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BMW 325ti Compact

Compact Cruise Missile

BMW 325ti CompactEngine:
2,5 litre in-line 6 cylinder petrol engine
developing 141kW (193bhp) @ 5500rpm
0-100km/h: 8,5 seconds
v-max: 230km/h
List price: R242000

Pay attention yuppies, pretty people and spoilt brats. I'm about to present you with the newest toy on wheels, worth 1/4 of a million Rand. No, it's only got 2 doors and no, it's not the Audi S3. We wouldn't be allowed to drive one of those anyway.

Our most recent automotive adventure took place behind the wheel of the new BMW 3-series compact, the 325ti to be more precise. Even the saleslady quickly referred to the 318ti as a slower mover and suggested we hop into the six-cylinder hatchback instead.
This example was a demo-model, had a few optional extras installed, and was offered to us at a considerable discount. There was also another 325ti about, spanking new, but unfortunately white. Let's not go there, shall we?

Much more pleasing to the eye was OUR little Bavarian, coated in Topaz Blue and featuring a Light Beige Leather interior.
The front seats had the "sports option" which offers more support, while the sound system was still standard and pretty impressive in that state, but could be upgraded to audiophile levels for a mere six grand. Unfortunately we didn't have a sunroof or TV/navigation to play with either, but that wasn't of great concern to us.
This model was sitting pretty on 7 spoke 17 inch BMW rims with 225 fat rubber, and also featured the rear mini-spoiler on the outside. The rear light clusters lend a funky, shiny, space-age look to the car. Dark grey plastic houses new-age LED's and reflectives behind clear glass. Very modern.
The dual front lights (normal and high beam) are breaking BMW tradition and are now seperate units, a look which I'm still getting used to. This model was fitted with optional Bi-Xenon headlights. Bi-Xenon means twice the brightness of normal Xenon or HID (high intensity discharge) lights, while HID or Xenon is a few times brighter than normal halogen lights (the type we're used to). Love 'em or hate 'em, if you're sitting BEHIND those bright-blueish Xenon lights the sun never sets.

Another thing the sun will probably never set on are BMW engines. The upgraded 2,5 litre unit has to bridge the gap between the 2 litre and 3 litre units in other models, and transforms the compact Beemer into another white 'n blue athlete. With double-VANOS variable valve timing thingies and even more electronic wizardry this 2,5 litre engine comes within a whisker of the old 2,8 litre's outputs. So there: imagine a 328i in updated guise, trimmed of the rear doors and boot. Should make for interesting performance... and although the boot's a gonner, they've still managed to squeeze a little space out of the hatch. In fact, the boot is not to shabby for hatchback measures and can gladly play with Golfie, A3 and others.

Enough chit-chat, time to fire up that gem of an engine and get going already. She purrs like a kitten at idle, and even from the slightest increase in engine revolutions the exhaust starts growling ever-so-slightly. This being an automatic/Steptronic model, the accellerator was "strangely" sensitive and the car was very, very responsive to right-footed inputs. This demo also had park distance control fitted, but I didn't risk testing it. I heard a beep from somewhere while backing out, but it quickly subdued.
Once on the road, I carefully took the tiny Bee-Emm down the road a few kilometres before turning off and stopping for photos. Once inside again I quickly tested the sound system which leaves nothing to complain about. It's got good depth and produces plently high and low end oomph, even from FM reception. There was a 6 disc CD shuttle installed, but I never got 'round to testing that. The climate control was very good and started out at hurricane-strength, something one needs to get used to, because a minute later the temperature's right and all is calm again.

Instrumentation is clear, simple and stylish. Typical BMW, the best in the business if you ask me. The controls and stalks take a while to get used to, and the steering wheel offers even more buttons to play with.
A fun little device worth mentioning is the economy needle, which has made a comeback after being replaced with an oil-temp cousin in some models. For me it's the ultimate in-car entertainment. Accellerate and see the little fellow scramble all the way to the highest reading. Then lift off the throttle quickly, giving him the runarounds again. I know. I need help.

Heading back to the dealership, I noticed the Steptronic's eager character which always kept the revs up and the gear as long as possible. That said, I was in Sport mode. Up to now I was just cruising along with traffic, and the 325ti had proven to be a bit of an eager Beemer. The revs were at 2 grand in 3rd gear and I was only depressing the accelerator slightly.
Like a dangling carrot in front of my nose, the 325ti was tempting me. I'd resisted it for a while, because I kept seeing images of a donkey being ridden by a car.
A little gap in the early-morning traffic was all it took. I'll have that carrot now, thank you very much. My right foot went down, and true to its promise the 325ti shot into action immediately. Gearing down and pushing me into the comfy and supportive sports seat, the engine and exhaust note turned from a growl to a roar. A roar of the highest calibre, becoming more refined and beautiful the higher the tachometre needle climbed. I chickened out at about 5000rpm, but I had just re-confirmed my belief that BMW engineer among the best sounding 6-cylinder engines, second only to Alfa Romeo.

A few more kickdowns also confirmed the 325ti's naughty and very capable nature, while the discovery of a physical kick-down button under the accellerator was quite pleasant. The average fuel consumption display wasn't such a pleasant discovery. At over 14 litres, it didn't say anything positive about my style of driving.
The Steptronic (or tiptronic) function was also quickly tested, with all tip-functions seemingly behaving in much the same way as in all the other tiptronic cars I've driven. It's very handy if you want to keep your gear through a fast corner and don't want the car to shift prematurely. Then again, you could've done most of that with the old autoboxes, and this blue little devil in "auto mode" wasn't very eager on changing up either. I find the Steptronic function a useful addition to a smooth and responsive (yet sometimes hectic) autobox. It's entirely up to you, I adore autoboxes and the ease of driving they present, but it could be argued that this little rocket should be even more fun with the manual 5 speed gearbox. Sheer matter of opinion, though.

I didn't brave any high-speed manouvres, but a few bumps and uneven road surfaces produced ... well, absolutely nothing. The car didn't shake, I couldn't hear a single rattle and was firmly held by the sports seat. The car stayed glued to the road and went exactly where I pointed it. Given the short rear overhangs, I predict this car to be very quick around the twisties, while a 50/50 weight distribution should give it go-cart like handling on a track.

Overall the BMW 3 series compact is a very capable and well-assembled car. From what I've read on the Internet, this vehicle was the smoothest ever development process at BMW. Judging from the waiting list, it's not doing too badly in the popularity contest either. The 318ti with a considerably lower price tag should be the best value for money, but it doesn't have the pull or sound of its 6 pot sibling. Whichever one you choose, I advise you to take options like the sports seats (they still look civilized but offer more support), Bi-Xenon (worth every cent), and possibly fun items like an audio upgrade and sunroof, but that's up to you.
A worthy contender to the C-Coupe and A3.

For:
Novelty factor (long waiting list)
Smooth and powerful engine
Exhaust Note
Impressive list of optional extras

Against:
Long waiting list (novelty factor)
Sometimes hectic autobox
318ti is better value for money
Impressive pricing of optional extras

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