Better than the outgoing model in every way, the all-new BMW 3-Series won't increase much in price when it goes on sale later this month. The 2006 325i will start at $30,995, only $1,695 more than the 2005 model, despite featuring an entirely new design, upgraded 3. 0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that now makes 215-horsepower compared to the 2005 models 184-horsepower rating, a new six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, enhanced chassis engineering, and steering geometry, a totally revised interior, and more.
The top-line 330i is improved too, featuring all of the 325is upgrades plus an all-new 3. 0-liter engine that produces 255-horsepower compared to the outgoing models 225-horsepower rating, while torque is up from 214 lb-ft in the current car to 220 lb-ft. Like the 325i, the 330is base price will rise when it goes on sale, but only by $1,295 to $36,995. Both new engines are the first in large-scale series production to incorporate magnesium as the main component, a metal that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum. The engines are also the first six-cylinders in the BMW family to make use of Valvetronic, the brand's variable valve timing system.
Other option groups include the $2,200 Navigation package, up to $400 from last year's navigation system, but now featuring integrated voice recognition for hands-free actuation of ancillary functions. A Cold Weather package, at $1,000, the same price as last year's version, adds a ski bag, fold-down rear seatbacks, heated front seats, and retractable headlight washers. A Premium package, available on both models, is priced at $2,900 in the new 325i compared to $2,300 in the outgoing car. It features the same power glass sunroof, leather-covered 8-way power front seats and driver-side memory, and Harmon/Kardon LOGIC7 audio system.
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The new model also features power-folding mirrors in premium guise. The Premium package for the 330i is priced the same as last year's version, at $2,200, and features everything that is available on the 325i Premium package, less the power seats with drivers side memory, which come standard on the 330i. Other Premium features include a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, driver's seat lumbar support, a compass in the mirror, Dakota leather seats and trim replace Montana leather seats and trim, and a Harmon/Kardon LOGIC7 audio system.
The 2006 3-Series is also available with a Sport package, just like the 2005 model. At $1,600, it is $200 more expensive than the outgoing cars and continues forward with updated versions of the same features, such as sport seats with electrically adjustable seat width, a 3-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus a sport suspension. The only difference, feature to feature, is the addition of performance-oriented run-flat tires. The price of the 330is Sport package has increased from $1,400 in 2005 model year vehicles to $1,600 in 2006, and also features the new run-flat tires.
Other stand-alone options don't rise in price much either, and in the case of the new 6-speed automatic transmissions extra forward gear offers major improvements in design and engineering. That transmission only goes up by $225 at $1,500 compared to the 2005 models $1,275 optional gearbox, while the Dakota premium leather upgrade will cost $1,450, the same price as the 2005 cars Montana leather package. Park distance control is once again $350, while metallic paint remains a $475 option.
New for 2006 will be adaptive headlights, which point a set of bulbs in the direction the car is turning, active cruise control at $2,200, which will automatically slow the 3-Series down when approaching a slower vehicle, and active steering, a $1,250 feature that essentially adapts the steering ratio to vehicle speed, but its electric-motor-assisted, planetary-gear-motivated rack-and-pinion system is much more sophisticated than conventional speed-sensitive steering counterparts, common to luxury cars of all stripes.
Steering response to input is much quicker than any other car, at about 1. turns lock to lock, making maneuvering into, around and out of tight spaces such as parking lots incredibly easy. To put this in perspective, most cars need about twice that amount to turn the wheel from full left to full right, or about 3. 5 turns lock to lock. The reason for this is so steering input isn't too direct at high speeds. At 1. 7 turns a car traveling at highway speeds would simply dart off the road with minimal input, not a good thing. Active Steering, however, electronically and mechanically adjusts the ratio to about 4 turns lock to lock when velocities demand.
Both the 325i and 330i will be available with BMWs xDrive all-wheel-drive system in October, which is when the new 3-Series Touring, a sports wagon derivative will arrive in dealerships. While there is no word on pricing for the 325xi or the Touring version, expect each model's final window sticker to remain close to 2005 levels, if the pricing of sedan models is any indication. BMWs aggressive pricing strategy will help it maintain leadership in the compact premium class, a position it has enjoyed since the first 3-Series debuted in 1977.
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