2001 BMW 3-Series Page 1

For everyone who’d hoped BMW would have suddenly gone nuts and had these two 3-Series variations engineered by three drunk Spaniards using a crayon and a cocktail napkin, sorry. For the rest of us, it’s more of the same usual wonderfulness from Bavaria.

The news about BMW’s new 3-Series sport wagon and convertible is how utterly lacking in news they are. They are exactly what they appear to be; the wagon is the 3-Series sedan with some extra cargo room and the convertible is the coupe with less steel and more fabric.

Both the wagon and convertible are 2000 models and in showrooms now. Both are also available only as 323i models with power coming from the 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter, DOHC, 24-valve straight six backed by either a gorgeously precise five-speed manual or nearly-as-luscious five-speed automatic.

The 193-horsepower 2.8-liter version of the engine used in the 328i coupe and sedan is doomed after this model year, and will be replaced by a new 3.0-liter six BMW promises will produce power comparable to the old M3. However, while the 2001 convertible will be available as a 330i, the company has no current plans to offer that engine in the sport wagon. For wagon lovers (whose numbers seem to be growing), that borders on the inexcusable.

The Sport Wagon

From the B-pillar forward, the Sport Wagon is indistinguishable from the 323i sedan, and really why shouldn’t it be? From the B-pillar back, it stretches out a whole 3/10ths of an inch longer than the sedan, though it runs the same 107.3-in wheelbase as all 3-Series. The second seat splits and folds down with three head rests and the center section can be lowered into a cupholder, which is vast by the stingy standards of German cupholders. With the second seat up, there’s 24 cu ft of space in the Sport Wagon’s cargo area, which is more than twice what’s available in a 323i sedan, but nowhere near the vast expanses in wagons like the Volvo V70.