With the imminent arrival of the all-new and redesigned 2006 models, changes are minimal to the 2005 BMW 3 Series models. However, the 325 offers an M option packages for 2005.
The 3 Series is BMW’s entry-level line. Designations are i for four-door sedan, Xi for all-wheel-drive, and Ci for two-door coupe.
The line starts with the 320i, which comes in rear-wheel-drive only. Powered by a 2.2-litre inline six-cylinder, it comes with a five-speed manual that can be optioned up to a five-speed automatic. Features include adaptive brake lights (a larger surface illuminates under hard braking), automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, manual air conditioning, drop-down trunk tool kit, leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel, leatherette upholstery, CD/MP3 player, and 16-inch steel wheels.
The 325i and 325xi add a 2.5-litre inline six-cylinder, full-size spare, fog lights, bi-xenon headlights with washers, automatic air conditioning, auto-dimming mirror, ambiance lighting, seatback storage nets, interior electric trunk release, multi-function steering wheel, four-function onboard computer and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The 330i and 330xi use a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder, and add a six-speed manual transmission, sport suspension (on the 330i), front chrome grille with chrome-plated bars, chrome side window trim, power sunroof, three-stage heated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The new M Executive package on the 325 includes sport suspension, 17-inch star spoke alloy wheels, power sunroof, power-adjustable sport heated seats with driver position memory, multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel and aerodynamic package, for $5,400.
On the 330, the M package is the M Performance Edition, which increases horsepower from 225 to 235, and adds Sport Suspension II, sport seats, multi-function sport steering wheel, aerodynamic package, anthracite-coloured roof liner, and 18-inch double-spoke alloy wheels, for $6,900.
The 3 Series is BMW’s bestseller, and with good cause. Reasonably priced for its class, it provides smooth acceleration, crisp shifts, sharp steering, and the same level of fit-and-finish as in the company’s pricier models. The 320i’s smaller engine does what it’s supposed to do, although the 2.5-litre is an improvement and the 3.0-litre really makes this little sedan a snappy choice, and its six-speed manual can be optioned to a slick six-speed sequential manual gearbox that mates electro-hydraulic shifting with an automatic clutch and variable shift programming.
With an almost 50/50 weight distribution, all 3 Series models handle very well, and the four-wheel-drive models hug the road and provide an extra measure of security on snowy roads. Rear-seat legroom is tight, though, and loading up base models with options can drive the price up very fast.
The 3 Series is built in Munich, Germany.