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BMW

BMW For 1998

By Carey Russ

BMW has its best-ever year in the U.S. in 1997, selling a record number of cars. Its 1998 lineup has 17 different cars in four series. There are no brand-new cars yet this year, but there are refinements to nearly all models.

3-Series

The 3-Series sedans, coupes, and convertibles include some of BMW's most affordable cars and some of its fastest. The 4-cylinder 318is Coupe and 318 Convertible have been replaced by the 6-cylinder 323is Coupe and 323i Convertible, powered by an updated version of the BMW 2.5-liter engine. The 318ti Coupe and 318i Sedan continue to provide BMW power, handling, and cachet at affordable prices.

The 328 coupe, sedan, and convertible are the mid-level choices in the 3-Series. For the committed enthusiast, the M3 coupe and sedan have true sports car speed and handling in a 4 or 5-passenger package.

Besides the two new models, 1998 3-Series cars have standard front side-impact airbags, new option packages, and a dealer- installable navigation system.

5-Series

The current midsized 5-Series cars made their debut last year. The two models, the 6-cylinder 528i and the V8-powered 540i, continue to evolve. New for 1998 are the standard Head Protection System, optional rear-seat side-impact airbags, and new option packages.

The BMW 5-Series cars are unique in their class in that they are offered with manual transmissions as well as the more common automatic. Manual-equipped Bimmers are sports-luxury sedans with the emphasis on sports, and the 540i Sport with its 6-speed gearbox is a seriously fast and sporting automobile. New availability of a Sport Package for both manual and automatic 528s and the automatic 540 brings the BMW sports sedan experience to more people.

7-Series

The 1998 models of BMW's premium series were introduced in mid-1997. A second-generation Dynamic Stability Control stability enhancement system joins the Head Protection System, automatic- disconnect battery terminals, and optional rear-seat side airbags to make the 7-Series BMWs even safer. An automatic tilt-up steering wheel leads a list of interior enhancements.

Three models of 7-Series are offered. The 740i has a 4.4-liter V8 engine, as does the long-wheelbase 740iL. The top-of-the-line 750iL is powered by a 5.4-liter V12 and has nearly every conceivable luxury item as standard equipment.

Z3

The newest addition to the BMW line is the South Carolina- built Z3 roadster. Originally offered with a 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engine, a 2.8-liter 6-cylinder model was added last year. All Z3 models now have a standard Rollover Protection system and upgraded convertible top. A removable hardtop will be available later in the year.

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