CHICAGO- The new BMW 3-Series sedans will make you feel like you’ve moved up to First Class from Business Class.
At least that was the concept behind the upgrade of the 323i and 328i models for the 1999 model year. This revised duo, which first came to market in 1991, are essentially all-new, sporting better high-performance six-cylinder engines in addition to many other enhanced features. Given the thirst in the U.S. market for performance, the four-cylinder versions of the 3-Series have been discontinued for the American market.
These four-door sedans are an evolutionary step up the ladder and come with all-new sheet metal, but they are still unmistakably BMW. Naturally, there's increased performance and fuel efficiency with the more potent powerplants. On the mechanical side, expect an improved ride and handling, added safety and security features, plus the usual smattering of new luxury and convenience features.
Both new models were shown recently to the U.S. automotive press at Arlington Raceway, a former horse racing track in suburban Chicago. In addition to showing off for the press, BMW also used the raceway to launch "The Ultimate Driving Experience" (UDE), a landmark program designed to increase driving skills for its owner body using the new 3-Series sports sedans. Hands-on performance driving instruction will be available to everyday drivers through BMW’s mobile tour that will stop at nearly a dozen U.S. cities over the next year.
Plant offers performance course
In addition, the German carmaker will build a permanent performance course at its Spartenburg, S.C., assembly plant and U.S. delivery center, as it tries to build a unique bond with its U.S. customers now that several of its models are assembled here.
The course being built at the plant includes four specially designed autocross circuits, developed to build participants’ braking and accident-avoidance skills. The course will also teach drivers firsthand about such features as traction control, as well as improving consumers' understanding of a vehicle’s overall handling dynamics. The program will specifically highlight the importance of safe driving to high school students, who will be encouraged to register for special weekend programs. Parents also will be invited to attend.