|3 Series - E46 (1999 - 2005)|
New BMW 3 Series Coupé,
Convertible and Compact
"This makes the two-door, four-window BMW sports coupé the ideal touring car for the demanding motorist wishing to enjoy the thrill of speed and the pleasure of sports motoring." From a 1937 internal memo on the launch of Europe's first coupé, the BMW 327.
Setting the scene:
Thankfully, it seems, very little has changed in BMW's philosophy towards its Coupé models over the past 66 years. However, the product has clearly developed since the introduction of the BMW 02 Coupé in 1966 established Europe's compact sports Coupé market and BMW has consistently driven sales in the segment through a strategy of clear, but subtle differentiation between Coupé/Convertible models and other 3 Series body styles.
The new BMW 3 Series Coupé, now in its 6th incarnation as either a 2-door sports saloon or coupé, features a number of stylish design enhancements and technical developments that reinforce both this philosophy and the car's sporty and dynamic nature. The Coupé retains its understated muscular looks, but becomes even more clearly differentiated from its Saloon and Touring cousins with major work to the front end and bonnet, design and safety enhancements at the rear and added specification and technical features.
The introduction of the BMW 3 Series Convertible in 1985 had a similar effect to the Coupé, establishing itself as the benchmark in the compact four-seat convertible market. This latest model, a mid-life revision of the third generation (launched May 2000), reinforces BMW?s reputation as the leader in styling and dynamics for the soft-top market.
The Convertible receives exactly the same model year enhancements as the BMW 3 Series Coupé, minus a wider boot grab handle. 2003 therefore sees revised versions of the four-cylinder 318Ci Coupé/Convertible and the six-pot 320Ci, 325Ci and 330Ci Coupé and Convertibles.
BMW 3 Series Coupé and Convertible 2003 model year enhancements:
.. More distinctive bonnet with raised power dome and 60mm wider kidney grille
.. Re-styled front bumper
.. Re-styled side indicators on new front wings
.. Larger front light housings (to incorporate optional Adaptive Front Headlights)
.. New rear light clusters featuring Light-Emitting Diode (LED) technology
.. Re-designed rear apron with colour-coded Park Distance Control ( PDC) sensors
.. Wider boot grab handle on Coupé
.. New six speed Sequential Manual Gearbox ( SMG) optional on BMW 330i and BMW 325i Coupé and Convertible
.. Dynamic Stability Control ( DSC) standardised across the 3 Series range
.. New six speed manual transmission on all BMW 330Ci Coupé/Convertible, (plus 330i/330d Saloon and Touring, 320d Saloon and Touring, and 320td/325ti Compacts).
These enhancements add to the already well-established reputation of the BMW 3 Series. Renowned driving dynamics are a given, generated by BMW's engineers' zealous adherence to rear wheel drive, McPherson strut / Z-axle suspension units and 50:50 weight distribution, linked to technologically advanced engines.
Integral to driving enjoyment is the prospect of rewarding ownership. The 3 Series commands enviable residual values and CO2 levels and fuel consumption figures that frustrate the taxman and belie the car's performance.
Illuminating design :
The new 3 Series Coupé and Convertible can be distinguished by major work to the front of the cars with a more distinctive bonnet, featuring a raised power dome and 60 mm wider kidney grille. These features clearly introduce design cues that distinguish the Coupé and Convertible from the Saloon and Touring.
The front bumper is re-styled and brand new side-panels house new triangular, side indicator lenses. The headlight clusters now merge with the front indicators and free up space for state-of-the-art Adaptive Front Headlights that can be specified. Adaptive Front Headlights are a revolutionary active safety feature that swivel with the car as it corners. The headlights move left to right by up to fifteen degrees, illuminating the bend ahead rather than the verge directly in front of the car.
From the back, the design tweaks are a little more subtle, but also feature innovative new lighting.
The rear apron has been re-styled and now houses body-coloured Park Distance Control sensors. The Coupé features a wider boot grab handle. The most dramatic rear-end treatment sees brand new Light-Emitting Diode two-stage brake lighting in new rear clusters. This technology is not yet EU homologated, but still fitted to all new BMW 3 Series Coupés and Convertibles.
Once homologated, it's simply a matter of 'switching' on the system that communicates emergency braking by the BMW driver to other cars behind. Normal braking illuminates a single corona of LED brake lights, but heavy braking lights a second corona offering an extra split second of recognition for the drivers behind.
NB: The new rear lights and wider boot lid grab handle are the only 2003-model year upgrades for the M3 Coupé and Convertible.