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The BMW Z8 and 323i Sport Wagon Make Their North American Debuts

7 January 2000

The BMW Z8 and 323i Sport Wagon Make Their North American Debuts At the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show
    LOS ANGELES, Jan. 6 -- BMW unveiled two new models today at
the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show.  The Z8 super sports car and the 323i sport
wagon, the first 3 Series wagon to be offered in the U.S., were shown for the
first time in North America.

                                 THE BMW Z8:
                          AND FUTURISTIC TECHNOLOGY

    An exotic V8-powered 2-seater sports car at the highest level of
contemporary engineering and technology, the Z8 has already been hailed by
expert media as "ready to spearhead the company's charge into the new
millennium" (AutoWeek, August 2, 1999) and "a bold Bavarian supercar" (Road &
Track, May '99) ...all of which begins to sound like understatement when one
learns what the Z8's voluptuous shape is, and what it conceals.
    What the shape is:  A contemporary sports-car design that recalls the
glorious BMW 507 roadster of 1956-59, the Z8's design forms the outer skin of
an innovative new aluminum space frame construction. Combining a robust
aluminum "skeleton" with structural body panels into an amazingly rigid, yet
relatively light unit, the Z8's body/chassis structure is a wave of the future
that radiates the romance and excitement of classic design.
    What the shape conceals:  First and foremost, under the classically long
hood, the very 5-liter, 394-hp V8 engine that also powers the new M5 sport
sedan. Here, driving through the same 6-speed manual transmission but carrying
some 470 pounds less weight, the V8 powers the Z8 to a 0-60-mph time well
below 5 seconds -- and of course does so with thundering sonority to match the
Z8's compelling looks.
    This engine is by no means all the Z8's technological appeal.  BMW has
developed an all-new front suspension system, naturally made of aluminum and
steered by a razor-sharp rack-and-pinion steering system; at the rear BMW's
proven Integral Link suspension also appears in aluminum.  Contact with the
road is maintained by hefty 18-in. alloy wheels with W-rated performance tires
of differentiated front/rear sizes and run-flat capability.  Active safety is
further enhanced by BMW's Dynamic Stability Control.
    The fortunate driver of this top-caliber sports car commands its
performance from a leather-lined cockpit for two.  Here, too, design details
recall a glorious era; real aluminum trim, centrally located instruments and
distinctive color coordination are among the notable elements.  Ultimate
sportiness does not preclude lavish luxury: A reference-quality audio system,
GPS Navigation, portable hands-free phone, CD changer, heated seats, fully
automatic softtop and a removable hardtop are all standard.
    Fewer than 500 units will be produced for the U.S. during 2000 in a
dedicated area of BMW's Munich, Germany facility.  The Z8 had its "pre-debut"
as the Z07 concept car at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, and the production
version's world debut at Germany's Frankfurt Automobile Show in September
1999.  Many will see the Z8 in motion for the first time at the movie theater,
as it plays the role of 007's ride in The World Is Not Enough. First
deliveries of Z8s to retail customers are expected to begin in April.  The
Z8's base price is $128,570 including destination charge.

                              323i SPORT WAGON:

    Over the two generations that BMW has offered sport wagons in North
America, they have found a unique niche in the U.S. market as vehicles that
retain typical BMW character while adding cargo space and versatility.  BMW's
achievement of this goal is confirmed in, for example, Car and Driver's June
1999 comparison of five upscale wagons, which the 528i sport wagon won
decisively: "An adept, carefully crafted driving machine that can pull wagon
double-duty" is how the magazine characterized it.  AutoWeek (September 20,
1999) saw the V8-powered 540i sport wagon in much the same terms: "sedan-
handling, wagon-room."  Considering the comfort and space of the current 3
Series, BMW planners believed the time was right to add the new 3 Series sport
wagon to the U.S. model line.
    In its relation to the 323i sedan, the 323i sport wagon exactly parallels
the corresponding 528i model: Within the same basic platform dimensions as the
sedan, the sport wagon adds a spacious, versatile cargo area behind the rear
seats.  Also, to ensure a harmonious design and unlike some competitors, BMW
gives its sport wagons a wholly different body shell and doors from the B-
pillar rearward.  The driving qualities that have made the 323i sedan the
leading sport sedan in its class -- "It sticks to the road as if it were on
runners," wrote AutoWeek on February 1, 1999 -- are maintained in the wagon;
in fact, Car and Driver has already driven it and reported that "the wagon
handles every bit as brilliantly as the sedan."
    The difference, of course, is behind the B-pillar, and it consists of --
    -- Slightly lower (0.2 in.) overall height, not including the standard
       roof rails
    -- Slightly greater (0.3 in.) overall length
    -- Greater (0.8 in.) rear leg room
    -- Standard split folding rear seats (sedans: optional), including three
       3-point safety belts and head restraints, pass-though, fold-down
       armrest, storage compartment and cupholders
    -- Carpeted cargo area with retractable cover, light and strong honeycomb
       floor, elastic hold-down straps on floor, tie-down hooks at side, and
       accessory power outlet
    -- Concealed underfloor storage space
    -- Upward-opening tailgate with power release (from interior or remote)
       and separately opening rear window, top spoiler and wiper/washer.

                                BMW IN AMERICA

    BMW entered the U.S. market in 1975.  Since then, the company has grown to
include marketing, sales and financial service organizations in the United
States; a South Carolina manufacturing operation; a design firm in California;
a technology office in Palo Alto and various other operations throughout the
country.  BMW is represented in the U.S. through a network of 340 automobile
and 160 motorcycle retailers.  BMW US Holding Corp., the Group's headquarters
for North, Central and South America, is located in Woodcliff Lake, New
    Information about BMW products is available to consumers via the World
Wide Web on the BMW homepage.  The address is: