SAN FRANCISCO -- By giving the fifth-generation 3-series coupe distinct styling and features, BMW is trying to separate the two-door from its sister sedan.
BMW's target: singles and empty-nesters.
The basics: BMW has waited nearly 18 months since the launch of the sedan to roll out the more expensive, higher-performance coupe. The difference in styling between the coupe and sedan is even more pronounced in the new-generation vehicles.
But that comes at a price. The changes mean a higher price tag -- a base price of $35,995, $3,000 more than the vehicle it replaces. The 2007 3-series coupe goes on sale Sept. 1.
BMW says the coupe has $2,300 more in standard equipment than the outgoing model. That includes engine and performance upgrades.
Two U.S. models will be offered:
- 1. The six-cylinder 328i, with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine with 230 hp.
2. The 335i, with a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder powerplant that has direct gasoline injection and 300 hp.
BMW, which hasn't had a turbocharged engine for 25 years, decided the coupe needed the power equivalent of an eight-cylinder model to be competitive.
The base price for the 328i coupe is more than $2,000 higher than the entry 3-series sedan.
Notable features: The 3-series coupe has a sleeker appearance than its four-door sibling, with a different hood contour and front air dam, unique headlights and taillights that split into two sections and extend farther up into the trunk lid.
The instrument panel and console doors also have been redesigned.
All-wheel drive will be offered for the first time on the coupe.
BMW says the coupe has a 50-50 weight distribution, ideal for a performance car. The suspension is tuned to be sportier than that on the sedan.
Inside, BMW added new ambient lighting; a three-spoke, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel; and automatic climate control.
The coupe has six standard airbags.
The list of high-tech optional equipment includes active cruise control, active steering, Bluetooth connections for a mobile phone and an iPod interface.
What BMW says: Optional awd, priced at $1,800, "will put us on the shopping list of people who did not consider a coupe because it didn't have all-wheel drive in markets like Boston," says Ken Bracht, BMW of North America's 3-series product manager.
Compromises and shortcomings: It's hard to find fault with the performance of the 3-series coupe. The new turbo engine exhibits no lag. Even with the six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, shifting is smooth.
Like most coupes, space in the rear is limited and more suitable for small children than adults.
The market: The compact-import-coupe segment doesn't have many players -- especially vehicles over $35,000. BMW says 3-series sedan buyers don't cross-shop the coupe. The coupe owner is usually an empty-nester with a median household income of $150,000.
Mercedes-Benz doesn't have a coupe version of the C class. The closest competitor is the CLK, which is considerably pricier. To get 300 hp in the Mercedes, buyers have to upgrade to the V-8 engine in the CLK550, which starts at $55,675.
The Infiniti G35 is a tough competitor. It's built on the Nissan 350Z platform. The second generation, with new sexy styling, goes on sale in November. The 3.5-liter V-6 has been reworked, and Infiniti promises its horsepower will top 300. And the Infiniti will likely be at least $3,000 cheaper than the BMW.
BMW predicts the new 3-series coupe will top the current model's peak sales of 17,500 units in 2001.
The skinny: The 3-series coupe doesn't skimp on performance, fit and finish or luxury. But at more than $41,000 for the 300-hp model, it's pricey and out of the reach of entry buyers who may not want the boxier sedan.
You may e-mail Diana T. Kurylko at [email protected]