Monday, July 22, 2013

The BMW 320i Makes It To America. Finally!

Of all the BMWs currently available I find the 320i with the sport package to be the most intriguing. As I've mentioned in the past, the BMW I miss the most is my beloved e46 328i. The e39 M5 was brilliant, I thoroughly enjoyed the Z4, and the X3 was surprisingly good. But the 3er seemed to fit me the best.

What I loved about the e46 was it's superb handling, well appointed (but spartan) interior, and best-in-class ergonomics. The latter going unnoticed until spending time driving other cars, BMW doesn't get enough credit for this. The inline six was brilliant, smooth and sonorous. With the CAI, FFE, and Dinan software upgrade the middle of the power band really opened up.

The time I spent with the 3er changed my perceptions of what I needed in a car forever. The stoplight showdown and 0-60 time just didn't matter. What I wanted was good mid range acceleration, aka passing power, and a solid chassis to enjoy some great driving roads. There is one car in the current BMW range in the US that fits this bill expertly: the 320i.

With the 320i fitted with the sport package and manual transmission I get everything I'm looking for in a car today. Additionally, the fuel economy is great, and, if the 2.0 four banger is like other BMW engines, that economy will improve with age.

What I also like about the 320i is the ability to get a spartan build without all the eletrickery that I neither need nor want. I would opt for leather, moonroof, split folding rear seats, alarm, and sport package (of course). Maybe I'd add the driver assistance package since the rear view camera could be a life saver.

With that set of options I'd have a very similar setup to my 328i and only be giving up 9HP. I don't see that as a compromise at all. I think many current and former BMW owners will flock to the 320i. It's the right car for these times giving people the luxury and performance they want without making them pay for a multiple of gewgaws they don't.

BMW, thanks for finally bringing the 320i to America.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dinan Does It Again

As you may already know, I had the Dinan S package on my beloved 328i. Let me tell you it was fantastic. None of that boy-racer nonsense with the loud pipes or showy bodywork. The addition of the cold air intake, the free flow exhaust, the strut tower bar, and the enhanced engine software didn't turn the 328i into an M3, mind you, but it opened up the mid range of the power band and tightened up the turn-in ever so slightly. Not that the stock 328i was anemic, but in comparison to the Dinan S it seemed to get bogged down in the middle of the rev range. The Dinan package made everything I loved about my 328i better living up to their credo of "performance without sacrifice".

Now, they've released their software upgrade for the N54 engine. There is an S1 and S2 variant of the Dinan software so you can choose the level of boost increase your comfortable with. The choices are sick or insane. To put this into perspective, a Porsche 911 comes off the production line with 345HP and will base out at just a hair over $75,000. With options you'll easily be able to ratchet that number way up, but same goes for BMW. Weighing in at a lanky 3,439 pounds that's roughly a power to weight ratio of 9.97#/HP.

Now, the 135i bases out at $34,900. I know, the likelihood of paying the base price for a BMW is about the same as, well, paying the base price on a Porsche. Tack on $2,000 for the Dinan S2 software and that brings you up to $36,900. A whopping $38,700 less than the Porsche. The S2 software brings the HP rating of the 135i to 384, which is 39 more than the current 911. Tipping the scales at 3,373 pounds the Dinan 135i achieves a power to weight ratio of 8.78#/HP. That's almost a pound less per horsepower than the 911 is lugging around. Think about that. Absolutely insane.

If Dinan is able to put this power to the ground in the same manner as their other products, without sacrifice, then this is pretty much a no brainer. Grab yourself a 135i, 335i, or 535i and drop in the Dinan software. Unless your local competition is driving a Bugatti Veyron you'll most likely smoke them. Plus, the money you save over getting the slower 911 will be enough to buy another Dinan S2 135i. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Z4

Over at Auto Express they have a rendering of the next generation Z4 that looks spot on. This looks to be an excellent design and hopefully the real thing will look just as good if not better. 

With the release of the new 7, and these shots of the forthcoming Z4 we are getting a peek at what Bangle 2.0 will look like. I have to say, the future looks bright.

The first Bangle era designs were a shock to the system, none more dramatic than the Z4. It took me some time to get used to these changes, and still wasn't convinced by the duck-tailed Z4. I took a liking to the 7er (though the taillights weren't completely resolved, IMO), was quite impressed with the new 5er when seen in person, but still not quite a fan of the Z4.

The more I saw, however, the more I liked. It was much more of a three dimensional design, it was like sculpture. Every time I saw one I found a new twist, nuance, or connection of one line to the next. I started to see the whole picture and I finally caved and got one. Looking at it every day I'd see something new. It was low, lean, mean, and a lot of fun to drive. I had a couple quibbles; like the turn signals, taillights, and road noise. But all in all I liked the design.

The renderings of the new Z4 show BMW design to have moved from shock to awe. They have taken the original concept and have refined the lines, giving it more of an athletic look. Per all the second generation Bangle era designs, the sheet metal is pulled tight over a muscular frame.

I like it. Few manufacturers have been able to replicate these forms thus keeping BMW distinct from the wannabes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

3 Series Refresh

BMW has released official photos of the 3 Series refresh. For the most part this is the typical fascia change, headlamp eye lift, and taillamp correction that is to be expected at mid-production. This is usually accompanied by some minor engine updates and some new wheel designs. This time around another small change has been made, and to me it makes all the difference.

When the first of this latest generation 3er hit the shores it was a car I really had to try to like. At first the changes looked to be merely cosmetic, with the greenhouse between the previous generation E46 and the new E90 looking almost identical. I was lucky enough to see the outgoing sedan and the new kid on the block side by side. There was no looking back from that point. The E90 looked much more athletic than its predecessor. It has taken quite a while to get used to the new headlamp covers and I still haven't warmed to the pinched taillights.

With the refresh the headlamp covers have been refined, smoothing out the lines, and the taillights have been changed over to LEDs and have lost some of their angry eye persona. While the new taillight configuration has a smoother flow, it lacks the same resolution of lines as the angry eyes. Neither solution has the elegance of the L-shaped arrangement on the E-46 that was also a hallmark of that generation of BMWs.

The small change has to do with the rear track, it has been widened slightly. To me this makes all the difference in the world. For some reason the rear wheels of the original E90 always looked to recede too much into the wheel wells. You know how a spare tire donut just looks wrong in the wheel well? That something, and you're not sure what at first, just looks off? That's the way it looked like to me. While the tucked in wheels might have shaved 0.02 off the drag coefficient, the aesthetics made the rear axle look like it was broken. The E90 M3, with it's wider rear rubber, looked better in a boy racer kind of way. The new E90, however, with its slightly wider rear track looks just right.

It also looks like BMW has upped the ante on the interior, as well. It's about time, they've been getting pwned by Mercedes and Audi for far too long. Considering these marques are inferior to BMW this is inexcusable. Mixing woods, light and dark surfaces, and textures has really paid off on the new interiors. Hopefully these new themes will cross the pond and make it to our shores.

Overall I must say I'm quite pleased with the latest refresh. After owning several BMWs (328i, Z4, M5) and having long term use of others in the stable (X3, 740iL) I must say the may favorite was the 3er. It's the right size for city driving and comfortable enough on long drives. Its sporting nature is easy to tap into when you want it, and cradle you in the lap of luxury when the pace slows. While the 5er is great for touring, and the 7er is unbeatable for long hauls, the 3er is the model the really straddles the gap between pure sports car and grand touring sedan. It is the quintessential BMW. I'm glad they didn't screw it up.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Launch of BMW Diesels in US Delayed?

Over at BMWBlog they have photos of the upcoming 335d, and are looking to confirm or deny rumors of delay in its US launch date. 

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the 335d ever since it was announced. However, in the time that has since transpired the cost of diesel has skyrocketed past that of even premium gas. The modest increase in economy over the 335i means total cost per mile will be more for the 335d. Unless that equation changes dramatically before the diesel’s American debut it will be a flop. Those that make their own biodiesel, however, will be undeterred. This car is perfect for the DIY crowd.

No doubt the bean counters at BMW have figured this out and may be hedging their bets with a delayed launch allowing more time for a potential correction in the cost of diesel relative to gas in the USA. Hindsight being 20/20 it might have been better for BMW to bring over the more efficient 320d. If they were concerned about sullying their hard earned luxury image in North America they could have imported the Aplina D3 Biturbo!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

1 For The Money?

When I first heard the 1er was headed to the US I was ecstatic. It could be the spiritual successor to the legendary 2002tii. But, while slimmer, the 1er is not really that much lighter than the new 3. That may not be such a bad thing considering the Z4 rev A is a bit tinny, and a small car with some heft to it will undoubtedly have a better ride. But the calculus gets more difficult when comparing price. A trip to the car configurator reveals that a similarly configured 135i is about $4k less than the 335i. Not really much of a difference for an entry level car.

Lest you think BMW has gone bonkers, this closeness in pricing is an anomaly peculiar to North America because we enjoy fairly aggressive pricing from BMW NA. Configuring these cars for, say, Australia, it would not be an issue. The person considering the 1er would be saving upwards of $40k over the $108k 335i. What that means is we here in North America have to make a decision about whether or not the 135i is such a significantly different, and better, driving experience that we are willing to pay nearly the same amount for less car. Acknowledging, of course, that the 1er is not a lesser car even though it tips the scales as less car than the 3er.

Only time will tell, but I'm suspecting the 335i will remain the choice for daddy's girls and upwardly mobile boy racers thereby leaving the 135i for purists. I wouldn't be shocked, either, if the 128i becomes the de-facto choice of these purists who may prefer their performance naturally aspirated. Also, the 128i is an excellent candidate for aftermarket modification. Yet whatever happens, one thing is certain, buyers will be buying the 1 because they want one and not because it's a cheaper alternative.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Why? Who is this for? It's basically a fastback X5 and considering there is precious little space in the back of the X5 as it is, how could reducing it further make it more appealing? Was BMW so jealous of the success of the Pontiac Aztec that they decided to make their own version? Or perhaps it was the timeless design of the AMC Eagle that inspired them. I suppose every manufacturer has their Edsel. This will be BMWs.