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Click to view picture gallery“A new BMW is always
  worth waiting for.
  And with the launch of
  the strikingly attractive
  new 3 Series Coupé,
  particularly the twin-
  turbocharged 335i, it’s
  hard to see how any
  other coupé can keep
  up. Yes — it really is
  that good...”

THERE ARE SOME NEW CARS you know are in the pipeline which are really imperative to drive before they go on sale. Customers know they're coming and anybody with a motoring soul wants to know just how good these new high-profile cars are long before they reach the showrooms.

The latest car creating such a 'feeding frenzy' is the new BMW 3 Series Coupé. This is now the third generation of the premium medium-sized, four-seat coupés from BMW and the previous two have been highly rated by the motoring pundits of their time. BMW say they created this market segment way back in 1992 and it is the segment leader for sales by a large margin — although there are not too many competitors. The Mercedes CLK represents the main opposition and that, too, is a fine car.

To date, Audi have not really been in this market sector but the new (and larger) TT Coupé has changed all that — although for passenger space it is no match for either the BMW or Mercedes coupés.

A new 3 Series Coupé is always a notable addition to our 'must-drive' list. Unfortunately I was away on holiday for the press launch of the new Coupé but to coincide with the UK on-sale date of 23 September, BMW whistled up a car for me and it didn't take many hours before car enthusiasts and BMW owners in the know spotted the new Coupé on the road.

For the record BMW says they will have around 4,000 of these new Coupés for sale until the end of this year and that peak sales in the UK in a full year will be around 13,000 units. BMW also expects the new generation Coupé to repeat its penetration of up to 25 per cent of total 3 Series UK sales. A high proportion of customers are business professionals with over 35 per cent being directors or executive managers and nearly 20 per cent are business owners. BMW's customer demographics also show that 82 per cent of customers are male and the average income of an owner is 75,000.

Five models of the new 3 Series Coupé are currently available and more will follow next year, including smaller four-cylinder petrol- and diesel-engined versions and an even higher performance M version. Rumours suggest there will be folding metal roof coupe/cabriolet variants intro-duced next year as well. Currently there is just one level of specifi-cation — SE — but, again, more will follow. Needless to say there is a wide range of extra cost options.

The five models we have at launch are all powered by straight six-cylinder engines — three petrol and two diesel units; with prices ranging from 28,090 up to 35,475.

When launching a new range it is customary for BMW to introduce a new engine or two at the same time. This time it is the new 335i, a 2,979cc direct-injection petrol unit with twin turbochargers — in fact, the world's first straight six with twin turbo technology. This unit produces 302bhp and a massive 295lb ft of torque giving the Coupé a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph. BMW says by using smaller twin turbochargers rather than one large heavy unit, and a straight six unit with an aluminium crankcase over a con-ventional V8 engine with similar power and toque outputs, the power to weight ratio of this new unit saves 70kg in weight.

For the record, the other four engines currently on offer are: 330i/ 272hp and 325i/218hp petrol units along with 335d/286hp and 330d/ 231hp diesel units. All models, except the 335d Coupé, are fitted as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. A new six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option, but it is fitted as standard to
the 335d Coupé.

The new 3 Series Coupé is styled more differently from its saloon counterpart than ever before. It is most definitely not just a saloon with a sloping rear roofline and two doors. Virtually all the body panels are different from those used for the still relatively-new saloon models. It retains BMW's classic coupé styling theme of a long wheelbase and bonnet with, of course, drive going to the rear wheels. Muscular rear wheel arches, together with the now familiar new low-profile face and low stance with short front and rear overhangs, make this BMW Coupé a very purposeful looking machine. In addition, a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution balance is achieved with this design and layout.

The interior dimensions of the new Coupé are slightly larger than the range it replaces. It is 92mm longer in overall length giving more leg, head and shoulder room and more boot space. It may be bigger and have more equipment, but the new Coupé is 10kg lighter than its predecessor. The extra space inside the new Coupé is very welcome and four adults can be accommodated easily — it is not a two-plus-two but a genuine four-seater coupé.

So, there in a nutshell we have what the eagerly-awaited new BMW 3 Series Coupé is all about. However — stunning looks aside — this Coupé has so much more to offer. The model I tested had the new 335i straight-six, twin-turboed petrol engine with the six-speed manual transmission. Whilst this will certainly not be the main selling derivative in the long term, until the M version arrives this will be the model the Media will be talking and writing about.

The performance from the engine is stunning — and not just for top speed or acceleration. It just feels so strong and responsive right through the rev range and it has a wonderful twin exhaust note that is nowhere near as intrusive as the howl of the 3.2-litre V6 unit used in the new Audi TT.

Although the maximum 302bhp (306hp) is produced at 5,800rpm, the engine will run without stress up to 7,000rpm — thereby underlining its smoothness and refinement. But the 'hero' figures relate to torque. Four hundred Nm — 295lb ft — of torque is available from just 1,300rpm and maintained until 5,000rpm. This very wide band of power makes the car so flexible to drive that unless you are in a hurry fifth gear can be used most of the time.

On typical British A-roads it allows the driver to overtake slower
moving traffic with effortless ease. No stress, no running out of power, no white knuckles and no frantic cutting up of other road users. It makes fast and safe driving effortless. It is a real 'storming' engine yet very refined and ideal as a fast cut-and-thrust machine or relaxed and responsive as a long-legged cruiser. The fuel economy is shown in official figures as 29.7mpg but my test car returned a reasonable 25.4mpg.

Briefly reviewing other aspects of the new Coupé, the ride is on the firm side. But the payback is that road holding is superb and the grip and composure is outstanding. Of course, BMW's Dynamic Stability Control is fitted as standard. My test car had the optional 18-inch over the standard 17-inch wheels and there was a suggestion that this
does cause the Coupé to follow the tramlines created by heavy lorries. Were I buying, I believe I might just stick with the standard wheels
and runflat tyres for optimum driving refinement.

Behind the wheel it is easy to get just the right driving position, al-though you may find the clutch pedal is a little too close to the foot-rest until you get used to it. The SE specification gives you everything you would expect and the instrument layout is simple and logical.
Only the BMW iDrive control remains a 'thorn in the side'. The test car had a whole host of extras, including leather upholstery and satellite navigation. In total, the extras added to my test car raised the standard price of 33,420 by a further 5,065.

Yes, the new 3 Series Coupé can be expensive. But it has the quality to justify the price and it's honestly worth paying for just to get the wonderful new 335i engine in an appealing premium mid-sized coupé. Demerits? Only one: the iDrive is fiddly, as always. Apart from that, it's all great news — especially the fantastic new 335i engine that delivers high power and torque, the superb handling, the roomy interior for four adults and the undeniably eye-catching styling. — David Miles

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BMW 335i SE Coupé | 33,420
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 25.4mpg | Power: 302bhp | Torque: 295lb ft

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