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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Jul 7, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



The road less traveled. One sometimes wonders if such a thing exists in L.A. anymore. Our return jaunt one particular Sunday afternoon from Malibu to the Valley both Thomas, our production manager, and myself had the opportunity to enjoy just such a moment.

The 3 series BMW seemed to fit the bill perfectly as we effortlessly snaked our way along from Las Virgenes Road along Mullholland Highway back to Old Topanga. It was something right out of a director’s imagination for the perfect sport sedan commercial. Empty road, hills, twists, turns, and the last light of day filtering through the largely undeveloped landscape creating the moment. Our red 325 was camera ready awaiting a cry of “action” and the crack of a slate board. This was the culmination of my acquaintance with the legendary sedan. Can this live up to the expectations or was it more fiction than fact? Can the $ 35,065 price tag (as tested) be justified? The answer is… it depends. From the standpoint of overall automotive execution we would easily give the entry level BMW a passing grade. The level of fit and finish is to be admired by almost every other manufacturer. On the interior the level of color match between materials of plastic, leather, rubber, carpet, and vinyl excelled. The layouts of most controls were placed in a properly sorted arraignment. Even a blindfold would only temporarily confuse the unfamiliar. I had just a few gripes with the styling and layout. The scalloped out interior door panels where they meet with the instrument panel are not my favorite design element. They do however give the illusion of a longer dash and hence a wider cabin. The window switches though being placed in the center console surrounding the shifter makes it very difficult to operate more than one window at a time. Communing with nature while carving up the Santa Monica Mountains should be done with the wind in your hair. Hampered with misplaced switches and being relegated to the A/C even if the system is top notch, such as his one, is a no-no.

Looks are so important in a city, such as L.A., that places a high regard on being seen. The brilliantly glossy paint, with only the slightest ripple of orange peel, does its share to highlight the smart exterior design of our car. Over the years the body of the three series has evolved in many respects like that of the Porsche 911, to the point of near perfection. Some have argued that the body style is looking old hat. I would have to say the 325 has gone through evolution, not revolution. Handsome, capable and refined are the trademarks of the 3 series. Daring and bold (and foolish) are not. As others have commented unfavorably regarding the design of the new 7 and 5 series, the 3 continues on its own course. Over years even mountains erode yet many have trouble adjusting to the fact that BMWs may actually change with time. The concept that BMW may not be the very best at everything to all people, all of the time, is also a tough one to swallow. The mainstay of the BMW product line can still hold its own in overall driving manners, but the competition is closing fast. Some of the individual performance figures can be bested by the competitors, and for fewer dollars. As we charged on Sunday afternoon through the coastal range, our provided base powerplant never gave us reason to complain. Smooth and always ready to comply with adequate gusto. Certainly we would like to have more oomph and BMW can comply with various other engines. For those with less than over aggressive driving behavior, the 2.5-liter engine works. I found the steering effort a little too light and lacking in on center feel. The clutch that engaged rather high and abruptly was also not of our liking.

With the three series offering model upgrades galore including the amazing M3, where does that leave the entry level 325? We enjoyed the 325 for what it is, rather than what it isn’t. We leave our considerations of the other BMW cars for another day. The brand that spawned the sport sedan segment has created noteworthy competitors. We can say that this car lives up to its heritage, but all conquering it’s not. Yet at days end as the colors fade slowly to black, we can’t help but reflect on one simple fact. This is still the benchmark in which all other cars are still judged by today.

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Specifications: BMW 325i Price: $ 27,8000 (base) $ 35,065 (as tested) Engine type: 2494cc DOHC inline 24-valve 6-cylinder, Double VANOS steplessly variable valve timing Horsepower: 184 @ 6000 Torque: 175 @ 3500 Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed STEPTRONIC with Adaptive Transmission Control & selectable Sport mode or manual 5 speed Front suspension: Struts, arc-shaped forged-aluminum lower arms with hydraulic cushion, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, anti-roll bar Rear suspension: Multi-link system with Central Links, upper & lower lateral links (upper link of cast aluminum), coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, anti-roll bar Wheels and tires: Cast alloy, 16 x 7.0 wheels 17 x 8.0, All-season, 205/55R-16 H-rated Performances, 225/45R-17 W-rated Brakes: Front: 11.8” vented disc Rear: 11.6” vented disc Overall length: 176.0 Overall width: 68.5 Overall height: 55.7 Curb weight (lbs.): 3,219 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 20/29mpg automatic transmission 20/28 0-60 mph: 7.1 automatic transmission 8.1

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