What's New for 2001
A boost in engine displacement and technology, plus an available all-wheel-drive system keeps BMW's venerable 3 Series at the top of its game in the competitive entry-level luxury market. Larger wheels and brakes are part of the engine upgrade. Two-stage front airbags, reduced steering effort, a Cold Weather package and Dynamic Brake Control round out the major changes for 2001.
In typical BMW fashion, the 3 Series lineup is being introduced in stages. The first models to change were the sedans, followed by the coupes, the convertible, and the wagon. This allows BMW to maintain customer interest in their best-selling platform over the course of several years.
Sedan buyers can choose from an upgraded 2.5-liter inline six (models with this powerplant will now use the numerical designation of 325) that now makes 184 horsepower, or a new-for-2001 3.0-liter inline six (330 models). The latter engine, which debuted in the X5 3.0i, replaces the 2.8-liter engine across BMW's entire product line. Bumping horsepower and torque from the former engine's 193 and 206, respectively, to 225 and 214 in the 3.0-liter adds some noticeable punch to the 3 Series and helps keep it ahead of rivals like the Audi A4 and new Lexus IS 300.
Riding on the same platform, the 3 Series sedans, coupes and convertible receive a standard five-speed manual transmission, a sport-tuned suspension, and ventilated front and rear disc brakes. Two versions of the coupe are available: the 325Ci, with the aforementioned 2.5-liter inline six, and the 330Ci with the more powerful 3.0-liter engine, larger brakes and standard 17-inch wheels. The more powerful 330 coupe reaches 60 from zero in just 6.4 seconds and features a broad torque band. Both engines meet low-emission vehicle (LEV) standards. A five-speed Steptronic automanual transmission is available for those who don't want to shift their own gears.
Another new option for 2001 is all-wheel drive. Derived from the all-wheel-drive system found in the X5, "xi" models split 38 percent of the engine's power to the front wheels and 62 percent to the rear. The AWD package also includes a 0.7-inch increase in ride height and is available on both 325 and 330 sedans as well as the 325 wagon.
If you opt for the 325Ci convertible, you'll have to lower the top manually unless you pop the extra cash for the power top, but 330Ci consumers get this perk standard. All convertibles come with a glass rear window and rollover protection. Wagon buyers will appreciate the touring models standard roof rack and rear window wiper, but, as with the sedan, don't expect to carry full-sized adults in the backseat for long periods of time.
Safety equipment on all 3 Series models includes All-Season Traction (AST) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), along with dual front airbags, door-mounted side airbags and BMW's patented Head Protection System (HPS). New for 2001 is Dynamic Brake Control, which reinforces the driver's effort during emergency braking. Rear side airbags and xenon headlights remain optional.
With the arrival of all-wheel drive and more powerful inline six cylinders, only one 3 Series model still offers superior performance; the all-new M3.