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e46 sedan press photos
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The fourth generation of 3 series was introduced in 1998 as E46 3 series. A complete new design with a nice looking interior and some updated engines. The higher price of the new 3 series did not matter, it sold well from the start.

There were five models available: 318i, 320i, 323i, 328i and the 320d diesel. All were six cylinders except the 318i and the 320d diesel which were 4 cylinders. Only one year after introduction of the sedan, BMW introduced the new coupe and the new touring. All were available with the same engines as the sedan although the coupe did not have 4 cylinders. This means it was only available as 320Ci, 323Ci and 328Ci. BMW also introduced a new 4 cylinder engine for the sedan. This was the 316i with 105 HP but maybe more important was the arrival of the new six cylinder diesel, the 330d. It had 184 HP and a top speed of 230 km/h! Before summer 2000 started, BMW had their new convertible ready. First available as 323Ci only since BMW was about to replace the 2.8 engine with a new 231 HP strong 3.0 engine! This engine replaced all 2.8 engines so all models received it. With this new engine, BMW decided it was time to introduce four wheel drive again. The last four wheel drive 3 series was available in 1991 as 325ix in the E30 3 series. Named 330xi, it was only available as sedan or touring. BMW must have thought it would sell more four wheel drive cars as a 325xi and a 330xd diesel followed soon. But before this happened, BMW replaced the 323i with the 325i, which had 193 HP. The same engine would also be used in the compact, which was introduced in 2001. This new baby BMW was not like any other 3 series but had a whole new look! It had double, round head lights and clear rear lights which looked a bit strange. The interior, however, was just like any other 3 series and it also received the same engines as the sedan had. The news did not last long as BMW decided the sedan and touring needed a face lift. Both front and rear received new lights and bumpers while the interior received a new navigation unit. More important were the engine updates: the 318i received the new valvetronic engine and the 320d diesel now had common rail. BMW also introduced a 318d diesel.

The E46 was developed as a modern replacement for the aging and cornered BMW E36 chassis. DesignworksUSA was contracted by BMW to work alongside BMW Group's in house design team to create the exterior body work. Based on the E36 body shell, the design team put an emphasis on improving aerodynamics and increasing the car's aggressive stance.

Flexible electronics
Since the start of production the entire in-car entertainment system (Radio Function, Navigation System, Television and Telecommunications systems) is based on a very flexible automotive computer system. As a result the E46 models can all be easily upgraded with the newest BMW technologies including BMW's Bluetooth System, the DVD based Navigation system, as well as BMW's CD changers that play MP3s

Powertrain and engine
An emphasis was put on reducing unsprung weight and increasing structural rigidity rather than increasing power output: the highest displacement model at release, the E46 328, had only 3 horsepower more than the E36 328. To counter this small power increase, the body shell of the E46 was claimed by BMW to be 70% more rigid than the E36's, and aluminum suspension components were used increasingly in order to decrease unsprung weight. In tune with BMW's core values, the E46 was released with a front engined rear-wheel drive layout with 50/50 weight distribution. This balance allows for optimal handling in regards to the drive train layout.
· Publicēju marchello November 26 2011
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