My wife and I have been looking for an AWD vehicle for a while now and considered the following.
Audi A4 or A6 - price
VW Passat GLX with 4Motion - not enough acceleration and power for mountain driving.
Subaru anything - wife doesn't like the styling at all.
BMW - She's owned one and knows the quality. I wanted performance.
I was apprehensive about a BMW mainly because I read the car rags and see the prices they offer. I was surprised about the pricing of the 3 series (thought it reasonable enough - cheaper than our Jeep Grand Cherokee). We finally test drove a 325i (I wanted a 325xi but can't find them easily in southern California). The acceleration put me into my seat.. almost into the back seat. We wanted a manual and found that it was exactly what we wanted. If I lived in the LA area, I'd go with the automatic. But I do a LOT of highway driving outside of LA (in the desert) and love the interaction using the clutch. Depressing the clutch was a long push, very springy, but nice. After driving a Civic Si, it was a change to not redline it at 8000 rpm and get max acceleration.
The test car had the sport and premium packages, both of which we want. We opted for the cold weather package too, as we have 2 kids and like the advantages the fold down seat offer. The ski bag, heated seats, and headlight washers are nice to haves, but we have similar stuff on the Jeep and honestly have gotten a bit used to that.
One option that isn't really discussed anywhere is the side airbags for the back. We are into safety, another reason BMW topped our list. We opted for the airbags in back too. What kind of price do you put on your kids' lives?
Xenon headlights are nice too... something to consider.
While I didn't drive the xi, I got an idea of what kind of performance we'd get with the xi transmission and a kid or both in the back. The salesman was a heavier guy so it really gave us an idea of what the added weight would be like. It still accelerated rather quickly (fast enough for me) with enough torque to get you up to highway speeds while still on the onramp. Before I knew it the torque and hp had me over 95 mph. OOPS!
The seats. I mentioned them earlier (peeling myself out of it). They are quite comfortable. But that is subjective. Compared to what I'm used to, they are great. Some cars will have nicer seats, but the sport seats hold you in pretty well and offer several power adjustments to make them just right. The back seat was a rather flat bench, but nonetheless supportive. Headrests are placed just right (I'm 5'11" and had no problems in the back).
Trunk space is adequate. But if we take the whole family on a long trip, we always have the Jeep.
We opted to order ours, like engnr1 did. We chose the Oxford Green Metallic with the Natural Brown leather interior. The leather is for the entire seat, not just the seating surfaces. With kids, leather is SO much easier to clean.
With all the options, we're looking about about 37,000 for everything (the 3 available packages + xenon + rear side airbags + maybe the homelink stuff).
The stereo upgrade, while nice, didn't justify an additional 650+ bucks. Our should be ready around March also, and we look forward to it. If you want a good alternative to an SUV (you only buy it for the 4x4), then consider something like an AWD car like the xi cars. Germany has long had a history of quality cars, and the 2002 BMW's seem to continue that tradition.
Amount Paid (US$):
2002Model and Options: