The BMW 325i is one of the more popular 3 Series models on the road in Malaysia. We were given another opportunity to sample the 325i Sports again over a few weeks, which was great given that I had wanted to have another go ever since our initial test run (slightly more than a year ago) on the 325i Sports did not exactly hit the mark.
Before the introduction of the E90 3 Series, I had a brief drive on a late E46 325i model. I recalled that the car performed well with good balance and generous power on tap. The car felt responsive and nimble and was easily the better performing 3 Series model in the market then.
Fast forward a few years later and a new generation of 3 Series models emerged. Although I had driven the initial batch of the new E90 3 Series, it was not until the new facelift in 2009 that I began to document my experiences beginning with the 325i Sports.
Expectations then were high when we first took the 325i Sports for a drive. However, over the test run, as we piece together our experiences, the overall driving satisfaction was lacking. Among the let downs were the power lag of the engine, the low ride height which was impractical for everyday use and the hard ride. The 325i Sports then was among the early batch of E90 models that were assembled in Malaysia from semi knock down parts.
The current sampled model is essentially the same model as the 325i Sports tested earlier and I was curious whether there had been any changes or improvements on the model since then. Externally, the car looks similar to any other facelifted E90 3 Series with the added touch of better paintwork and larger 18 inch wheels.
Features wise, the car is better equipped than the entry level 3 Series with iDrive, GPS navigation system, updated paddle shifters, M leather steering wheel, M doors sills, M sports suspension and M alloy wheels. There is also the usual host of safety features plus comfort access (keyless entry and ignition), electric sunblinds for rear window, cruise control and park distance control.
Sport seats with electronic adjustments are available for driver and front passenger. Only the driver’s seat has electronic memory functions. The Dakota clad leather seats are well padded and provide good back support. These seats differ from the standard leather seats as they provide better lateral support and extra padding at the sides. Legroom is sufficient for driver and passengers.
I like the thicker rim size of the M leather steering wheel as this gives a better grip for my hand size. The paddle shifters are now updated with the latest version where the “+” and “-” signs are clearly indicated. It is still a bit tricky to engage the paddle shifters especially when you are making sharp turns at lower speeds since the steering is pointing downwards.
The layout of the dashboard remains unchanged with the large 8.8 inch LCD display taking prominence at the centre console. High grade materials are used and the finishing is well within BMW’s high standards. The Bluetooh mobile phone interface is quite easy to set up as the car is able to quickly identify the paired device. After setting the password for both devices you are ready to go. Voices are clear, and as for dialing/receiving of calls, both can be accessed via the multifunction button on the steering wheel or the iDrive controller.
The 325i Sports is powered by the renowned N52 powerplant which is tuned for performance. The power lag which we had experienced earlier in the 325i Sports is now history with better transient response. This time, the engine responded quickly to pedal inputs on the accelerator thereby restoring much of the driving satisfaction that was lacking in our earlier test drive.
The in-line 6 cylinder N52 powerplant churns out a respectable max power of 218 bhp @ 6,500 rpm and a max torque of 250 Nm @ 2,750-4,250 rpm. Specs stated an acceleration time of 7.7 sec for the century mark (in km) and a top speed of 242 km/h. During idling and slower drives there is a sense of urgency in the engine note as the car invites you to test its limits.
Automatic gearchanges occurred in a refined manner but are noticeable if you perk up your ears. Insulation is good but there is some room for improvement. At the usual town and highway speeds the cabin is quite silent, with a hint of engine noise and minimum road and wind noise. Wind noise starts to creep into the cabin on the expressway once you push the car hard to overtake.
Handling is top notch as the steering combined good feedback and accuracy. It will be a touch heavy to those who are used to the feather light feel of most cars on the road today, but I think this is the right weight and feel to enable adequate transfer of road information to the driver. The steering takes 1½ turns lock to lock at slow or idling speeds while at higher speeds turns require a much shorter radius.
I sensed that the ride height has been adjusted slightly higher to enable the car to be more practical for everyday use. Perhaps the shocks/springs have been changed or adjusted? The earlier test model had a ride height which I felt was more suited for serious runs on race tracks rather than for daily commutes. Now we no longer have to slow down to a crawling pace whenever we went through a hump to avoid hitting the undercarriage.
Although tyres (18 inch Bridgestone Potenza runflats) remained unchanged ie the car sporting slightly thicker 224/ 40 R18 at the front compared to the rear 255/ 35 R18, ride quality has improved. Gone is the extremely hard ride which we had experienced earlier. Perhaps BMW has changed or adjusted the shocks to improve the dampening. Ride is still hard but comfort levels are much better on this model.
The tyres may look slim but it provided good grip and its overall performance in both dry/wet conditions was satisfactory. Tyre roar was only noticeable when the roads are coarse. On the road the car has good balance, is agile and quick. The 325i Sports maintain its poise even at higher speed turns with minimal roll. Brakes are discs all around and react quickly and decisively to pedal inputs to bring the car to a quick halt when required.
We noted that the car was still quite new when it was first passed to us. Todate the mileage is close to around 3,000 km with a mostly highway and town runs. In between we took a 400km+ trip over the course of two days. By now fuel consumption would have stabilized to enable more accurate assessment. Based on the on board computer, the best average fuel consumption we got was around 10.5 liters per 100 km which was within expectations.
Features such as automatic air conditioning with rear air vents and electric sunblinds for the rear window ensure a comfortable and cosy cabin, shielding you from the hot and humid Malaysian daytime weather. The GPS (Navigation System Professional) performed adequately in most places but still show its limitations in a fast developing town like Kuala Lumpur.
Entertainment is via the BMW Professional CD with 10 loudspeaker Hi Fi System. This is one of the better sounding systems from BMW with a meaty low end and clear mids and highs. Music from both radio and CD was distinct and balanced. From my casual observation, the car comes with a single xenon headlight at each side, but provides more than sufficient illumination of the road ahead for night time driving. Boot space is sufficient but there is no option for folding down the rear seats.
Finally we are able to put to rest our initial reservations on the 325i Sports. This sampled model answered the critical questions that were asked and has made the earlier test model appear to be a pretender or a shadow of its true self rather than being the real McCoy. Perhaps it was a sample specific issue with the earlier test model but at least we have now experienced a 325i semi knocked down (SKD) sedan model assembled in Malaysia to showcase the potential of the N52 powerplant.
|Full Tank:||63 litres @ RM120 (Petrol RON 95)|
|Road Tax:||RM877 per annum|
|Standard Service:||Free service for first 3 years|
|Warranty:||3 years or 60,000 km whichever earlier|
These are estimated costs applicable to Malaysia only which are subject to change without notice. Insurance is based on intial premium paid upon purchase. Road tax is for private registration in Peninsular Malaysia. Standard service excludes additional or specific service/repairs requested. Please reconfirm these terms and costs with an authorized BMW dealer.
|Engine:||6-cylinder in-line petrol engine|
|Max Output:||218hp / 6,500 rpm|
|Max Torque:||250Nm / 2,750-4,250 rpm|
Source: BMW Bulletin
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!