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SAVVY TRAVELER
Our Neighbor to the North
by The Travel Connection, Cranston, RI

ON THE RHODE
2005 Toyota Camry / Solar
information provided by nctd.com

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ITS Technologie
by findRI.com staff

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2005 GMC Canyon
information provided by nctd.com

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The TMC
by findRI.com staff

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2005 Kia Amant
Information provided by nctd.com

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Sneak Previe
Information provided by nctd.com

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Route 6/10 Interchange
Information provided by the findRI.com staff

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2006 Chevrolet Colorado
Information provided by nctd.com

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2006 BMW 3 Series
Information provided by nctd.com

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2006 Dodge Charger
Information provided by nctd.com

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2006 Saab 9-3
Information provided by nctd.com

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2006 Nissan 350Z
Information provided by nctd.com

On the Rhode
2006 BMW 3 Series

Is there a driver anywhere who doesn't recognize the BMW 3 Series? The 2006 3 Series may require a double-take, at least until we get used to it, because BMW has launched the first all-new 3 Series models in six years.

The 2006 BMW 325i and 330i sedans comprise the fifth-generation of a car that created a concept, or at least cemented that concept indelibly in the buying public's awareness. For 40 years the 3 Series had delivered a special mix of sporting performance, practicality and European luxury in a compact package. It's the car that defines "sport sedan," and the benchmark every luxury car maker from Acura to Volvo aims at when it develops a sport sedan or a smaller luxury sedan. Above all, the 3 Series is a driver's car: accelerating, turning and stopping with remarkable agility and balance, without seriously compromising comfort or common sense. Finally, the 3 Series has embodied consistent product character and values, defining what has become one of the most respected brands among automobile enthusiasts. Given mixed reviews following the launch of BMW's current 5 and 7 Series sedans, anticipation for the 2006 3 Series might be exceeded only by the potential for disappointment.

As consumers we certainly are not disappointed, but as enthusiast drivers we're pensive about the 2006 325i and 330i sedans. At their core these remain true sport sedans, but their sporting heart is a bit more difficult to find.

If we characterized the new 330i with one word, it might be "stuff," even if BMW would prefer "technology." Technology is everywhere in this compact sedan, some of it first-in-class and some not previously applied in any BMW. The 2006 BMW 3 Series offers Active Steering that actually turns the front wheels without driver intervention, not to mention 150-mile run-flat tires, turning bi-xenon headlights and an optional i-Drive interface inside. It's the first car in its class to offer radar-managed active cruise control, and even the standard cruise control will automatically apply the brakes if the 3 gets too close to a car ahead.

Technology is not a bad thing, mind you. The 3 Series accounts for 40 percent of BMW's sales worldwide and BMW is a high-tech brand. The car buying public expects technology in its products. Yet after a good test drive we're left to wonder how much technology is appropriate in a 3 Series, and at what point it detracts from the car's original pureness of purpose.

For this year at least, buyers have the unique opportunity of comparing the new with the old. The tires-up overhaul for 2006, including new exterior styling and interiors, more powerful engines, all six-speed transmissions and redesigned suspension, applies only to the 3 Series sedans. Coupes and convertibles are still available, but for now they are built on the previous-generation 3 Series platform, and are more closely related to the 2005 models.

Make no mistake. The 2006 BMW 325i and 330i sedans accelerate more quickly, stop shorter and turn with more lateral grip than the 2005 models. They are roomier, with more standard and optional equipment and more sophisticated electronic controls. For entry-luxury market shoppers who put a premium on driving satisfaction, the BMW 3 Series remains the place to start. We simply recommend that you compare these cars with and without all the new stuff.

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