifications designed specifically for the war-torn roads of America, huge brakes, and supple leather seats; all for less than $40,000. Sadly, a sedan version is not planned for the U.S.
Also new this year, a BMW hatchback based on the 3-Series. Called the 318ti, it's priced evenly with the Volkswagen GTI, though performance levels fall a bit short of those of the vaunted VW. Identical to the 318i from the A-pillar forward, the 318ti should win the hearts of younger, less-affluent buyers looking for Germanic sporting fun.
The rest of the 3-Series line carries over for 1995, which is no bad thing. This BMW has won the favor of driving enthusiasts everywhere for its capable handling, first-class ergonomics, and classic styling. Prices start right around the $25,000 mark, just $5,000 above the average price of a new car in the U.S. The 325i and 325is, two of the three performers in the lineup, do have base prices that are a bit higher.
Bottom rung 318's are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, while midrange 325 cars have a 189-horsepower six doing the motivational work. All 3-Series models have dual airbags and antilock brakes, and six-cylinder cars get optional traction control. Sedans, coupes and convertibles are the available body configurations.
For the money, BMW's 3-Series is tough to beat for sophistication, safety and performance, particularly in M3 guise.