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By Jim Flammang
May 7, 2003
Vehicle Overview Following a modest face-lift last year, only a few small changes will take place on BMWs entry-level series for the 2003 model year. A front armrest and a headrest in the center rear seat are now standard. A rain sensor with an automatic headlight control has been added to the Premium Package. BMWs optional navigation system has been upgraded to DVD-based operation and can now be installed along with an in-dash CD player.
BMW offers a broad selection of body styles. In addition to the four-door 325i and the 325Ci coupe and convertible, the lineup includes a 325i wagon. All models use a 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine.
Like other BMWs, the 325 Series is rear-wheel drive, but an all-wheel-drive (AWD) 325xi sedan is available. AWD models include Dynamic Stability Control to help prevent skids.
The 325 sedans and coupes look alike at a glance, but the two body styles actually share no body panels. The coupes styling also serves the convertible model. All models exhibit BMWs familiar look, with four round headlamps and a twin-kidney grille, but the sedans front end is different.
The coupe and convertible are 176.7 inches long overall, while the sedan is fractionally shorter. All 325 models have a 107.3-inch wheelbase, and the two-door body styles are wider and lower than the sedan. The windshield on the coupe and convertible are slanted 2 degrees more than the sedans windshield. The convertible has a standard manual-folding top; power operation is optional.
The wagons front-end styling and its twin-kidney grille are similar to that on other 3 Series models, but the sedan bodies are not identical to the wagons. The two-way tailgate at the rear has a glass window that swings up and a bottom section that opens down. A power moonroof is standard, and bi-xenon headlights are optional.
The 325 sedans hold five passengers, while the coupe and convertible are four-seaters. Space is ample up front with twin bucket seats, but passengers cant really stretch their legs in the back. A typical BMW dashboard holds large, clearly marked gauges.
The 325 wagons occupant accommodations differ little from the sedan. Both have a five-passenger capacity, but passengers may have trouble stretching their legs in the backseat. Cargo volume in the wagon is 26 cubic feet with the rear seat up, but both sides of the split seat can fold down.
Drivers face a typical BMW dashboard with large, clearly marked gauges that are easy to see. Simple stereo and climate control push-buttons are in easy reach.
Automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, a tilt/telescoping steering column and a CD player are standard. Options include heated power front seats, leather upholstery, a Harman Kardon stereo and BMWs navigation system.
Under the Hood
A 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine in all 325 models mates with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed-automatic transmission. The automatic unit permits manual gear changes.
Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags for the front seats are standard for all 325 models. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional. The front airbags deploy with less force in low-speed impacts. Antilock brakes and traction control are standard. BMWs Dynamic Stability Control system reduces engine power and applies the brakes to prevent skids.
For many enthusiasts, BMW is still the standard by which other makes are judged. Thats partly because BMW sticks to its roots in the performance-oriented arena by stressing the dynamic handling qualities of its products.
Spirited performance and crisp handling are the 325s bywords. Most drivers will be quite content with the performance offered by the 325 group, which can be at least as much fun to drive as the more potent 330 Series. BMWs manual gearshift is an absolute joy to operate.
Athletic maneuvers are the norm in both ordinary and demanding driving. The availability of AWD is a bonus for buyers in the Snow Belt, because a rear-drive BMW can get tricky on ice and snow.
The seats are firm and driver oriented, but getting in and out of the 325 isnt quite as easy as it is in some other cars. BMWs prices are competitive with other near-luxury automobiles, some of which lack the German automakers performance and handling credentials.