8 / 10
2009 BMW 325i Review and Road Test
Two cylinders more means two thumbs up
I was reading an article in a magazine a few weeks ago that talked about class distinction. The author flew on an airline that was completely first class. In other words, no economy, and no business class.
There were the usual niceties like champagne on arrival, hors d’oeuvres, beautiful meals, and affable hostesses. Sounds pretty good, but for some reason, he was disappointed.
The reason, well there was no one to look down upon. No passengers to peer through the curtain at, and think “I’ve made it. Yeah, you guys are all jealous.” He wanted to be revered, and to be thought of as special by someone else.
Which brings me to the BMW 3 Series range. There always has to be a base model, I suppose, so other models in the collection look better.
A couple of weeks ago, we took the base 3 Series for a spin, in the form of the 320i. Our consensus, and our readers too, was that as nice as the 3 Series is, the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol really doesn’t cut it.
The diesel powered 320d is demonstrably better in all aspects, and for only $3000 more.
But if you go further up the aspirational ladder, and the first six-cylinder you come across is the 323i. As it’s a detuned version of the 2.5-litre six fitted to the 325i, we opted for the latter for our next test. With the 325i making 160kW and 250Nm, it’s starting to put the excellent 3 Series chassis into perspective.
As it also carries the six-speed automatic, the extra torque certainly does smooth out the changes, and thankfully, the lever goes the right way for changing manually – forward to downshift, and backward to upshift.
We’ve had this engine on test before, however in a larger-bodied car, so how does it fare?
The bottom end torque, the swelling power, and the screaming top end will certainly have any car junky’s spine tingling. It’s also the way it motivates the 3 Series that impresses. Sure, it’s not the biggest engine, but it sure does punch well above its weight, in terms of pulling power.
Making most of its free-revving nature, the sonorous six is best above 3500-4000rpm. That doesn’t stop it hauling from low revs, though. It’s tractable, yet will smash the 100km/h barrier in 7.7 seconds.
But the best thing about the engine is its dual-role function. Happy to baby its passengers with a smooth nature (helped by the commendable gearbox), it’s remarkably quiet, notably at idle. Yet stick the boot in and it screams to the heavens, with the driver smiling uncontrollably.
Of course, with its bigger wheels, and similar weight (1445kgs), the 325i has the edge on its little brother in the handling stakes. Turn in is a little crisper, it’s similarly suspended, and steering feel and weight is also excellent, save at low speeds where, again, it gets a little heavy. As it’s more a driver’s car, you care less about that.
The combination of brilliant balance, excellent brakes and sweet engine means that the 325i distinguishes itself as the starting point for desirable cars in the 3 Series’ range.
Of course, you end up paying for it, though. With a starting price of $75,900, it’s a good $21,400 more than its little brother, the 320i. Cynics would complain that that’s a lot of extra cash for just two more cylinders, but they need to remember that there’s a lot more included equipment as standard.
iDrive is fitted, as well as the larger, clearer screen and Business Navigation. The outstanding voice command system must be mentioned, with just about every function of the car being able to be controlled by pressing a button on the wheel, and giving your decree.
It’s intuitive, too, as everything you read on the menu is a spoken command, which means not having to read through 50 pages of an instruction manual to find out how to get somewhere. Blitzing Audi’s MMI system, the new iDrive with voice control has to be now the best system on the market.
In addition the Bluetooth system, and stereo are both clear and crisp, with touch sensitive favourites buttons that display what their functions are by just brushing your finger over the top.
The rest of the interior is pure 3 Series, and is echoed in the 320i we tested earlier. Again, the revised (and now excellent) iDrive was optioned, as was metallic paint and sunroof.
To look at, apart from the wheels, there’s not a lot to distinguish the different designations of the 3 Series. Good for base model owners, not so good for the higher versions. I guess that’s why “model designation deletion” is a no cost option.
However, that all disappears into the back of your mind, as soon as you’re behind the wheel of the 325i. It’s the way it drives that really matters.
It’s nice to sometimes look down on those below you, however, I prefer to look in my rear vision mirror at those left in my dust.
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