2011 BMW 325i REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Luxury mid-size sedan
Price: $76,700 ($81,500 as tested)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.3 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.6 l/100km
When it comes to executive class mid-sizers, BMW’s 3 Series range has always been the one to beat.
But now being pressured by new (or at least recently-revised) competitors, BMW has sharpened pricing and equipment, without sacrificing the 325i’s sporting character.
Quality: There are no shortcomings on build quality. The 325i is extremely well-fitted and solid. Some out-of-the-way finishes are a little less than A-grade, but the feeling inside (and out) is one of a premium quality sedan.
Comfort: Electrically-adjustable front seats with pronounced bolsters provide a snug grip, but those with larger frames may find them a little tight. There’s no shortage of adjustment however, making it very easy to settle-in at the wheel.
Rear space is useful in the outboard positions, but the centre seat is best for short trips only.
Equipment: Climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, proximity key and keyless start, leather trim, multifunction steering wheel, data-dot security, and a six-speaker MP3 compatible CD player come standard in the 325i.
Optional equipment on our test car included an M sport package (for suspension, interior and exterior styling) and a no-cost innovations package with high-beam assist, adaptive headlights, voice-control, premium speaker system and professional navigation.
Storage: Although slightly shallow for a vehicle that doesn’t carry a spare tyre, the boot in the 325i measures 460 litres. Rear seats can be folded from within the boot to easily extend the available space.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: BMW’s in-line six cylinder engines are renowned for their smoothness and aural appeal. The 325i lives up to that promise.
While 160kW @ 6500 rpm and 250Nm of torque available from 2750rpm-4250 rpm are on par for a sporting category, the 325i is about balance rather than raw-boned power.
While a little more urge would be welcome, the 325i is no slouch, and rolling acceleration is strong for confident overtaking. The adaptive six-speed auto never puts a foot wrong, matching shifts perfectly to driver intent.
Refinement: Just a slight hint of wind noise from the mirrors or a little tyre roar on truly rough tarmac are all that find their way into the cabin. Otherwise there’s very little vibration from the engine and no shift-shock from the transmission.
Suspension: With the optional M-sport package tying down the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear end, ride is firm. It does however offer enough compliance for comfortable, swift highway driving with only small, high-frequency bumps unsettling the cabin.
Braking: While the brake pedal can be a little sensitive initially, there is plenty of stopping power available from the four-wheel disc brakes (vented front, solid rear).
ANCAP rating: 5 stars (320d tested)
Safety features: ABS brakes, stability and traction control with Cornering Brake Control, six airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners for all seats and anti-whiplash head restraints for front seats.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three-years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Service costs and intervals vary with vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Lexus IS250 Sports Luxury ($76,300) - While equipment levels are high and refinement is excellent the Lexus is smaller inside, less involving at the wheel and lacks some polish compared to the BMW.
Competent, yes - but not class leading in any way. (see IS reviews)
Audi A4 2.0T Quattro ($72,500) - Despite a lower price, the 2.0T Quattro provides an engine that delivers more torque, the stability of all-wheel-drive and an equipment list that is just as comprehensive.
For ease-of-use and simple elegance, the A4 interior is hard to beat. (see A4 reviews)
Mercedes Benz C300 BlueEFFICIENCY ($84,900) - A big step-up in price but the larger V6 in the Benz provides more effortless performance.
There’s a choice of luxury-biased Elegance or more sporting Avantgarde specifications and the recent interior update brings a more inviting, although staid, interior. (see C-Class reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The luxury market is a crowded one, and there’s plenty of quality contenders to pick from. But BMW’s 325i offers brilliant balanced handling (particularly with the available M-sport package), a premium feel and a bullet-proof badge.
The 325i isn’t the most cosseting car available, nor is it supposed to be. But for commuting to the office during the week, then taking to a winding country pass on weekends, there are few mid-sizer saloons that can match the finesse of BMW’s sporting 325i.