2004 BMW 325xi Sports WagonPosted on July 10th, 2004
By Nina Russin
The 325xi is BMW’s smallest all-wheel drive vehicle, based on the best-selling 3 Series platform. Its compact size and all-terrain capability make the 325xi an excellent choice for car owners with active lifestyles who live in congested urban areas. The all-wheel drive system makes navigating through snow and rain a non-issue, and also provides extra traction for driving on unpaved roads.
The wagon’s cargo area, while small, can be configured to stow a bicycle or camping gear. The glass window and tailgate open separately to making loading easier. Straps on the cargo floor secure odd-shaped items and keep them from shifting.
The second-row seats fold flat to increase the length of the cargo floor if necessary. Roof rails are standard, making it easy to install a roof-mounted bike or cargo rack. A vertical cargo net that separates the cargo area from the rear seat keeps the family pooch from leaping forward, without cutting him off from the air conditioner and heater.
The standard inline six-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission, provides spirited performance without sacrificing fuel economy (19/26 m.p.g., city/highway). The 325xi wants to race around corners.
Dynamic stability control maintains traction by automatically reducing engine torque and applying the brakes at any wheel that starts to slip. Standard antilock braking prevents the wheels from locking up on slick or ice-covered roads to help the driver maintain directional control.
On a test drive along the Apache trail east of Phoenix, the wagon barreled through hairpin turns in complete control. Its relatively large wheels and tires maintain a large contact patch with the ground.
Like all BMWs, the 3 Series cars have a soft tip-off that can be deceptive. While the cars don’t jump off the line like rabbits, they can out-accelerate most of what they come up against. The manual transmission gears have enough range so that the driver doesn’t have to shift constantly in urban traffic. On winding roads, downshifting through the turns keeps the engine in its sweet spot, and makes the ride to the trailhead an adventure of its own.
The suspension is heavy on aluminum components to reduce the amount of unsprung weight. Speed-sensitive steering makes the wagon easy to maneuver into a tight parking spot at slow speeds, while maintaining good response during high-speed driving.
Those who want to venture off the beaten path will appreciate the wagon’s standard hill descent control system: electronic controls maintain a slow engine speed on steep descents, without applying the brakes.
An optional cold weather package adds heated front seats, retractable headlight washers and a ski bag. Rain-sensing front windshield wipers and a rear wiper are standard. Xenon headlights that provide brighter illumination than standard halogen bulbs are optional.
The eight-way power adjustable front seats are well-designed from an ergonomic standpoint. The standard tilt steering wheel makes it easier to get in and out of the car. The vehicle’s large rear pillars and the vertical cargo net limit visibility out the back slightly. An obstacle detection system that warns drivers about objects in the blind spots to the rear is available as an option.
Side pockets in the front doors are large and functional. Cupholders in the center console are adequate for small bottles. Controls on the instrument panel are easy to reach and figure out. Redundant audio, accessory and telephone controls on the steering wheel enable the driver to change settings without taking his eyes off the road.
The 325xi is loaded with standard safety features, including standard side curtain airbags, and a head protection system for the driver and front passenger. In the event of a collision, an inflatable cushion in the windshield pillar and roof deploys to protect the occupants. Side impact airbags are optional for the rear seats.
The battery is in the rear of the car under the cargo floor where it is protected from frontal and offset impacts. Remote terminals allow the driver to jump the battery from the engine bay. In the event of a collision, the connection between the battery and starter automatically severs to prevent a fire.
Standard comfort features on the 325xi include automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, heated power outside mirrors, and a 10-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system. Buyers can opt to upgrade to a Harman-Kardon sound system ($675).
Base price for the 2004 model is $32,550, plus a $695 destination charge.
Base price: $33,245
Price as tested: $40,045
Torque: 175 ft-lbs
0 to 60: 7.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19 city/ 26 highway
Comments: Standard safety equipment includes BMW’s head protection system: a tubular airbag that deploys to protect the occupants’ heads in a side-impact or multi-directional collision. Bi-xenon headlamps and rain-sensing windshield wipers are also standard. An optional cold weather package adds heated front seats, retractable headlight washers and a ski bag.
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