REVIEW DATE: 20 Oct 2008
The mid-range 325i has always been a sought-after model in BMW's 3-Series line-up. Steve Ghosley sees if the latest generation version will still pull in the crowds..
One model that continues to figure highly in the continuing BMW 3-Series success story is the mid-range 325i petrol model we look at here. This variant has always been seen as a credible set of wheels amongst the upwardly mobile and little has changed in this respect with the most recent raft of changes.
Priced at around £27,000, the 325i features BMW's familiar smooth and silky straight-six 2.5-litre petrol unit that these days utilises Valvetronic technology that does away with conventional throttle butterflies in favour of a complex electrically-powered valve lifting system. This impressive engineering results in 218bhp and 270Nm of torque. It is certainly enough power to entertain, especially when mated to the excellent new manual six-speed gearbox.
This power is reflected in the sprint to 62mph which is achieved in a 6.7 seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph. Despite this, the fuel economy figures are pretty good at 40mpg. The Valvetronic engine is a surprisingly clean unit given its prodigious outputs and features an electric water pump to cool the engine block for increased efficiency. The car also features the BMW EfficientDynamics programme which uses Brake Energy Regeneration and Auto Start-Sto,p amongst other technology, to maximise engine efficiency. The CO2 emissions run out at a tidy 170g/km.
Standard equipment on the 325i SE variant that most buy includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic air-conditioning, a multifunction steering wheel and a sensible auto-dimming interior mirror that makes night driving much more agreeable. Parking is made less of a gamble with rear distance sensors and motorway driving more relaxed with cruise control.
"There is little to match it in the premium sports saloon sector .."
Unusually for a 3 Series, it could be that what's on the bonnet gains as much attention as what's under it where this revised model is concerned. The styling of today's car has been updated in a number of small ways but the raised lines that fall down the middle of the bonnet are most noticeable. Elsewhere, the BMW trademark ringed side lights are standard and the grille has been tweaked while the entire rear light clusters are now entirely ruby red in colour and the side skirts have a more pronounced crease line. The interior looks largely similar to the previous model but BMW has again updated its iDrive control interface with scrolling menu displays designed to enhance usability. There's 8 gigabytes of music storage capacity in the system too, enough for 100 albums, while the quality of the trim materials around the cabin has also been enhanced.
The balance of weighting between the steering and the slick six-speed gearchange, together with the effort required to depress the various pedals is all beautifully judged. The spacing between those pedals, the driving position and the sightlines out of the cabin all lend the belief that the 325i was screwed together by a manufacturer who deeply appreciates the finer aspects of building a car. Drive other rivals and you'll see how quickly they drop the ball in these apparently fundamental regards.
Safety has become a big selling point in less prestigious models than this 325i SE but BMW are well up to speed here with six airbags and Dynamic Stability Control Plus (DSC+) as standard. The DSC+ system links the traction control, stability and brake assistance features into one homogenous unit. They work in harmony with each other to keep this 3-Series totally under control, even under the harshest on conditions. Amongst its attributes, DSC+ primes the brakes for emergency stops, clears the discs of surface water and reduces the effects of brake fade. If you opt for BMW's Active Steering, then DSC+ ensures greater stability when braking hard on varying surface conditions.
Run-flat tyres are used with every tyre and wheel option on this 325i model. Although some have grumbled about the deterioration in ride quality when run flats are specified, it's worth noting that this is only normally the case when the run-flat is an optional extra. When, as is the case of the E90 3 Series, the suspension has been tuned to accommodate the stiffer sidewalls of a run flat tyre, the overall ride quality isn't noticeably inferior.
Not for nothing is the 325i continually a sought-after model in the 3 Series range. True, a 325d offers strong competition, but there's a high upfront price premium attached to it. As a result, for private buyers at least, there's little to match a 325i in the premium sports saloon sector. And don't be surprised if you find one parked next to you in the company car park either.
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