My brother and I went to the Drive for the Cure at Chapman BMW (Scottsdale, AZ) yesterday... There were lots of people there, which was great for the charity, but frustrating for the drivers. Almost all of the cars were white with sand leather interiors. They had a cool, silver, checkerboard decaling on them which turned lots of heads on the road.
They had a pretty full line of cars there - 323 and 328 - a sport (manual) and premium (autos) of each; '99 323 and 328 convertibles (E36 of course); 528 and 540 (both autos); Z3 - 2.3 and 2.8; 740iL and 740 Sport (autos); and the ever-elusive M Coupe. I was disappointed that they didn't bring an X5 or M5 for us to look at in the showroom - no such luck.
Since there were so many people waiting for the M Coupe and time was fleeting, my brother and I drove the 328i Sport and 740i Sport. (I currently own a 323i sport - so I was checking out the competition :-) )
First off, the 328 was lots of fun to drive. It was slightly quicker in the upper rmp range, with a little better high speed, passing-type acceleration (60-80 mph). The clutch didn't feel as firm as my 323 and the stick was a little more loose. Perhaps that's due to the difference in mileage - the 328 test car had about 16,000 miles, my car has about 7000. The one noticable difference that I really appreciated was the 17' wheels and Dunlop tires. Those things were totally "confidence-inspiring." My 323 has the 16" V-Spokes that no one seems to like and the Bridgestone Turanza tires. The stiffer ride of the 17s was hardly noticeable, the handling was somewhat better, but there was the additional tracking (following ruts in the road) that comes with wider wheels. We drove that car pretty hard in some serious twisties (Galvin Parkway going 90 - for those of you familiar with Scottsdale). Overall I was impressed, but not for the monetary difference - I'm very happy with my 323i Sport. The only thing I would change about my car, as most others would agree, is to upgrade to 17" wheels and stickier rubber.
By the way, for those of you who have questions about which stereo is better, all I have to say is that if I didn't upgrade to the Harmon Kardon, I would be hating my drive to work. IMHO the stock system is an embarrasment! (Sorry for those who have it and are happy with it, but for a car that costs this much - it's really a shame).
Now on to the 740i Sport - BMWow is all I could say! While this car is not nearly as plush as the MB S430, it certainly can drive circles around one! I'm not sure how much the 740 weighs but it moves - FAST! The first thing you have to do, when you test drive any of these cars, is turn off that DSC/ASC. DON'T DO THIS IF YOU'RE AN INEXPERIENCED DRIVER! The engine is super-strong with an incredible exhaust ROAR, and the handling is impeccable. There was some body roll but much less than it's non-sporting sibling. We hit about 115 on a clear spot on the freeway before we realized how fast were were going. This car is one that you can drive just about as fast as you dare and still feel safe and in control.
My opinion is if you want to be pampered in absolute luxury, buy the MB - but if you want to really DRIVE (in a very respectable level of luxury) than the BMW is your car.
Take advantage of the Drive for the Cure - it really is a great cause as BMW donates $1 per mile driven on the cars. Check out www.bmwusa.com under "News and Events" and see if it's coming to your town...