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  #1  
Old 12-28-2001, 09:40 AM
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IndyMike IndyMike is offline
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I posted this a little while ago on bimmer.org so if you read it there, then there's no point in reading it again unless you are extremely bored or unpopular I've also posted pictures of my '01 330Cic, Steel Gray/Tanin there if you really want to see them (ostensibly for Pvt. Jokers benefit, but most of you have already seen them so I won't add them here.

Most of this is subjective and some parts are potentially provocative. It's not intended to start a flame war, but rather interesting discourse about this model and where BMW AG is taking the Drier Reihe (3 series) in the future.


This Bimmer is the first cabrio that I have ever owned, while being the 3rd Bimmer that I have had the opportunity of owning. By comparison, the í91 318is was probably the most fun in that it begged to be driven hard, and the í92 325i was more luxury oriented. The í01 330Cic combines some of the best attributes of the two and delivers it in an open-air package that is at times shear exhilaration, yet sadly lacking in a manner which I will get to in a little bit.

The thing that has impressed me most over the 9 months and 6,010 miles Iíve tacked on the odometer is the build quality. Many people donít associate this with BMWís, but in all honestly Iíve been tremendously impressed by all three cars Iíve owned. Admittedly, I did have a problem with the 5 speed manual tranny on the 318is, but to BMWís credit that was replaced under warranty without argument. The 325i was virtually problem free, and regrettably I sold it to my next door neighborís sister on the 4th of July, after 9 Ĺ years of blissful ownership. Funny thing is I had just sold my í94 Ford Ranger Splish-Splash three months earlier to my neighbor across the street. All of my neighbors have said that they are queuing up, waiting for the time Iím ready to sell the cabriolet. I can actually sense the vultures circling overhead

I collected it in Europe on 21 March utilizing the Euro Delivery program. ED in my mind is unequivocally the best way that you can pick up a vehicle. To be surrounded at the delivery center by every imaginable type of BMW is almost too good to be true for the real enthusiast. Itís virtually a kid in a candy store type of feeling. If I hadnít been there to pick up my own car I would have probably been quite happy to just run up and down the rows of cars, and press my nose up against the glass to get a look at the myriad of interiors.

Then to be handed the keys of this beautiful gem and to head for the nearest autobahn is a rush that canít be believed. That initial rush is nothing compared to when you actually enter it, and vehicles youíve only read about in rags like ĎAutomobileí, or ĎAuto, Motor und Sportí (if youíre lucky enough to have access to it and can read a little German) go whizzing by you at triple digit speeds as if you were standing still. Then to be hamstrung by the Ďnot to exceed 4500 rpm or 100 mph for the first 1200 milesí is almost too cruel to comprehend.

Suffice it to say that if you ever have an opportunity to utilize this service ĎJump on ití! The issues of whether you really save any money; having to pay for the vehicle 30 days in advance; experiencing the excruciating wait process twice; are all arguable. What isnít are the memories that you will accumulate and cherish the rest of your life. If youíre only going over there to pick it up and then drop it off at the delivery center shortly thereafter, then my opinion is donít bother. Youíre only cheating yourself because youíll never know what you missed. If youíre going to do it then do it right. So take at least a week and enjoy the Euro people and culture.

If I had to use a term to describe the Cic it would be ďrock steadyĒ. Even with the SP and cab configuration it takes blemished roads and absorbs the jolt so that the cabin occupants arenít annoyed or distracted from enjoying the interior appointments and features, or the open scenery when the top is down. I test drove several non-SP cabs and I can honestly find no equivocal difference between SP & non-SP configurations.

Cowl shake is barely discernible or measurable. I have absolutely no rattles, and the paint job and interior upholstery are of supreme quality and workmanship.

I love the mystical qualities that are present in the steel gray metallic paint, as well as the beauty of the tanin red leather that give this combination a Ďrockabilityí quotient off the Richter Scale. Funny thing is that when I first saw pics of the tanin I was ROTFLMAO. But the more I was subjected to various picís of it the more I came around to begrudgingly respecting it, then openly fawning over it. There must have been subliminal messages in all of those pics because albeit a bit prejudiced, in my humble opinion tanin red is an all-star. The red is in no way garish or obnoxious, and what really sets it off is the black trim that is tastefully blended in to give the interior a two-tone appearance. The fact that tanin red has been discontinued for í02 only seems to add to its cult status.

The only aftermarket additions I have made are the addition of clear lenses all the way around and key adapter locks for the M68 wheels. My personal feeling is that clears are a must for most steel gray vehicles, particularly for those with tanin red interior. The stock amber lenses clash with the tanin and give the car a Ďbusyí look. The clears seem to accentuate the cabs curves and give it a cool, clean appearance. Itís entirely subjective, so use your own personal judgement.

I enjoy driving this Bavarian beauty so much that I really donít care whether itís rain or sunshine outdoors. Iím almost as happy with the top up as I am when itís down. When the top is down I find myself concentrating so much on external objects like the sky, leaves on trees, birds in the air (particularly if theyíre directly overhead) that I tend to lose appreciation for things like the silky smoothness of the M54 engine (although I wish it were a little more loud and gnarlier sounding); the quality of the HK sound system (it takes my industrial strength rock níroll bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Van Halen and comparable solo artists like Perry Como, CDís and throw them back at me in a manner that brings a smile to my lips), and the dexterity of the sport-tuned suspension (again, just as comfortable a ride as the non-SP E46ís I test drove, but with a definite edge to it).

What I donít particularly appreciate (and I know youíve probably heard this complaint ad-nauseum) is the extremely neutral steering that the vehicle came with. Itís a March í01 build so it has the new-new steering.

As mentioned above, Iíve owned earlier generation 3erís in the past so I know what true BMW enthusiast steering is about; and itís definitely not in this vehicle. I know about the option to retrofit the steering, but the results from members on this board has been mixed at best, and Iím not in the least bit interested in giving my local service center the opportunity to screw-up this vehicle. Itís better than the earlier Ďnew steeringí Ď01ís that I test-drove, so Iíll leave it as is. Besides, I donít intend to keep it beyond 3 years.

The neutered steering is only one of the many symptoms of the problem, and for most vehicles this negative would be an acceptable fault. However, for those of us who have been spoiled by earlier generation 3erís it detracts from one of the distinguishing characteristics that made owning a BMW unique.

And that leads me to the one element that I find is missing from this 3er; the symbiotic relationship between the driver and the road. Previous 3erís Iíve owned gave you that Ďhand-in-gloveí type of feeling. While this vehicle continues in that vein, unfortunately that glove is now a baseball glove.

Add other Ďtechnologicalí features like drive-by-wire throttle, and cosmetic Ďenhancementsí like the new front fascia and headlight treatment on the base í02 E46 sedan and in my humble opinion BMW is intent on becoming more Ďsofterí, more middle of the road with each succeeding model year. And honestly who can argue with them. Based on growing 3er sales, BMW has posted unprecedented sales figures the past two years. Who can argue with such success?

So in conclusion, while I truly enjoy the top-down exhilaration of the 330Cic; the wonderful build quality inside and out and the elasticity of the sport-tuned suspension, I can only lament about what could have been had BMW retained itís driver oriented grass roots philosophy. The sport-tuned body is willing, but its mind just isnít able.

In spite of all the negatives Iíve outlined above, I truly do not regret having purchased this car. Iíd been waiting a long time for BMW to up the HP number for the 3er from the 189 of my í92. In addition Iíve dreamed of owning a cabrio for a long time. The 2001 model year seemed the perfect time to do it, and in retrospect it was the right decision for me.

It is entirely possible that I was expecting too much out of this vehicle, based on my past experience. This is a convertible after all, and it obviously cannot be driven like a coupe or even a sedan. It does what it does very well indeed, but it just never seems to invite truly aggressive driving moments. It doesnít beg me to search for its limits, because in honesty I canít feel when that point has been reached. And to me thatís dangerous, even more so in a convertible, so I wonít take the chance and possibly overextend this carís potential.

But more importantly it causes me to worry about the future of the 3er, and even more disconcerting the direction that BMW AG is taking the 3er enthusiast. Granted, itís still better than 95% of the competition, but the gap is closing rapidly. And it has reduced dinosaurs like myself to considering the competition (something inconceivable in the past), stepping up to the M3 (perhaps BMWís true intent for the enthusiast, behind the neutering of the 3er?), or returning to E36 or E30 iterations of the 3er (as many on this board have already done).

For as long as I can remember BMW has been the acid test and benchmark for which other automakers judged their respective product(s). But MBZ, Audi & Lexus have picked up the gauntlet, and are applying full court pressure to BMWís dominance in the 3er market. How BMW AG responds to these threats in the next year or two will determine whether it maintains its eminent status.

I will never criticize BMW AG for trying to build the perfect Bimmer, but I do take offense to them trying to build the perfect RWD Honda.
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  #2  
Old 12-28-2001, 10:01 AM
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nate nate is offline
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Cliff notes please
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  #3  
Old 12-28-2001, 10:03 AM
ATL 330i ATL 330i is offline
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Synopsis....

He really, really, really, really likes his car, except for the steering.

'course, I only read 3 paragraphs meself.....
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  #4  
Old 12-28-2001, 11:14 AM
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IndyMike IndyMike is offline
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I'm hoping that BMW is reading this board

because if people like you and I keep writing about their heritage and what these vehicles are lacking, maybe their case of amnescia will disappear.

I'm basically bummed because I waited 9 years for the HP increase, assuming that the driver connectivity would still be there

I was at the local dealer last weekend and saw 3 E36 M3's. One white and one estoril blue coupe, and one techno-violet cab. Not my favorite colors. However, if they would have had a cosmos black I don't think I would have been able to resist the temptation.

The only thing that might have held me back would be the impending divorce proceeding (if only because my wife's lawyer is better than mine

Seriously, I've stayed loyal this long, so I'll guess I'll wait until I'm in the market for a new car in 2004 before passing ultimate judgement. If nothing new excites me, I'm sure I'll be able to pick up a '99 M3 for a reasonable price. That just might be the ticket!
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  #5  
Old 12-28-2001, 11:22 AM
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I suspect that, in this era of consolidations, remaining independent is BMW's primary goal. And to do this, they need to sell a lot of cars. Hence the dumbing down.

I wonder what most of the truly fanatical E46 fans think of earlier BMWs. Do they have any interest in them whatsoever? Or is BMW just the latest cool thing.

I have always wished I had a HUGE garage so I could add an E30 and 2002tii without leaving anything outside. But even with unlimited funds, I don't think I'd buy another E46 (well, unless they make an E46 M3 Touring).
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Old 12-28-2001, 11:24 AM
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  #7  
Old 12-28-2001, 11:40 AM
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IndyMike IndyMike is offline
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TD, you just had to mention the Touring..

That would also be the one thing I would really covet.

I also keep hoping they do an M3/4 someday soon, but I think that's a pipedream. Perhaps if we send a barrage of mail to Tom Salkowsky he'll be able to convince AG that they're screwing up, and missing an important segment of the market (and, boy are they).

Speaking of the Touring, my cousin who lives in Germany just got a new Touring the other day. Granted it's an E46 series (not sure about specs just yet), but if they'd have marketed one with the M54 engine here in the States I have no doubt I would be driving that instead of the cab.

Same problems we currently experience, but a salivating configuration and package nonetheless.
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  #8  
Old 12-28-2001, 11:45 AM
TD
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Re: TD, you just had to mention the Touring..

Quote:
Originally posted by IndyMike
That would also be the one thing I would really covet.

I also keep hoping they do an M3/4 someday soon, but I think that's a pipedream. Perhaps if we send a barrage of mail to Tom Salkowsky he'll be able to convince AG that they're screwing up, and missing an important segment of the market (and, boy are they).

Speaking of the Touring, my cousin who lives in Germany just got a new Touring the other day. Granted it's an E46 series (not sure about specs just yet), but if they'd have marketed one with the M54 engine here in the States I have no doubt I would be driving that instead of the cab.

Same problems we currently experience, but a salivating configuration and package nonetheless.
Someone's going to correct you, so it might as well be me. The engines in both the current 325 and the 330 are the M54. I assume you meant if BMW put the 3.0L in the E46 Touring you'd be all over it. But I'm not so sure, since i did ditch a 330i SP sedan (and I assume the wagon would be VERY similar - just with more space).

The E46 M3's e-throttle programming and it's stiffened suspension are the only things that could sway me to try another E46. But it would have to be the wagon as I'm damn happy with my E36 M3 sedan.
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  #9  
Old 12-28-2001, 11:56 AM
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Somebody shoot me (and I thought I really, really loved my car)

wow
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  #10  
Old 12-28-2001, 12:08 PM
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My bad; meant of course the 3.0 liter...

engine. It would have swayed me because it's more practical for day-to-day driving as opposed to the cab. Plus, it would have been an easier sell to my bitter half (er, rather, better half), than the pleading, cajoling and crying I had to muster to get her to acquise to the cab.

Obviously no comparo to the E36 M3, but there's still something interesting about a station wagon with some muscle and a sport suspension under it.

Of couse, if Audi were to market their grocery hauler (can't remember the nomenclature, but for some reason RS4 comes to mind) here in the States, I'd probably be in line right now.
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  #11  
Old 12-28-2001, 12:24 PM
TD
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Re: My bad; meant of course the 3.0 liter...

Quote:
Originally posted by IndyMike
engine. It would have swayed me because it's more practical for day-to-day driving as opposed to the cab. Plus, it would have been an easier sell to my bitter half (er, rather, better half), than the pleading, cajoling and crying I had to muster to get her to acquise to the cab.

Obviously no comparo to the E36 M3, but there's still something interesting about a station wagon with some muscle and a sport suspension under it.

Of couse, if Audi were to market their grocery hauler (can't remember the nomenclature, but for some reason RS4 comes to mind) here in the States, I'd probably be in line right now.
Audi builds two levels of high-po wagon, the S4 and the RS4. We got the previous generation S4 here in the States and it is truly a damn appealing package. It's rumored that the next gen S4 will have a normally aspirated V8 instead of the twin-turbo V6 in the prev gen S4. And the spy pics of the next gen A4 wagon look quite sharp as do the S4 sedan spy pics. Mentally combining all those tidbits has me thinking I WILL be in line for that one well before it shows up here.

Unless, of course, BMW comes through with the M3T.

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  #12  
Old 12-28-2001, 12:30 PM
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Tom, the day you guys buy a sports wagon (RS4 OR M3T) is the day that I...

I dunno what. Buy you guys dinner at our favorite restaurant (L'Auberge Chez Francois, btw) or something else foolish.

I just don't see it happening (despite all your ramblings to the contrary).
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  #13  
Old 12-28-2001, 12:37 PM
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Harrison, I ask you seriously.........

Does anybody really know what love is?

or if you can't answer that one,

What's love got to do, got to do with it?

Please, no help from the audience, or any lifelines
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  #14  
Old 12-28-2001, 12:50 PM
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Do I smell a poll.......................

This smells like the making of a couple of possible polls here; (1) M3T, Yes or No, and (2) M3T or RS4.

Anybody feel like starting them? Personally I'd do it, but I've got this aversion to polls.

You see, I was polled quit often as a youth (most times via a basketball pole). That why I constantly talk with a high pitched voice. Quite frankly I'm amazed and surprised that I can even make babies.
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  #15  
Old 12-29-2001, 12:02 AM
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Re: Re: TD, you just had to mention the Touring..

Quote:
Originally posted by TD


Someone's going to correct you, so it might as well be me. The engines in both the current 325 and the 330 are the M54. I assume you meant if BMW put the 3.0L in the E46 Touring you'd be all over it. But I'm not so sure, since i did ditch a 330i SP sedan (and I assume the wagon would be VERY similar - just with more space).
I have a question about this: a friend of mine drives a 330i Touring here. Is that another BMW that the NA market does NOT get? If that is the case, why the hell not?

Patrick
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  #16  
Old 12-29-2001, 04:25 AM
Dan Dan is offline
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Mike:

Excellent write-up, and I agree with your insightful ramblings about the unfortunate direction BMW is heading. Their decision to "mainstream" their vehicles in search of additional sales and profits is a blow to every enthusiast who appreciates the traits that BMW used to represent: precision German engineering, a true connection between machine and driver, the best steering and road feel this side of Porsche, and the uncanny ability to put that silly assed grin on your face every time you went for a drive.

BMW would be well-served to hear how they lost my business last year, and to ponder how many more sales they will lose if they continue to forsake the enthusiasts who patronized them for many years. I was looking for a new four door sports sedan in the summer of 2000, and I wanted a 328i. Incredibly, my local dealer did not have a single sport package car in stock, and it was too late to order a 328i. The car I test drove had great steering and brakes, but IMHO, it just did not handle like a sports sedan should with that soft, base suspension.

Once the 2001 models came out, I returned to the dealer to test drive a sport package 330i. I was shocked and disappointed to find out that BMW purposely ruined their once perfect steering, only to be replaced by overboosted, numb steering that felt like my parent's old 1973 Plymouth Duster! I chose not to purchase a 330i due to its steering.

Does anyone know whether the correct, heavier steering has been restored for the 2002 models? I would be interested to know, as I am still in the market for a sports sedan.
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  #17  
Old 12-29-2001, 07:46 AM
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Mike:
You certainly car about your car and know why you drive it.

I can understand how the newer BMW's "refinement" don't excite the driving spirit as much as the older models. However, there is still the M series!

In driving BMW's and other makes, it seemed very clear to me that BMW makes a car which is more fun to drive and has better handling characteristics. Although it may not be as responsive as the older Bimmers, it is still better than its competition.

I suppose that BMW is just accommodating the "tastes" of the consumers. Many of us prefer a few creature comforts, use the car as a daily driver and want some performance. BMW's 3 and 5 series fit the bill.

I know I am repeating myself, but I think that the performance enthusiasts are being "directed" to the M series. Thus, BMW has raised the price bar for those that appreciate the true driving experience.
Regards,
Mike
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Old 12-29-2001, 08:04 AM
JPinTO JPinTO is offline
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Re: Re: Re: TD, you just had to mention the Touring..

Quote:
Originally posted by Patrick 320d


I have a question about this: a friend of mine drives a 330i Touring here. Is that another BMW that the NA market does NOT get? If that is the case, why the hell not?

Patrick
No 330 Touring in USA or Canada. They don't think demand will be high enough to warrant the expense of getting certification for the model.
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Old 12-29-2001, 09:38 AM
Patrick Patrick is offline
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Re: Re: Re: Re: TD, you just had to mention the Touring..

Quote:
Originally posted by JPinTO


No 330 Touring in USA or Canada. They don't think demand will be high enough to warrant the expense of getting certification for the model.
But isn't there a 540i Touring in NA? Which would be faster - 330iT or 540iT? Would that affect any decision on what to import to a certain market, i.e., competition between 3er and 5er of a similar type?

Anyway ...

Patrick
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Old 12-29-2001, 10:16 AM
TD
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: TD, you just had to mention the Touring..

Quote:
Originally posted by Patrick 320d


But isn't there a 540i Touring in NA? Which would be faster - 330iT or 540iT? Would that affect any decision on what to import to a certain market, i.e., competition between 3er and 5er of a similar type?

Anyway ...

Patrick
Yes, technically the 540i Touring IS available in the US, BUT...

It is only available with the automatic transmission so most of us do not consider it as an option. Plus it is large and heavy and rather expensive.

I would be interested in a fast, manual tranny wagon about the size of the E46 Tourings or A4/S4/RS4 Avants. But they only send us the 325iT, 325XiT and 525iT with manual trannies.

Last edited by TD; 12-29-2001 at 12:33 PM.
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  #21  
Old 12-29-2001, 12:22 PM
Dan Dan is offline
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I want to test drive a 2002 3301 to check out the steering firsthand, and I will post my impressions afterwards. Regarding the restyling, there was a non-sport package black 2002 330i on static display at the recent Ultimate Driving Event I attended in Atlanta, and other than the front bumper, it looked ok. Had the natural brown interior which was very attractive, by the way. I understand the sport package front bumper looks much better.
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