2000 BMW 3-Series Coupe
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
In 2000, BMW brings its 3-Series coupes onto the same platform as the already re-engineered 3-Series sedans. The move brings unexpected refinement to BMW's entry-level 2-door models.
The "C" in BMW's 2000 323Ci and 328Ci stands for coupe. But it could also stand for confidence-inspiring, composed, capable and classy.
Now re-engineered to ride on the same platform as the already-updated 3-Series sedans, these entry-level 3-Series coupes simply do not feel like low-end models.
Who could sniff at the sporty handling and performance? Even the 323Ci, the less expensive model with a starting price under $30,000, zips from 0 to 60 miles an hour in 7.1 seconds.
In fact, during the test drive, the 323Ci with manual transmission almost seemed to rear up on its back wheels when I floored the accelerator at standstill. This new coupe has the same 2.5-liter 170-horsepower 6-cylinder engine that's in the 323i sedan.
You get even more power in the upper level 328Ci, which comes with a 2.8-liter 193-horsepower 6-cylinder. It's the same engine that's in the 328i sedan.
Usable power, not raw power
Moving through the gears of the standard 5-speed manual transmission, I found ready power—and engine braking—for all the twists and curves of a challenging mountain road. These coupes are eager for each new turn, each new hill.
Road handling suspension
Ever mindful of weight and, more importantly, weight distribution, BMW has a near-perfect 51/49 front/rear weight distribution in these models.
And the new platform under these cars—codenamed E46 and first used in the upgraded 3-Series sedans that debuted in the 1999 model year—adds a solid, stiff foundation.
So, as I swung through the slalom, the weight of the 3-Series coupes would shift predictably from side to side, in what felt like one fluid, stable movement. There was no flutter or unsettling as I took long sweepers fast and hard. These are the characteristics that endear BMWs to their owners, and these subcompact, rear-wheel-drive 2-doors have them, too.
In the city, the coupes surprised with their tight, Volvo-like turning circle of just 34.4 feet. Talk about easy parking at the shopping mall!
Stiff clutch pedal
A 5-speed automatic, which includes a shift-sans-clutch-pedal mode called Steptronic, is available, but it's priced at more than $1,000.
Gas economy is less than what you'd expect in a car this size, with city driving rated at just 20 miles per gallon for a manual transmission model and 19 mpg with an automatic. BMW recommends premium fuel, too.
And there's a good amount of road noise inside these coupes.
Typical BMW look
In addition, you'll notice that the coupes have a more steeply raked windshield and ride lower to the pavement. There's also no pillar between the front and rear side windows in the coupes as there is in the sedans.
Slightly larger cars
This helps explain how rear-seat legroom grew by a half inch in the new models. It's not expansive, but it's more than you might expect, especially if the front seats are up a ways on their tracks. Still, three adults in the back seat are squeezed.
Increased stowage space
I like the fact that as you do this, the rear-seat head restraints stay perched up on the back window shelf, instead of getting in the way.
Too bad the middle rider in back gets only a lap seatbelt, though, and the cigarette lighter/power point was tightly wedged into its holder and difficult to get at in the test car.
Airbag devices galore
It's standard on the new 3-Series coupes and brings the number of inflatable safety devices in the car to six. The others are the two frontal and two side airbags for front-seat riders.