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The 2002 is without a doubt the most highly regarded of all the "New Class" BMW models, and many would say it firmly established BMW as a serious contender in the battle for shares of the U.S. automotive market. A precursor of the 3 Series and 5 Series, the 2002 introduced product attributes and brand identity that remain an integral part of today's BMW image.

While the 2002 was introduced as a two-door sedan, its platform was based on the BMW 1600. First offered in 1968, the 2002 remained in production until 1976. Weighing in at a scant 2,002 pounds, the base model packed a rather meager 98 horsepower. Twin carburetors gave the 2002ti a 20-horsepower boost. The slightly heavier 2002tii was equipped with a fuel-injected version of the same 2-litre engine. It generated a more robust 130 horsepower for a top speed of 120 mph. A three-door or hatchback model, dubbed the 2002 Touring, was also available and came equipped with the less powerful engine.

The 2002 Turbo was launched in 1973. Its force-fed powerplant turned out 170 horsepower. Unfortunately, automotive turbocharging was still somewhat of an experimental science at the time, and the car's boost lag was difficult to manage. When the power came on, it came on all at once. This put the little machine into severe oversteer and made the car difficult to drive. After a production run of only 1,672 vehicles, BMW pulled the plug on the 2002 Turbo. It would be many years before we would see another turbo from the Munich maker.

Of course, the normally aspirated 2002 models were most famous for their superb handling. With good balance and a fully independent suspension system, the sport sedans were quick, responsive and agile. It was a brand of performance that few American drivers had experienced, and many found it appealing. By the time the 2002 went out of production, more than a million had been sold. Today, many are in the hands of collectors.

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The Ultimate Driving Machine
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