1989 BMW 3 Series 325i Touring 2.5 petrol, straight-six from UK and Ireland
Sisyphean maintenance mars a beautiful, practical and characterful car
Intermittent fault with right hand indicators (loose connection?).
Brake light micro switch seems to be on the blink.
Slight water leak into rear compartments in boot (I bail my car out weekly, like a boat).
Rear subframe mounts had perished and subframe rusted onto chassis. Required separation and new rubbers. Cost ~£400 at independent BMW specialist.
Needed new timing belt and water pump when I bought it. Again this cost about £400 from the same specialist.
New exhaust rear section and mountings: £80 (fitted myself on the drive at home)
New front discs and pads: £160.
Brake pad warning light won't go off, despite brakes being in excellent condition all round.
Fuel gauge indicator and service indicators both only work when they want to All major instruments (speedo, tachometer, fuel gauge etc) are absolutely fine.
I bought this car last July as a 25th birthday present to myself. I have liked the look of the old E30 Tourings for as long as I can remember, and it is only now when I can reasonably afford the insurance costs of such a vehicle.
My metallic royal blue BMW was originally supplied by Sytner BMW in Gerrard's Cross, Berks. For those of you not from the UK, Gerrard's Cross is an absurdly wealthy corner of southern England and the spec of the BMW confirms this. As well as the big 2.5 litre engine, it has electric windows, mirrors and sunroof. It also has a late '80s NEC built-in car phone that would have probably cost about £2,000 in 1989 and that is before making a call on it. Sadly the phone is functional but unusable, as the UK analogue system was deactivated in 2001. But it still looks cool!
The engine on this car is superb. It uses almost no oil or water, is free revving and feels as tight as when it was new (I think the previous owner had the head replaced at some point). Even though minor bits of this car have a somewhat temperamental outlook to their existence, the engine feels completely bulletproof.
The vehicle has a 4-speed ZF HP22 automatic. As far as slush-boxes go, it is not a bad one at all. It has a good kick-down and a tall top gear (70mph @ 2,500 rpm). That said, I regret buying an auto; a manual would be a LOT more fun and more in keeping with the generally sporty character of the car.
It is a very practical vehicle. While by no means as cavernous as my old Volvo 740, it is really useful having an estate that can swallow bicycles, furniture etc. The 3-series saloons are nice-looking cars but have small boots with a high lip. The Tourings still manage to look stylish, but are easier to live with.
Handling is sublime in the dry and scary in the wet. This is quite a powerful car, and you can find yourself facing the wrong way without really meaning to. Steering is direct and sensitive, and it is a very easy car to place on the road, because it is basically square and has excellent visibility, with very thin pillars and a relatively low waistline.
Fuel economy isn't amazing, but it could be a lot worse. It is generally in the low-to-mid 30s, unless you're in a hurry. Then it gets stupendously thirsty. Driven sensibly it uses no more petrol than the (2.3l, manual) Volvo 740 I owned previously.
The exhaust note of this car is sublime. At idle it purrs beautifully, and at speed it sings along. In tunnels it is great fun to open the sunroof, put your foot down and listen to the bellow!
Maintenance is frankly Sisyphean (Google "Sisyphus" if you need to refresh your Greek mythology).
I have had to replace quite a few things on this car (see above) and expect to have to replace some of the suspension rubbers before too long (a funny squeak has recently developed). This is on a car that has been well looked after its entire life, so I can only envisage what the maintenance schedule is like for a similarly aged one that has been abused and thrashed. This maintenance (and its impact on my wallet) is the main thing that puts me off old BMWs.
Such sentiments are countered by the sheer appeal of the car. In my opinion it is one of the best looking estate cars ever made, it drives well and turns heads. Also, despite the minor faults, it has never *actually* let me down and is testimony to BMW's superlative design quality.
If it was A) manual and B) didn't keep having minor problems, I wouldn't wish for a better car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 22nd March, 2010