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1998 BMW 3 Series Review

More about the 1998 BMW 3 Series
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We like ‘em, but we know they aren’t cool. We’re talking about the 4-cylinder Bimmers that used to populate the lowest levels of the 3-Series ranks. With the exception of the 318ti (hatchbacks are allowed to have 4-pot engines) the 318 lineup seemed like some sort of internal combustion rip-off. The cars looked like BMWs. They smelled like BMWs. They even shifted and steered like BMWs. They just didn’t go like BMWs.

People buy BMWs because they like to drive. Sure, BMWs are also safe and luxurious, but let’s face it, Volvo is the maker that we think of when safety issues come to mind, and Mercedes-Benz is the maker for buyers who value luxury over performance. This brings us back to BMW’s target audience: drivers. One thing that drivers like to do is go fast. The previous 318is coupe isn’t up to snuff in that department. Equipped with a 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower and 133 lb./ft. of torque, the 1997 318is is fair game for any high school punk in a Dodge Neon. Equally embarrassing is the fact that the Neon, priced nearly $15,000 less than the 318is, is a match for the BMW in the stoplight drags. If you own last year’s entry-level BMW coupe don’t even think about what that kid in a Camaro could do to your pride.

BMW solved that problem this year by dropping a 2.5-liter inline 6-cylinder motor into the engine bay of the bottom-rung 3-Series coupe and convertible. The sedan and hatchback still make do with the same 1.9-liter engine as last year. The two extra cylinders and added displacement make all the difference in the world for this car. Infused with 30 more horsepower and 48 more lb./ft. of torque than the 4-cylinder engine, the new 323is has earned the right to wear BMW’s prominent propeller badge on its hood. BMW claims that acceleration times have improved by 1.5 seconds over last year’s car. That means it takes 5-speed models 7.1 seconds to reach 60 mph. An important note is that this engine is not the one previously used in BMWs such as the 325is coupe and 525i sedan. This engine differs from the earlier 2.5-liter engine of 1995. It uses the same bore as the 328i (84 mm) but a different stroke (75 mm). BMW departed from their usual scheme of using the engine’s displacement numbers to denote the car’s trim level to keep customers from confusing this car with the earlier model.

The 323is got more than a new engine this year; door-mounted side-impact airbags and rear passenger adjustable headrests were also added. Additional standard equipment features include leatherette upholstery, split-folding rear seats, multi-information display with outside temperature gauge and freeze warning, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with cassette and 10 speakers, dual zone climate controls, central door and trunk locking, powerful 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, and all season traction control. The only option on our comfortable 323is tester was the Sport Package which includes 16x7-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/50ZR-16 performance tires, a sport suspension, and fog lights.

Fun to drive does not begin to describe how each of our staff members felt about this car after spending just a few hours behind the wheel of BMW’s cheapest 6-cylinder model. Greg Anderson, Edmund’s newest automotive editor, liked the 323is’s power delivery and clutch take-up, thinking that they were smooth as silk. He cites an occasion when he crested a ridge just outside of metro Denver and passed a Douglas County Sheriff’s car headed in the opposite direction. As he sped past the peace officer, he looked down at the speedo to see how fast he was going. His eyes nearly popped out of his head when he noticed that the dial was registering triple digits. Fortunately the police officer had other intentions and did not turn around to ticket Anderson. Afterward, Anderson claimed that he had no idea how fast he was travelling and that the 323is felt as solid at 100 mph as most cars do at 50. Having been awhile since last driving a BMW, this writer had forgotten how easy it is to tackle winding roads at high speeds. With the traction control turned off the 323is hangs its tail out gently and easily, never threatening to send the car down the road arse-end forward. A magnificent strut-type front suspension and central link rear suspension combine to give the 323is one of the best rides on the road. Every dip and undulation of the road is felt in a manner that lets the driver know exactly what is happening to the car without causing any discomfort to the occupants. Perfectly weighted rack-and-pinion steering works well with the 323is’s nearly ideal 50.2 front/49.8 rear weight bias to ensure effortless direction changes.

Our only gripes about the 323is concern its busy dashboard, cheap interior materials, and the contortions required of passengers trying to access the rear seat. The myriad climate and audio controls are piled on top of each other and create a cluttered center stack. Interior materials are also a bit lean in a car that pushes through the $30,000 price barrier. If Audi can fill their $23,000 1.8T with sumptuous faux-leather upholstery and nicely grained dashboard plastic why can’t BMW do the same with their entry-level cars? Our final complaint is about the 323is’s small rear seat further exacerbated by the difficulty that passengers have accessing it. Requiring a step-twist-plop sort of motion for entry, the back seat of this coupe is going to win few fans. BMW could address this concern for us by dropping the new engine into the 318i sedan. This wouldn’t increase rear passenger space, the coupe and sedan have the same interior dimensions, but the extra doors would make it easier for rear seat passengers to get in and out of the car.

Nearing the end of its life in this iteration, the entry-level BMW coupe has become the perfect example of what a sports coupe should be. It is compact, powerful, fun, and well mannered. It does not pick buyers’ pockets at the dealership or at the gas pump. There are plenty of sports coupes on the market that offer a good ride at a reasonable price. We think, however, that this particular car is the one to purchase if you place more emphasis on fun than on luxury.

Used 1998 BMW 3 Series Overview

The Used 1998 BMW 3 Series is offered in the following submodels: 3 Series Hatchback, 3 Series Sedan, 3 Series Coupe, 3 Series Convertible. Available styles include 323is 2dr Coupe, 328i 2dr Convertible, 323i 2dr Convertible, 318i 4dr Sedan, 318ti 2dr Hatchback, 328i 4dr Sedan, and 328is 2dr Coupe. Pre-owned BMW 3 Series models are available with a 2.5 L-liter gas engine or a 2.8 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 190 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1998 BMW 3 Series comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1998 BMW 3 Series?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 1998 BMW 3 Serieses are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1998 BMW 3 Series for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1998 BMW 3 Series.

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Should I lease or buy a 1998 BMW 3 Series?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out BMW lease specials
Check out BMW 3 Series lease specials