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1995 3 Series

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 4.5

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1995 BMW 325iS


by aaquino:      Nov 4, 1999 - Updated Nov 10, 1999


Product Rating: 5.0 Recommended: Yes 

Pros: Great engine, drivetrain and suspension...A driver's car!
Cons: Tight quarters, Repairs (when you do need them) tend to be costly due to the BMW tag

MY OPINIONS
Most of what you'll read from my ratings are based solely on my opinions and will not discuss deep details regarding car specifications. Detailed specs can, of course, be found at other websites such as

www.bmwusa.com
www.carpoint.com
www.edmunds.com

So here are my thoughts on theÖ

ENGINE
The 325iSí engine was the second best engine Iíve ever driven. But only second to the BMW M3ís due to power and torque ratings. Otherwise, this engine pulls and pulls just as the M3ís engine does. In fact, the engine block is exactly the same. This engine is the 2.5L six cylinder version of the same block. The M3ís is a bored and stroked version upping the displacement to 3.2L.

In terms of smoothness, availability of power (where and when you need it), strength all throughout the rev range, sound, etc. this engine will not disappoint. What is remarkable about this engine is that at 90k miles on the car, the engine literally felt as if it were getting stronger and stronger.

The engine, rated at 189 hp and 181 ft-lbs of torque, felt strong throughout the whole rev range - whether you were putting along at 2500 rpm or racing close to redline at 6500 rpm. This engine felt like it wanted to be driven HARD. You did not notice the engine "running out of breath" as you got closer to the rev limiter.

TRANSMISSION
BMW transmissions have proven to be the best to me. Iím even comparing the smoothness of shifting against Porsche, Lotus, Mercedes, Audi and Mazda. When you shift gears on the 325iS, the shifting is incredibly smooth and direct. For model years above 1995, the shift action even gives a positive "click" feeling when you select a gear.

Just for comparison, the Porscheís (911 and Boxster) up to model year 2000 felt *very* notchy. I would have expected the shifting action to be a lot smoother. The unusually long length of the shifter throw (distance of the top of the shifter from 2nd gear to 3rd gear) actually reminded me of driving the VW GTI and Corrado. I was quite disappointed since Porsches were supposed to be pure "sportscars".

PERFORMANCE/HANDLING
My 1995 325iS had the sports package option. This included stiffer springs and shocks, thicker sway bars and 16 inch alloy wheels. Standard suspensions ride about 1 inch higher, have a softer suspension and 15 inch wheels.

My 325iS handled great. But at 3200 pounds, the carís agility is not what you would expect out of a "pure" sports car. But this sports sedan mimics the handling and performance characteristics of a sports car. So for a sports sedan, the car handles pretty darn well. In fact in my epinion (sorry, couldnít resist), BMW sports sedan handling is the benchmark that all other car companies are trying to mimic. Just notice how competitorís car ads seem to always compare themselves to BMW.

The car exhibits a little body lean during turns. At the limit, the car tends to understeer than oversteer. But the carís behavior is extremely predictable at the limit.

As with all BMW models, the brakes in the 325iS are spectacular. My 325iS had ventilated rotors in the front and solid rotors in the rear. The brakes are huge for a sedan and may seem overkill. But brakes, overkill? To me, the bigger the brakes, the safer.

0 to 60 mph on my trusty and consistent G-Tech Pro gives me about 6.1 seconds.

The traction control worked wonders! My prior car was a 1991 Eagle Talon AWD. In my epinion, the 325iS with Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires handled BETTER than my AWD Talon with the same exact snow tires. It comes down to the weight distribution of the car. The 325iSí weight distribution was equal 50/50 to the front and rears. The Eagle Talonís was about 65/35.

I recall an incident while slipping on the snow with the Eagle Talon. I remembered that I stomped on the brakes, turned the steering wheel from side to side and even tried switching gears. But none of these maneuvers allowed me to regain some form control over the car. The front-end heaviness helped prevent me from doing this. Physics would suggest that the heavier front-end would lead the direction of the car and altering this direction would be difficult.

On the 325iS, the equal weight distribution gives you more of a fighting chance. In similar situations, I was able to change the direction of the car - swinging the back-end either to the right or left. Of course, the BMW did have ABS and traction control and that the circumstances could never be the same. But the bottom line is, I had a lot more confidence in driving the 325iS with snow tires than my AWD Talon with snow tires during the winter. All AWD buys you is the ability to *accelerate* the car from a standstill and allow you to climb vertical inclines better. AWD does NOT allow you to *turn* or *stop* better. The weight distribution and suspension of the car helps in this regard.

Lastly, on one real, bad snow storm, I tried to drive the car with the traction control turned off. Let me tell you that it took A LOT more concentration on my part to drive the car. Iím sold on BMWís traction control.

INTERIOR/ERGONOMICS
I like the fact that every switch is exactly where I would want it to be. BMW really did some ergonomics research on this one. Take the cruise control stick for instance. There is a dedicated stalk for the cruise control. BMW did not complicate the operation by coupling this feature with other functions. For instance, there are some GM cars out there that I believe combine the cruise control, turn signal, headlight, high beam, and windshield wiper control all in one stalk! Effectively, it may be possible for you to find some people not using some of these functionsÖ

On the 325iS, pushing the cruise control stalk forward makes the car go faster, pulling back slower. Pushing it up or down turns it off. There are no "knobs" like some GM cars or buttons on the steering wheel that make you take your eyes off the road.

The speed of the windshield wipers vary according to the speed of the car. The windshield washer jets, side mirrors and the driver door handle are heated.

The sports seats in the 325iS actually supported me better than my current M3 seats. The power seats adjustability was great.

MAINTENANCE
I pretty much follow BMWís scheduled maintenance guidelines for the car. The car tells you when itís time to have the oil change (a series of green lights go out-the intervals vary to your driving habits). I usually perform the oil changes myself. Otherwise the dealer can charge between $30 and $65 for an oil change (oil changes for BMWís are free up to 3 years/36000 miles)!

Oil changes are *very* easy in that the oil filter is actually accessible from the top of the engine bay and not under. Air filter replacement takes about 30 seconds for the same reason.

VARIOUS ITERATIONS
Starting in 1996, the 325iS changed badge to 328iS. This 2 door coupe allowed a slightly larger engine at 2.8L. Otherwise, the car remained pretty much the same. In late 1999, the new coupe was released. Watch out for my review of this oneÖ

WHAT ELSE DID I SHOP FOR?
I really had only one other choice. In late 1994, I was also looking at a VW Jetta VR6. Horsepower-wise, the cars were similar with the 325iS having a slight advantage. The Jetta was a bit lighter so both cars felt equally as fast. The 325iS handled a lot better. Again, the weight distribution helped this. The Jetta was a lot roomier and had front-wheel-drive. The BMW felt smaller in the interior and was rear-wheel-drive.

At that time, there was about a $10,000 difference. But I felt that it was well worth it and I would wholeheartedly make the same decision today.

MY NITPICKS
I really would have liked an extra set of doors on my 325iS. But I suppose thatís what the 4 door 325i was for. At that time, it was cheaper for me to purchase the 2 door version than the 4 door version.

The car didnít come with floor mats. For a $30k+ car, it SHOULD come with floor mats.

The power seats do not have a memory feature! This is addressed in the newer cars.

Thereís no trunk release button of any sort. They have an automatic fuel filler release when you turn the engine off, why not a trunk release?

The stereo was not what I would have expected for a $30k car. The stereo in my 1991 AWD Eagle Talon was much better. Adding the CD changer helped a lot, but the overall quality was poor by my standards. This 10 speaker "200 Watt" stereo was merely a marketing ploy that never lived up to the writing. Investing in great aftermarket footwell speakers helped tremendously.

KNOWN PROBLEMS
There are two major problems:
1. Rear subframe mounts detaching: This can really only be attributed from racing the car hard on a racetrack, autocross, or hitting a curb at high speed. The subframe literally pulls out (rips out) of the mounting locations. This would cost about $2000 to repair and involves welding! This affects all BMW 3 series cars 1992 and on. I believe this has been strengthened only on the M3s 1997-1999.
2. Replace the water pump around 80k miles. This is really normal, but I still griped about how this $400 cost was "standard". I havenít heard of this standard replacement on any Japanese cars. Then again, I didnít have to replace a timing belt. The engine is chain driven and adjusts automatically. This probably saved me about $800 for comparable cars.

WOULD I BUY IT AGAIN?
Absolutely, without a doubt. I may even be in the market for a 4 door version as my daily driver soon!


Product Rating: 5.0
Recommended: Yes 

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