BMW 325i SE Touring review
by David Finlay (28 November 2005)
Initial impressions of this car have already appeared in a separate road test of the 320d SE Touring, and it has been interesting to revisit the 325i to see if those views were confirmed during a more comprehensive evaluation.
The short answer is that yes, they were. It has already been established that the 3-Series Touring is basically a fine car, offering more practicality than its estate predecessors. For example, although the basic luggage capacity is, at 460 litres, no better than the saloon provides, you can increase this to 1385 litres by folding down the rear seats.
The rear window provides high-level access without the need to open the tailgate, and for an extra £160 (such a small proportion of the overall cost that you can't help wondering whether BMW should just have included it as standard) you can specify a storage compartment package which adds more space below boot floor level.
For just under £27,000 you get a lot of equipment included as standard in the SE trim level, but you'd be lucky to leave your BMW dealership having paid such a relatively small amount. The test car's extras sent its price skyrocketing to £32,870, and several of them seem to be almost automatic choices. I mean, if you wanted a car like this, you'd almost certainly want it to come with things like satellite navigation (£1970), leather upholstery (£1220), electrically adjustable front seats (£890), metallic paint (£535), a 6-CD changer (£295) and of course the storage package mentioned earlier.
Considerations like this apply across the 3-Series range. The more immediate question with this particular car is whether it's the right one to buy. It's certainly one that BMW could have been expected to make. There have been 325s for so many years that the world would seem a strange place without them, and it would at first sight be almost perverse for the company not to use its fine 2.5-litre engine in its mainstream saloon/estate line-up.
It's a splendid unit in its own right. Whether it's burbling almost inaudibly at low revs or whirring towards the red line, it operates in a smooth, refined and very BMWish way. On paper, it also makes for a much quicker car than the 320d. But I would go for the turbo diesel every single time. Unless you are really booting the 325i, it feels slower than the diesel, and of course it uses a great deal more fuel. It is also not that much quieter, though you do notice the difference if you drive both models on the same day.
The other great advantage the 320d SE has is that low-profile tyres are an easily-avoided optional extra. On the 325i, they are regrettably standard. There's no question that 17" alloys with not much rubber look better on the 3-Series than 16s with more rubber, but as far as the driving experience goes they are a complete waste of time. They were largely responsible for the worst feature of the car tested here, namely its habit of using every bump or dip in the road surface as an excuse to change direction.
It's not so much of an issue when you're pushing on, but in everyday motoring this behaviour means you have to concentrate very hard on which way the nose is pointing. This quickly becomes tiring, and shouldn't the appeal of the 3-Series include the fact that it makes driving almost effortless?
The initial impressions were correct. If you want a sub-three-litre car in this range, the 320d is still the one to go for. And forget about paying extra for low-profile tyres.