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1995 BMW 318ti

  • Driver

BMW is fleshing out its range at the bottom, top and middle

for 1995.

The 318ti is an all-new model for Canada. It is BMW's first

hatchback since, well, it depends on what you call a hatchback.

The "t" stands for touring, which BMW has used in the past for

both high performance (as in Grand Touring) models and

semistation wagons, like the current 5-series wagon. Except that

there it's 530iT, with an uppercase "T". No wonder we get

confused; I thought Germans were supposed to be logical.

Front end styling of the 318ti is identical to the current

3-series, while the back looks like the car has gone through a

rearend barrier test.

Mechanically, the 318ti is a cross between the current and

previous-generation cars.

Front suspension and the 1.8 litre, twin-cam engine are the

same as other current 318s; the loss of about 100 kg of weight

gives better performance. The semitrailing arm rear suspension

is adapted from the older car. Four-wheel disc ABS brakes are

standard.

The interior reminds me of my 1991 318is, although no parts

were apparently carried over. Clever shaping of the interior

yields sufficient backseat space for two friendly adults.

The base model is priced at $24,900, which includes just about

everything you'd really want except air conditioning. Two

special editions are offered: the Active, with air, cruise,

trick wheels, sun roof and those dreaded fog lights, and the

Sport, with stiffer suspension, leather-trimmed sport seats,

limited-slip differential, the sun roof and the wheels. Both are

$29,200.

This is still pricey compared, for example, to an Acura

Integra of similar performance and specification. But the 318ti

brings BMW style, prestige and driving feel to a lower price

range than before. I have no doubt it will be a huge hit on this

side of the ocean, as it has been in Europe.

In the high-middle end of BMW's spectrum comes the M540i, a

unique-to-Canada variant of the aging-beautifully 5-series. The

M540i, as the "M" designation suggests, borrows from the

European M5, notably in the deep front-end spoiler, rearview

mirrors, trick wheels and exclusive colors.

The so-called Nurburgring suspension includes electronic

adaptive shock absorbers to improve ride quality while still

delivering neck-straining cornering power. New "floating rotor"

disc brakes are claimed to be a breakthrough in high-performance

retardation technology.

Sadly, we don't get the megahorsepower M5 engine. But the

standard 4 litre V8's 282 horses are, as BMW's aircraft

partner, Rolls-Royce, would say, adequate. Zero-to-100 km/h in

6.2 seconds isn't shabby for a car that's equally at home taking

you and three friends to the opera.

At $84,900, just a tick over the last M5 sold in Canada (in

1993), BMW Canada should have no trouble moving the 50 examples

of the M540i that will start arriving in spring.

At the top end, the 750iL is no surprise; it was known from

the debut of the new 7series that a V12 engine was coming too.

It now displaces 5.4 litres (why not 754iL? Don't ask) and

produces 323 horsepower and 361 poundfeet of torque. Despite

increased output, fuel consumption is lower than before.

The 750iL retains all the ride, handling and quality

attributes of other 7series cars, with additional dollops of

luxury. At $121,900, it splits the difference between the other

12-cylinder cars offered in our market, the Jaguar XJ12 and the

Mercedes-Benz S600.

BMW will also show the Z13 concept car from the 1993 Frankfurt

show. This tiny but stylish three-seat urban car has a BMW

motorcycle engine wedged sideways in the back of the car.

Anybody here remember the NSU Prinz 1000?

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