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Expert Reviews 2 of 2
By Jim Mateja
September 3, 1995
There will always be debate whether BMW builds the best vehicles in theworld, but there is no disputing that the European automaker has come up withthe best line in the history of automotive press releases to describe thegreatest shortcoming of its newest
car, the 318ti coupe.In describing a rear end that seems to stop as if the automakerunexpectedly ran out of sheet metal, BMW says:"The rear end concludes 8.8 inches earlier than that of other 3-Seriesmodels.""Concludes earlier"? The darn thing
simply stops, chopped off 2 inchesbehind the rear window wiper! Clever.Not to belabor the car's behind, but it proved to be the one feature thatbrought out the "oohs" or the "ughs" in our test drive of the new 1995 coupe.The "ughs" outnumbered the
"oohs" by about 9 to 1. At least the car has thetraditional kidney shaped grille to announce it's a Bimmer at aglance-providing you sneak up on it from in front, not behind.That lid in back is a hatch so you have a little lip of sheet metalattached to
a large rear glass that opens as one piece to expose asurprisingly large cargo compartment.BMW said that in product clinics held 1 1/2 years ago, consumers seeing thestyling of the 318ti in picture form weren't exactly positive about the look.But the
automaker insists reaction to the vehicle in person has been far morepositive-though we can name about nine ughers who might dispute that.You'll love it or hate it like consumers raved or ranted when Cadillacstuck a bustle back rear end on its old
Seville. Some day, we may grow toappreciate the 318ti's back end. Of course, some day we may grow to appreciateballet, too, but don't hold your breath.The 318ti was brought to market to offer a Bimmer starting at less than$20,000 for the first time
since 1991. If you want to keep members in thefamily, you've got to get them in the family and the way to do that is byoffering an entry-level car that folks who aren't commodities brokers canafford.The 318ti starts at $19,900, which is within $99 of
allowing BMW to promotean "under-$20,000" car. The $19,900 model is the base version in a trio thatalso includes the "Active" package version and the "Sport" version, the lattertwo starting at $22,300, or $2,400 more than the under-$20,000 price
leader.The active and sport designations are based on equipment packages.The base model offers dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, automatic seat-belttensioners, power steering, speed control wipers, heated windshield washerjets, power/heated outside
mirrors, rear window washer/wiper, power windows,dual cupholders, air conditioning, keyless entry and wiring for a CD player.The Active package adds to that cruise control, alloy wheels, panic buttonon the keyless entry that sounds an alarm if you see
something suspicious,,leather trim on the steering wheel/gear shift lever/handbrake, onboardcomputer with outside temperature and average fuel economy readings as well
asan outside freeze warning to prepare you for possible slick spots on the road,plus a power sunroof.The Sport package adds to that a sports suspension with firmer springs andshocks and anti-roll bars, foglights, leather/cloth upholstery and
sportsseats with adjustable thigh support.Limited slip differential ($580), automatic transmission ($975), premiumsound ($550) are optional. Freight charges run $570.We tested the 318ti with the Active package plus premium sound andleather/cloth
interior ($1,450). With freight the car stickered at $24,900, or$4,901 over the under-$20,000 bogey and within striking distance of thelowest-priced 318ti sedan at $25,600. And the sedan's rear end doesn'tconclude 8.8 inches earlier than normal.The
coupe is powered by a 1.8-liter, 138-h.p., 16-valve, 4-cylinder with a5-speed manual. Quiet and smooth, but it builds power gradually and performsbest when called on to scoot into the passing lane at highway speed ratherthan spring
from the light.The fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon city/32 m.p.g. highway with 5-speedmanual, 21/29 with 4-speed automatic.That same 1.8-liter, 4 will be used in BMWs coming roadster, the Z3, whichmakes its public debut late this fall in the
"Golden Eye" James Bond flick andthen gets unveiled on the auto-show circuit in January before going on sale atdealerships in March-at about $30,000.The 318ti offers pleasant ride and handling. In fact, ride is almost assmooth as that of some luxury
cars tickling $30,000. A good road car in termsof directional control.There are dual cupholders in the center console. You have to wonder,however, if a new $20,000 coupe with a chopped-off behind will get as manypeople into the BMW fold as will a used
3 Series with a couple of years and acouple of miles on it, or a used 5 Series with more years and more miles on itfor around $20,000-both with a more traditional look.Looking ahead, other than the Z3, BMW will rename its 325 the 328 thisfall, when a
2.8-liter engine replaces the 2.5-liter, and a redesign of the 5Series will appear midway into next year.A convertible version of the 318ti is under consideration featuring a topthat folds back accordion style rather than a drop-down one. You may see
aprototype on the auto-show circuit.