BMW For 1999
By Carey Russ
BMW has been doing very well for the past few years, and intends to keep doing so. Its secret is performance. The 1999 model year started in late Summer, 1998, with the introduction of the latest generation of the compact 3-Series, always a sports sedan benchmark. That was followed by the debut of the Z3 Coupe 2.8 and the M-Coupe in the Fall, two serious sports cars. And then by the 5-Series sport wagons, a sport package for the 740i luxury sedan, and upgrades to the Z3 roadster. Sport, sport, and more sport.
The next generation of BMW's 3-Series will be introduced in stages over the next few years. The first models to appear are the 1999 323i and 328i sedans. The names are familiar, but the styling is new and very influenced by the larger 5-Series. There is more room inside, and a new, 5-Series-influenced instrument panel. Under the hood are newly-upgraded versions of BMW's 2.5-liter and 2.8-liter inline six- cylinder engines with "VANOS" variable valve timing now on both the intake and exhaust camshafts. The chassis is more rigid, and aluminum suspension pieces help to improve the ride and handling beyond the already benchmark levels of the previous-generation cars.
Most other 3-Series cars have various equipment and option changes. The high-performance M3 sedan has been discontinued, replaced by the M3 convertible in mid-1998.
Z3 roadsters and coupes
The Z3 roadster was criticized by some enthusiasts when it was introduced. They complained that its 138-hp 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine was just not powerful enough. The Z3 2.8, with a much more powerful six-cylinder engine, satisfied some. The Z3 2.3 ought to make the rest happy. It replaces the Z3 1.9, and has the same 2.5-liter, 170-hp inline six as the 323i. It also has the wider rear body, bumpers, and upgraded suspension of the Z3 2.8. And, for anyone who thought the Z3 2.8 could use more power, the 3.2-liter, 240-hp M Roadster was introduced in mid 1998.
Also new for 1999 are two coupes based on the Z3. Both have controversial but very logical styling. They retain the reinforced lower structure of the roadsters and have the additional rigidity of a coupe body for extra-precise suspension control. The M Coupe has the same 240-hp engine as the M Roadster, while the Z3 Coupe 2.8 is powered by the 193-hp engine of the Z3 2.8. Think of them as go-karts with roofs.
There are two very apparent changes to the mid-size 5-Series lineup for 1999: the 528i and 540i sport wagons. The 528i wagon, like the 1999 528i sedan, is powered by the same 2.8-liter, 193-hp engine as the new 328i sedan. The 540i wagon uses the 282-hp, 4.4-liter V8 as the 540i sedan. Both 5-Series sedans have revised option packages.
A luxury sedan with a sport package? What's wrong with this picture? Nothing. The 740i Sport is a BMW, after all. Fire the chauffeur. The sport package is not the only new feature in the premium luxury 7-Series. All three models -- short-wheelbase 740i and long-wheelbase 740iL and 750iL -- have new, infrared-reflecting windshields and minor styling enhancements for 1999.