What's New for 2002
BMW has seen fit to give the sedans and wagons a facelift for 2002. An in-dash CD player finally makes it onto the standard features list. The center stack has been altered to accommodate the new automatic climate controls. Steptronic automanual operation has been altered so that you move the transmission lever forward for downshifts and backward for upshifts. Bi-xenon headlamps are on the options list so that both low and high beams can glow a cold blue and can be set to automatic operation. Rear side airbags are available for coupes and convertibles. Two new colors, Electric Red and Gray Green (and a Natural Brown interior leather) join the color spectrum.
The fifth-generation 3 Series was introduced in sedan form in 1999, followed by the coupes, the convertible and the wagon. We like 'em all. This year, few changes are in store for this homerun hit, among them some exterior alterations and increased feature content. Mostly, we're just pleased that BMW has abandoned its misguided attempt to appease the masses by lightening up the steering. It has now been restored to its former glory.
Sedan buyers can choose from a 2.5-liter inline six (models with this powerplant use the numerical designation of 325) that makes 184 horsepower, or a 3.0-liter inline six (330 models). The latter engine bumps horsepower and torque to 225 and 214, respectively, in the 3.0-liter engine and adds some noticeable punch to the 3 Series, keeping it ahead of rivals like the Audi A4 and Lexus IS 300.
All 3 Series sedans, coupes and convertibles 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 0 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 option 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 ragtop consumers get this perk standard. To BMW's credit, convertibles come with a glass rear window and rollover protection. Wagon buyers will appreciate the touring model's 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). Dynamic Brake Control reinforces the driver's effort during emergency braking. Rear side airbags and xenon headlights remain optional.
The 3 Series remains at the top of its game in terms of driving dynamics, looks and quality. For passionate road warriors looking to break into the luxury segment, this BMW is truly the Ultimate Driving Machine.