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2006 BMW 325xi Sports Wagon Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

BMW 2006 325xi Sports Wagon.
By Andrew Frankl

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for BMW

There is an old adage- every picture tells a story. It certainly does in this instance. In my humble opinion among the myriad BMWs to choose from the 325xi is far and away the best buy.

In this day and age of SUVs and crossovers the 325xi is one, no nonsense automobile. Ask yourself the question-exactly what it is that you need ? Do you really need one of those wobbling SUVs to carry little Johnny and three of his friends to the soccer game? Can you really afford to pour in gallon after gallon of extremely expensive gas each of which will take you for about 12-13 miles? Do you need a huge and often ancient V8 engine to get from A to B? Or, would you prefer a sensible, relatively economical, comfortable, reliable, fast and well made BMW 325xi?

Not only is it one of the least expensive BMWs it is also good value for money. Not necessarily at the –all extras included- retail price of just under 50 thousand dollars I hasten to add. Reason? Well, you may not need all the extras we had on the test car.

Down South the cold weather package is superfluous- an instant saving of 600 dollars. Automatic transmission at $1275 may seem like an insult to sporty drivers. Drop the navigation system and the active cruise control ( $4200) so you add this little lot together and suddenly you look at a rock solid, 4 wheel drive BMW for 43 and a half thousand dollars. If you don’t mind sacrificing satellite radio and the premium sound system then you are rapidly approaching 40 thousand .

By the way I am told that more and more people listen to their iPods for which BMW make special fittings .

And you haven’t even started haggling with the dealer! So what is so special about the 325xi compared not just to other makes but to other BMWs as well.

First of all the price. At around 40 thousand dollars it represents excellent value. The 3 liter DOHC 24-valve inline six-cylinder engine sounds good and is adequate. Not a 4.4 liter powerhouse or a V10 extravaganza but for 99% of potential customers it is just fine. OK, you will not win the traffic light grand prix but how important is that with three kids and a trunk full of shopping, soccer boots and Gatorade?

What is far more crucial not just for soccer Mums but all owners are the run-flat tires with flat tire warning. As are the truly bomb-proof brakes and handling. At a recent Western Automotive test day we had a chance to drive various makes back to back. All right, Ferrari and Porsche didn’t send any cars but as for the rest-none of them had BMW’s razor sharp steering.

Why the 325xi in preference to a 5 or 7 series? Well , few people need or can afford the 7 series unless they bought 500 thousand Google shares at 90 dollars a pop. (Now around 400 by the way.) Even if you can you will have to swallow hard to get over your aversion to the 8 way iDrive and the four levers under the steering column. A mistake in my opinion because with a few minor modifications-such as adopting their very own 4 way iDrive they could probably sell many more.

The 5 series is a very attractive proposition but it is getting out of many people’ s price range. You will have noticed that I did not suggest giving up on the premium package or the sports package, things like 17 inch wheels-on excellent Bridgestone Turanzas- and sports seats are too much fun to give up as is the chunky leather steering wheel. Mind you, if you weigh over 220 pounds you will find that you will not fit into the sports seats, another good reason for that long-promised diet!

With the 4 wheel drive-as Editor Jouret proved on a recent test across the Sierras -the xi is sure-footed and dependable. There are myriads of roof racks which would fit the xi be it for skiers or boarders. The trunk is not huge and golfers might have problems getting in four sets of clubs as well as themselves.

Dislikes: not many. As BMWNA boss Tom Purves explained in an exclusive interview with this magazine the cup holders are an ongoing problem.

My solution-get rid of the ashtray and put the cups there! Would I like a bit more power? With four people and all the ski gear probably yes. Under normal circumstances- probably not.

There is another aspect of the little xi and you may well find it silly or irrelevant. Bad guys normally associate the 7 series and the S class Mercedes with big money-not unreasonably so. Silicone Valley Police will confirm cases of senior executives being followed home to rob them or to steal their cars. Or both. In Moscow the boss in his armor plated 7 series would of course be guarded by a bunch of heavies complete with Uzis. Mercifully we don’t live there so how about an xi for the CEO?!

He may not need to save the 40 or so thousand dollars but he may well save his peace of mind which is priceless. JJ if this is silly do take it out, I think it makes sense .