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MF Podcast Review: 2006 BMW 325i

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The BMW 3 series is a design, engineering and performance icon. One of the few cars that are on par with the Mini’s similarly long history. An engine mounted behind the front wheels gives the car a perfect 50/50 weight distrubtion and a composure at the limit unheard of in most consumer sedans. All this makes for an automobile that is as at home on the track, as it is around town.

Beyond the obvious reasons to take a 325i out for a drive, the next MINI will also share quite a few components in and outside of the car. So with the 2007 MINI just six months away from initial production, it seemed like a good time to get aqauinted with some of this new technology. Now it’s worth noting that I’ve spent a good amount of time in various versions of the new 3 series. And as it would happen the particular car that I used for the audio review was the most plainly specced one I’ve driven. No manual and no sport package meant the car wasn’t quite the thrill that some 3 series (including the one in my garage) can be. But that aside it’s a quick preview of a few new key technologies we’ll see next year.

[ BMW 325i Podcast Review ] (MP3 / 3.7MB / 8:05)

An official photos BMW 325i, identical to car test but with Sport Package:

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3 series interior sans navigation. The radio interface in the next generation MINI will be vaguely similar to what is show below:

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Notice the almost complete lack of front overhang. BMW mounted the inline six behind the front wheels for perfect distrubution of weight. It hurts packaging but helps make the car the benchmark of performance that it is:

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The actual car tested (without sport package):

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The BMW 330i with the sport pack (the one to drive if you can):

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Written By: Gabe

  • Aurel

    Interesting this review came about, as I just drove an 06 325xi wagon this week as a loaner for a day.

    I really hate my dealer now for giving it to me, as it is a fantastic car all around, and it put that upgrade bug in my head. Everything is so well put together and the car handles so fantastic, that I am seriously thinking of upgrading from the Mini to this as soon I can swing it financially.

    But it is also good to know that some of the interior bits you mentioned in the review will make it to the 07 MINI. Will wait to test drive that, when it comes available and make a decision on my next car then.

  • Nozz

    Kick ass! I like it. Now, bring on the upcoming turbo model! Also, what’s the reasoning behind the new 3 series nonmenclature if it doesn’t reflect engine size, besides the obvious model difference?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Interesting this review came about, as I just drove an 06 325xi wagon this week as a loaner for a day.

    If I could make a recommendation it would be to stay away from the AWD unless you live in the mountains or see some serious snow. The RWD 3 series has such good balance that there really isn’t any need for AWD in dry or wet. Especially with the excellent DSC. And even in snow with a set of all-seasons or especially dedicated snow tires, the 3 series goes about it’s business in the usual fashion.

    Kick ass! I like it. Now, bring on the upcoming turbo model! Also, what’s the reasoning behind the new 3 series nomenclature if it doesn’t reflect engine size, besides the obvious model difference?

    Yeah that’s annoying. Basically BMW decided to not bring over the new 2.5L engine since that would mean paying for the federalization of two engines. So instead they just de-tuned the 3.0L. That said the 3.0L is probably the sweetest six cylinder engine in production. There are others with more power but few that have the entire package that this does. Heck, it has a Magnesium block!

    Interestingly the nomenclature changed on the Z4 with this configuration from Z4 2.5i and Z4 3.0i to Z4 3.0i and Z4 3.0is. However on the 3 series they played it safe and stuck to the old 325i moniker.

    The 3.0L in the 325i generates 215hp. The 3.0L in the 330i puts out around 265hp. The upcoming turbo version (which many BMW traditionalists cringe at) will pump out well over 300hp with no turbo lag.

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    Those tradistionalists need to get with the program

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Actually the Turbo 2002 reportedly was very much a handful on the open road. The turbo lag was intense and I’ve heard the term suicidal used as well. God forbid the turbo might kick in while apexing ;)

    Obviously times have changed but I for one would still generally opt for a naturally aspirated 330i over the more powerful upcoming 330is or 335i (we’ll find that out soon). Maybe at the ripe age of 30 I’ve become old-fashioned ;)

    All that said BMW did have one monster of a turbo-charged F1 engine in the early 80s. A 1.5L that pumped out 1200bhp!

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    Yeah, I have heard that too (handful), just pointing out that there is history for the turbo and BMW.

    I’d take a Turbo in my MINI and an NA 6 in my 3′er touring.

  • Kennedy
    The upcoming turbo version (which many BMW traditionalists cringe at) will pump out well over 300hp with no turbo lag.

    Not to pick on Gabe, but I love it when people say “no lag”. Unless there is something very trick about the new BMW system, even with some very small turbos, they’re going to spool up over time – maybe quicker than most turbos, but as I understand it, they’re not going to be instantaneous. The next generation turbo, would then have to be marketed as “this turbo anticipates when you want boost and spools up before you even ask for it.”

    I think that’s why I side with Gabe that…

    I for one would still generally opt for a naturally aspirated 330i over the more powerful upcoming 330is

    … Then again I’m turning 30 too in a few weeks… :)

    Anyway, sorry, I just can’t believe we’re going to have whistling BMWs on the street soon…

  • Damon

    Funny your review would come after I drove my sisters ’98 318i this weekend. Even though it is almost ten years old and has 78,000 miles on it, it’s a great car to drive. It didn’t have a single rattle which is more than I can say for our two MINI’s with 10,000 and 14,000 miles on them. It was nice and tight. Although the 318 feels a little underpowered with the auto trans it was still quite snappy and the transmission is far superior to the auto in my ’05 MCS. None of that jerking and jumping around, it was non-issue, you could hardly feel it shifting and they were nice and quick. It didn’t have the snappy steering that’s for sure.

    I guess the MINI is sorta-cheap fun and the BMW is not-so-cheap fun.

  • Jim Harris

    According to what I’ve read, the new turbo will turn out not well over 300 hp but just slightly over 300 hp–302 to be exact. The lag will be minimized by doing what Toyota did with the old Supra–using two turbos rather than a single. In this case, rumor is, each turbo will feed three cylinders. Using two small turbos presumably makes for less lag than a larger single.

    What guys will do, of course, is turn to the aftermarket for a replacement kit involving one large turbo (just like they did with the Supra). And they will use a boost controller to up the boost. We’ll be seeing people running 400 hp easy.

    But who knows what final form the car will take?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    According to what I’ve read, the new turbo will turn out not well over 300 hp but just slightly over 300 hp—302 to be exact.

    For the record the official figure will be 306hp.

  • Dan

    Is there a good website out there for BMW news?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    http://www.bimmerfile.com as soon as I start it ;-)

    Actually no. That’s one of the reasons I own the above domain – I had hoped to start one. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time to run something like that currently. At least not the way I’d want to run it.

  • http://www.kimmelshue.com Chris Kimmelshue

    I recently compared the E90 3s against one another. I really like both cars, but I give the edge to the 330i. Not only is it more powerful (215bhp vs. 255bhp), the powerband is more suited to city driving (read: power down low). You really have to rev the N52 powerplant in the 325i to “get it to go.” The 3 stage intake system (on the 330i) really augments this powerplant.

    The handling from both cars is just fantastic for a sedan. They both still understeer when pushed hard, but this is the safest setup for most drivers. The Sport package really livens up the handling, while not punishing your passengers.

    I have to hand it to BMW for throwing in all the electronic wizardry. For example: the illuminated door handles, the push button starter, “comfort access” keyless entry and start, active cruise control, and could go on. Let’s hope the next generation MINI incorporates some of these cool features.

    The other thing to consider in the debate of 325i vs. 330i is pricing. The 325i starts at $30,900 and the 330i starts at 36,600. The 330i includes, as standard, many of the options for the 325i (xenons, uprated stereo, etc). A decently equipped 325i will set you back $38k and change, whilst a “lightly” optioned 330i with “Sport Package ZSP” will set you back just over $38k and already have some features that are only options on the 325i.

  • dickdavid

    Nice review, Gabe and NICE CAR!!

  • Evan

    I have to say that I really like the new 3 as well. You do need the manual though for fun. The auto is nice as autos go, but may as well have the fun with the manual. After driving an E90 325i manual and then getting back into my MC, I realized how much more alive and chuckable the MC was. But the MINI is smaller, lighter, etc. The Bimmer does everything so perfectly- including ride well on runflats. But the MINI mystique and even the fun of older 3ers was missing in the new one. The E90 is just so good at all things. My parents have a ’93 325i with 238k miles and it still runs beautifully, smooth, quick and handles very well. I actually was so confident about the MINI when it came out b/c of its BMW engineering (yes, brits and rover did a bunch, but Munich had the final say).

    What I’ve decided is that I’ll always keep my current ’04 MC (nostalgia), and between myself and my girlfriend will get a MCS (fun) and a 3er Touring (family)in a couple of years. I do hope that they bring the RWD touring here, otherwise it’ll be a sedan.

    I also enjoy these alternate car reviews here on motoringfile Keep it coming!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Evan you’re totally reading my mind. BMW needs to bring the new 3 series RWD wagon over here. If they don’t I’ll be holding onto mine for a very long time and it’ll most likely be replaced by a 3er sedan.

    But the MINI mystique and even the fun of older 3ers was missing in the new one. The E90 is just so good at all things.

    In some ways I agree. I find the E90 actually more nimble than the E46 but less than the E36 and of course E30. But the E90 is so effortlessly good at everything else that it’s easily the best 3 series yet. And even better, the new car very much has it’s own personality like the all the previous version. In fact the design and personality in some ways is so different from my E46 that it makes the older car already feel like a classic and something I want to hold onto.

    And finally can’t agree more with the manual statement. I love having a manual wagon with the sport package as it’s breaks down so many stereotypes people have about these cars (like the MINI in some ways).

  • Edge

    I recently was given a new 2006 BMW 325i (E90) as a loaner while my MINI was in service. I was shockingly impressed at just how much nicer of a car that it is, compared just to the 2005 model, which I have had loaners of previously.

    However, the one thing that drove me batty was the “way too far forward” placement of the window and mirror controls on the driver’s door. I am 6’1″, and I put the seat fairly far back… and I found myself needing to STRETCH out, and down the slope, on the armrest piece of the driver’s door, just to adjust things.

    Other than that poor placement (IMO), I was quite impressed. The pushbutton start was particularly “cool”, even though it is unimportant.

    Did you know that a pushbutton start is available as an OEM retrofit for the MINI? Unfortunately it’s very difficult (read: damn near impossible) to buy in the USA. I’ve tried! Check out it out at RealOEM.com.

  • http://www.stylizedfacts.com/STi/ dc

    Notice the almost complete lack of front overhang

    This is exagerated by BMW rounding off the corners in plan view. The licence plate may be 50 cm in front of the tire, but the front corner of the hood only 20 cm.

    I am a big fan of Chrysler’s cab forward Intrepid (etc) packaging, but the BMW makes good use of the long hood for front-rear mass balance.

    Need a comment composition preview.

  • David

    Very good audio review. Great sedan – I had one as a loaner and was mighty impressed by the overall balance of the car, and the increased interior size is welcomed by those who cannot afford to even look at the 5 series. Even the ride quality with the standard run-flat tires is very good which I cannot say about my Cooper. One oddity was the electric sunroof which would not close after the engine was shut off. I tried various things, but ultimately had to restart the engine to get the sunroof to close. Oh well it’s not an option I would select in any event. Here in Canada we do get a version with a 2.5 litre inline six called the 323i, although I believe it is “last years” engine, so no magnesium trickery, but it is available at a saving of $5,000 over the 325i. The content is somewhat less of course, no Xenons available, cruise not standard (have to buy as part of the premium pkg. with sunroof, heated seats, auto-dim mirror) manual air conditioner, etc, but the sport package is available at a good value of $1,500, although the alloys remain 16″. I would add some 17″ BBS RK’s at ,17 lbs. and some 225/45R17 perf. rubber to the mix, and keep the stock 16′s for winter use. Have yet to test this model but am looking forward to seeing how the 174hp / 170 lbs.ft. of torque do in this combo. Gabe – you mentioned the sport suspension is a must in the 3 series, what about the sport seats – are they appreciably better than the stock seats?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Gabe – you mentioned the sport suspension is a must in the 3 series, what about the sport seats – are they appreciably better than the stock seats?

    Yes yes yes. They are also a must (which makes the sport package a no brainer). They put the MINI’s seats to shame.

  • Pingback: whiteroofradio.com » Woofcast #42

  • Jim McGee

    Just bought a new BMW E90 320SE automatic. It’s a much improved car than th ee46, but oh dear those standard front seats are backbreakers on a long to medium journey. If you must have a n e90, lumbar support is a must on the front seats. I have had two new Beemers (UK) and find that although the dealerships are great, that BMW (UK) couldn’t give a toss once youv’e bought the car. In contrast, i have a Honda Jazz costing a fraction of the BMW £30,000 GBP and Honda UK will bend over bacwards to make sure that their customers are happy. Shame really!

  • Tom Meyer

    Can anyone help me in choosing the right car for me. I am undecided between the BMW 320i or the BMW 325i. I want an automatic transmission so my wife won’t have any problems. Salesman at BMW is pushing me to the 320i. My biggest concern is would I have enough power with the 320i automatic trans? Or will I kick myself later for not getting the 325i. Need help!!!


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