Test Drive: 2009 BMW 328i xDrive
Test Drive: 2006 BMW 325xiT

Manufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

By Chris Chase
Top photo by Laurance Yap

Most reviews of the BMW 3 Series include two things: a reference by the reviewer to the car being the most desirable in its class, and comments from readers that BMW must be paying auto writers for so many unanimously positive opinions of the car.

BMW must be paying 3 Series buyers too, then, because the car is perennially a strong seller in Canada. In 2010, 14,009 Canadians bought 3 Series’, which made it the most popular luxury car and put it in the same league, sales-wise, as the Honda Accord (14,659 sales in 2010) and the Chevrolet Malibu (13,092 sales).

For 2006, BMW introduced the fifth generation (E90, for those who follow BMW’s model codes, references the sedan, while the wagon, coupe and convertible are known as the E91, E92 and E93, respectively) of its most popular model, wearing controversial styling that many thought would allow a car like the Infiniti G35 – a car that comes close to matching the 3 Series’ excellent driving characteristics – to overtake it in the sales race. In retrospect – yeah, right.

2006 BMW 325xi Touring
2006 BMW 325xi Touring
2006 BMW 325xi Touring (top); 2009 BMW 328i xDrive. Photos by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

The E90 3 Series arrived in sedan and wagon (Touring) variants for its first year, available as the 323i, 325i and 330i in the sedan. The 323i used a 2.5-litre engine making 174 horsepower, while the 325i and 330i shared a 3.0-litre motor tuned for 215 hp in the 325i and 255 hp in the 330i.

The 325xi and 330xi were all-wheel drive models; the wagon was sold only in 325xi form. Coupe, convertible and the high-po M3 were carried over from 2005.

The 2007 line-up got new names and restyled coupe and convertible models. The 323i’s 2.5-litre engine now made 200 hp, while the newly-named 328i got a 230-hp 3.0-litre engine and the 335i used a new turbocharged motor with 300 hp. For this year, just the 328i could be optioned with all-wheel drive (again, this is the only way the wagon was offered); the coupe was available in 328i (RWD or AWD) or 335i versions, and the convertible – with its all-new folding hardtop – was sold as the 328i and 335i, but in RWD only.

In 2008, BMW added an AWD option to the 335i model, in sedan or coupe form. All 2006 through 2008 3 Series models came standard with a six-speed manual transmission that could be optioned to a six-speed automatic. The M3 made its triumphant return to the 3 Series line, complete with a 414-hp V8 in place of the old version’s in-line six; a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission was the option to the standard six-speed manual.

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