I wrote the original text and stand by my statement - Even with new bushes and Avo adjustable suspension all round the car is still inherently flawed - it has an aged suspension design and narrow track. It quite simply cannot go around corners as fast as many 'lesser' cars. In the wet the handling is very suspect, and driving lazily shoves the back out at surprisingly low speeds (I've tried it on Yokohama and Pirelli tyres).
As for taking a performance driving course - I work for a UK car tuning mag - As a result I have driven some fabulous cars from Caterhams to Skylines. I've drived Diablos and F355s on tracks and have driven the majority of the hot hatches of recent years, both modified and unmodified. I am not the best driver in the world, but have a lot of experience of RWD, FWD and 4WD machinery.
The car is undeniably fun, and in the right hands is an utter riot - But its handling is inferior to many. The steering whether powered or not is far too long winded for rapid corrections and tricky road conditions (S-bends and off camber corners) reveal the chassis's inability to reset back to neutrality.
I love the car but I do not drive it wearing rose tinted specs.
It's a fine handling car but can be tricky at times. The first thing you have to deal with is the weight transfer to rear as you hit the apex of the corner. Combine this factor with plenty of power, front-biased weight distribution and slippery conditions - you're in for big time opposite lock and fish-tailing. Typical of pre-90's BMWs. I'm just an average driver but I had lots of fun with factory sports suspension and Bridgestone RE71s. Much as I love the car, the truth however is that many front drive hot hatches (even of the same era) can easily demolish it in tight and treacherous conditions.
The goods news is that if you're not a speed demon, this car is also rewarding to drive gently at reasonable speeds. It has all the classic BMW hallmarks of charismatic engine, fine handling, reasonable comfort and thoroughness in design & engineering.
If you worry about the sometimes tricky handling, then go for the Touring which boasts 50-50 weight distribution.
As far as I am aware, my 325i has no modifications and I think the handling is great. Granted, it can be a bit tail happy in wet weather conditions, but get that power on at the right moment then it's not too big a problem, get it wrong though then I would have to agree it is tricky to get back to neutrality.
Thankfully mine also lacks power assisted steering. If it had been fitted I would have taken the pump and belt off and put them in the bin as soon as I got the thing home. I have driven one with PAS and I personally felt the feedback was diabolical. I don't find it heavy at low speed (unless I'm stationary!)
I only bought this car because it was cheap as chips and the alternative would have been something like a 1984 1.1 VW Golf and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised as I had heard some real horror stories about them. I'm not biased toward the 325 because I've got one and I certainly don't drive it wearing rose tinted specs either, however I will admit I'm probably biased toward RWD vehicles in general as I feel they are bags more fun.
I owned a 325i from 1989 to 1994 and found it to be a great car with an uncannily smooth engine. It was a bit cramped inside, but I put up with it as the rest of the experience was so good. The ABS did play up a bit, but regular cleaning of the connectors kept this problem at bay. My only compliant really was the handling. In the dry it was OK and could just about cope with the engine's power. In the wet it was awful and the back end would do anything to avoid following the front wheels. I lost it twice in the wet which once ended in a crash. I tried fitting Pirelli and Continental tires, changed the shock absorbers and bushes and it was still terrible. I sold it in the end and bought a 525i which a complete revelation. I thought of buying another 325i a few years ago, but the wet weather handling put me off. Most the motoring press of the day thought it pretty terrible in the wet as well.
I disagree with the handling that you stated. I own an 87 325i from the states and it handles superbly, although it does have power steering. I agree with the wet handling it really tends to get sideways with not much gas at all. but as far as the handling I was very pleased with the way it handles, feels as though its on rails. I noticed that if you go into a turn under gas then let off it will get crazy, it seems better to keep a steady gas through turns to keep the back end low. well I'm done here.
I loved my '87 325se for the 6 weeks I had it. Its handling was sublime.
The way it drifted into an unforgiving tree on a wet B-road 2days ago was beautifully gracefull.
Oh how I miss that car!
I have to say I agree with you on this one. My 87' 325 doesn't handle any better then my girlfriends 91' cabriolet and I don't have to look at that stupid inspection light while I'm driving it. The steering wheel just isn't responsive enough and although it does go through turns exceptionally well I think many cars have catched up to it especially in recent years.
I agree with the initial guy's summary, I've had 4 325i (e30's) and a 325i (e36) and an M5 (e28). I've had 2 4 door's and a 2 door and now a touring.
The basics are. The e30 325i is well built / solid, the engine is strong and smooth and powerful, get a good one and it will pull 0-60 in 7 seconds and 135-140 top end, with loads of 3rd gear overtaking power, very good on the motorway, will cruise all day at 110mph.
However the cars flaw and in essence it's trade mark is it's wet weather handling which is poor. The tail will wag all over the place in the wet and even in the damp, irrespective of tyre choice. Lowered / sports suspension and correct camber adjustment helps a lot, and the car can be pushed around bends nicely in the dry, but even with the best suspension set up in the world this old chassis cannot cope with 170 bhp and loads of torque being delivered by that lazy 6 cylinder, and the wet will see you going sideways or backwards if you push too hard in the wet and are not quick enough with the opposite lock, and by too hard I mean attempt to use over 50% of the engines power before you have levelled this car up and straighted her out. That is really the point, it is why the car is so much fun, it has to be driven with respect, especially in the wet. You can't just floor it every where that's the point. In my experence all decent 1980's BM's are far too powerful for their chassis, that's why we love them. If you want entertainment buy an old 325i e30, if you want safety buy a volvo, if you want speed and handling buy a scooby or evo.