BMW 328is (1999)

  BMW 328is (1999)

The 328is is the coupe version of the 328i sedan. In other words, it's the pure driver's version of the 328i. As if it wasnt indulgent enough to buy yourself a 328i, the 328 coupe says, "Not only am I indulging myself, but Im not even getting rear doors, just to make sure no damned little kids try to ride with me."

The current 3 series was new last year, and is now in its fifth generation. In past years, we've generally liked the 3 series. The 1999 328is is a bit smaller in all directions compared to the sedan.

Driving Experience

The 328is has what is probably the smoothest engine-transmission combination we can remember driving. It's really, really sweet. It handles extremely well, and the clutch is magnificent. In terms of horsepower, it comes in right in under the limit-- 0.06-- of Tommy's horsepower-to- weight ratio edict. But, unlike a lot of cars that are perhaps a bit too powerful for their size, the 328is does not make you want to drive like a complete maniac. How can that be? One reason may be that the spring tension on the accelerator pedal is appropriately firm. Another reason is that the car, the engine, and the suspension are all in balance with each other, making the driver feel calm, and in control at all times.

styling

Its also a nice-looking car. A nice car in the city, on the highway, and in between. Theres naught to argue with in terms of the driving experience.

Ergonomics

Well... maybe there are a few things. First of all, the ergonomics are lousy-- aslike on most German cars. The Germans love to have thousands of cute little buttons on their dashboards, all of which require you to take your eyes off something very important (that Mack truck bearing down on you, for instance) and look for something stupid (the button that points the heat towards your frosty toes.). A century of designing cars, and this is the best they can do? Get with it, Heinreich! Check out an Accord or a Volvo interior, Wolfgang!

Interior

Second, its a tight squeeze in the back seat. Not that you care about the back seat if you bought the coupe. In fact, you bought the coupe because you didnt need a back seat. But, you probably do care about the front seat. And, while its adequate up there, its not exactly capacious. With our winter parkas and thermal bear-suits on, the front seats of the coupe were a little confining. No doubt, the tight fit would be a bit less apparent in the summer, in Don Ho shirts, shorts and sandals.

Finally, be aware that the BMW 328is unequivocally sucks in the snow. There is a complete lack of traction, the windshield had a tough time staying clear of snow and ice, and the rear-window defogger didn't function well at all. It took us a number of tries to make it up a steep driveway in with just a few inches of snow. Tommy had the opportunity to test-drive the 328is through a snow storm in Boston, and, in Tommy's own words, "It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life! It absolutely stinks in the snow." The only thing that saved his life? Traffic was moving at about three miles an hour. Anything faster than that, and he would have been snowplow fodder. Get the point? This is not a winter vehicle. If you live in a climate that has snow for more than two weeks a year, buy this car only if you can afford to have a more appropriate winter vehicle standing by.

Overall comments

All in all, the BMW 328is is a wonderful drivers car. Its the kind of car you get for yourself as a reward. But, because its a BMW, it does come with a certain type of baggage. Its still thought of as a car that lawyers and stockbrokers (and other societal parasites) drive with the money they havent really earned from their unsuspecting clients. Its too bad, because that prevents a lot of people (us included) from owning one. Maybe they could make a special version of the 328is that looks like an AMC Concord, for those of us who dont want to be mistaken for lawyers. Oh, wait. That would be a Volvo.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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