motioncars
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
 
Let me be honest with you: this is the first time for me to handle a German car. For all my years as a car enthusiast, I've only driven cars from the likes of Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi. Thus, I nearly jumped for joy when I was given the go signal to finally test a German car. Moreover, a car from a car manufacturer which has an infallible reputation for building 'The Ultimate Driving Machine'.

When I stared at this sleek, black BMW 328Ci, I found myself smiling all over. Every line of this vehicle speaks to you, almost saying 'drive me…enjoy me'. The clean, chiseled look of this car brings about a sense of masculinity that is often lacking in other similar cars. Some of you may argue that this car may not look different from a typical Japanese car's appearance, but I have to object. Unlike other Japanese cars that I've driven or owned, it's only this BMW that truly speaks directly to my heart. Call it badge snobbery or anything, but even so…this car is a beauty. The lines of this convertible echo those found in the 3-series coupe or even sedan, thus they flow from end to end, and they seem to unite to form one solid-looking form. However, be warned: if you're the type who likes to seek attention, then this car is not for you.

There are several wonderful details that I want to share regarding this BMW. The mirrors contain small, black textured dots. These, according to BMW decrease the wind noise at high speeds, thus making this car quieter. More details that I like are regarding the tires and mags. The owner says that the mags and tires of this BMW 328Ci are not the stock ones…it shows. However, the new set of wheels is still a perfect match for the car's jet plane-like performance. The light alloy wheels are still original BMW equipment but has been increased from the stock 15" to new sportier-looking 17", likewise the tires from 205 / 60 VR 15 to 225 / 50 ZR 17s. This makes the steering more precise in cornering and the car more stable, but the trade off is that caution must be exhibited when going over humps, especially the high, 'village' type ones.

The doors open and close with a solid clunk, typically German, I thought. As I stepped inside the vehicle, I've quickly noticed how small the interior space of this car really is: my head was actually touching the soft top's roof; the shoulder space and the knee space were just enough for me with no room to spare. However, quickly I've noticed how this car really envelopes you, much like a driver's vehicle, or closer to a sports car even. The steering wheel, pedals and gear knob were all at easy reach and required no stretching whatsoever. The electrically adjustable seats had fine increments to make sure that you get the best driving position available. The only problem I saw was that the middle storage box actually blocked the parking brake lever, so putting it up and down needed me to adjust my whole right arm and the use of three fingers to lift it up.

Over to the passenger compartment, it was more of the same story: the cramped cabin began to envelop me once again. This time though, I thought it wasn't right. It was OK for the driver to have all the controls within reach, but the front passenger space was just too little for me. The knee room was barely enough, and I felt my legs actually touching the glove box. I tried to adjust my seat, but whatever adjustment netted the same result. The back seats, even though they looked cramped, were actually adequate for two people even for long journeys. The headroom with the top down was actually better for the rear passenger and the seats, like the front, feel sporty and well-supportive even at high speeds or bumpy roads.

When I started the engine, the BMW's 2.8-liter inline-6 came to life with silky smoothness. The engine was actually quiet at idling, even better sounding than the V6 of the Nissan Cefiro. Revving the engine to around 5,500-rpm the engine presented no hints of unevenness: the result of great engine design and of the most ideal six-cylinder engine layout. Driving the car around, I've quickly noticed the BMW's silky, almost short-throw 5-speed gearbox very entertaining. It went from gear to gear without any hesitation or any 'clunk'. The clutch and gas pedals, though heavy to the feel, were very easy to modulate. In fact, in less than a minute of driving this car, I quickly learned how to use the revs and the engine to launch the car properly, compared to the days I had to learn when I test drove the Nissan Cefiro and the Honda Accord.

The engine can deliver its 190 horsepower effortlessly. The car felt smooth even when we broke the 100-km/h mark along C5. The car accelerates without hesitation or change of engine note from 0-60-km/h to even in the excess of 100-km/h (The 2.3-liter Honda Accord begins to show strains when reaching the 120 mark. This car doesn't). The 286 Nm of torque is also felt whenever we try to race against other bright orange Civic SiRs and BMW 325is. Most important of all is that the BMW 328Ci also brakes with the same confidence and effortlessness that it showed in acceleration. The massive disc brakes and ABS provide awesome stopping power without even a hint of steering vibration whatsoever.

The steering was generally heavy to the feel compared to Japanese cars, but the car's rear-wheel driving configuration meant that this car corners like no other front wheel drive car. It has the confidence when going into tight S-bends and other sharp bends without losing control or even slipping from one's chosen driving line. The steering gave generous feedback and feel when going over gravel, rocks or loose planks of metal along EDSA. The steering wheel design, though not exactly to my taste provides my hands with great grip and horn controls within reach. And while the steering provided me with feedback I needed, so did the roof. It seems that BMW's structural integrity isn't as good as I thought, as even this car's relatively young 2,121 km age, the roof seems to vibrate a lot even at a median speed of 80-km/h, maybe because it is designed as a convertible anyway. Aside from that small problem, the car seemed to be solid enough.

The instrumentation of this car is easy to read. The layout, though looking a bit cluttered at first are easy to get used to. The funniest feature here is the MPG (miles per gallon) indicator at the bottom of the tachometer, which indicates the fuel consumption per mile that, this car is driving upon. It was interesting to know that while we were driving, we were able to achieve around 25 miles per gallon at the maximum.

The amenities of this BMW make even the best Japanese car weep. First, the leather seats are generally of a better feel and firmer compared to that found in the Mitsubishi Galant or Honda Accord. The dual zone climate control was cold enough to make my hands shiver while the summer sun blazed down at noontime as I drove this car around. The 6-disc CD changer coupled with a wonderful 10-speaker 200 watt system meant that this baby had the best sounds in town and it was wonderful to the ears.

The only negative is the placement of the controls on the center console. It seems that BMW fitted all of the controls in the middle without the slightest regard for proper placement! It took me quite a while to look for the door unlock button, as well as the roof up and roof down controls. The radio controls were also placed illogically while the aircon controls seem to blend in with the rest of the CD change controls to make sure you stay confused while driving this car. The dozens of buttons in the trip computer area also seem to distract me while looking at it, though we didn't really activate the darned thing anyway. The displays, which are in orange are not to everyone's taste (including mine), but they can still provide good visibility even when the sun is fully glaring with our car's top down.

The good part of this BMW 328Ci is that it fulfills the goal set by the manufacturer: which is to build a driver-oriented vehicle, a driving machine. And certainly this certainly qualifies as one…the question is can the Japanese create their own? An Accord convertible is on the way in the US as we write this. I say no. The best thing about this car though is that it's for sale.

By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang and Jason Ang
Originally Published May 1999
The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999) The Bavarian Delight:  BMW 328Ci (1999)

 

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Newly Hatched: Toyota Echo (2000)
September 18, 2000
Goodbye Beetle: Toyota Echo (2000)
August 15, 2000
Steer Flick'n Good: Audi A4 (2000)
July 9, 2000
No Lucky Stars: Ford Taurus GL (1998)
June 11, 2000
Simply Bulletproof: The Honda Accord VTi-L Long-Term Test Update (1998)
June 11, 2000
Still Life: Mitsubishi Lancer (2000)
May 13, 2000
Living with America: Ford F150 (2000)
April 16, 2000
Civic Minded: Honda Civic (2000)
February 20, 2000
Ford Lynx Ghia (2000) Driven
January 18, 2000
White Lightning: Honda Civic (1999)
December 18, 1999
The Lost World: Volkswagen Polo Classic (1998)
December 12, 1999
Against All Odds: Mazda 323 (1999)
September 29, 1999
Warp Speed Transport: Nissan Sentra Super Saloon (1995)
August 30, 1999
Complete Change of Mind: Nissan Cefiro (1997) Long-Term Test Update
August 30, 1999
Honda City LXi (1999)
July 12, 1999
Alternative Nature: Mitsubishi Galant (1999)
June 20, 1999
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
May 15, 1999
Alpha and Omega: Opel 2.5 V6 Omega (1999)
February 5, 1999
Opel Vectra (2.0 (1999) Driven
January 1, 1999
The Daily Nightmare: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
December 1, 1998
VTEC with a Vengeance: Honda Accord (1998)
November 10, 1998