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BMW 3-Series Sport Wagons



  • brechbielbrechbiel Posts: 13
    I recently bought a BMW 323iT Sport Wagon. I am 42, married, with two college-aged children, and live in Atlanta. I wanted an appealing new vehicle to carry 4 adults comfortably around town, run errands, and occasionally haul something bigger than suitcases and groceries. Each year my family usually take a few road trips of several days each. Our '89 Dodge Grand Caravan runs fine, but the A/C broke two years ago and is not economical to repair. Our trusty '91 Infiniti G20 is a great car! We will keep the van to haul big or messy stuff. The van also reduces overall insurance costs as my kids are listed as occasional drivers on our policy.

    At first I considered replacing the van with the hard-to-get Honda Odyssey. Then, I drove several medium-sized sedans, some with split-foldown rear seats. Atlanta is swarming with SUVs, but we didn't want one because most waste gas and pollute too much for their typical use, which is carrying ONE person!

    Every car I drove was desirable in one or more ways. The Infiniti I30 and Acura 3.2TL are excellent and pack a lot of value. The Lexus ES300 is smooth and quiet, if sedate. The VW Passat sedan is impressive, but the wagon has too much body roll and feels "squiggly" under acceleration coming out of turns. Also, the VW 2/24 basic warranty makes me wary. The Audi A6 2.7T is fantastic. I probably would have bought one if it was about $6k less. The M-B C280 Special Edition is nice and competent, but it's an old design. The I30 and 3.2TL are better values, IMO.

    For wagons, I first drove a BMW 528iT. I liked it, but at about $50K it was more than I wanted to spend, and it was too large for my typical use of carrying one or two people and hauling groceries. One dealer had several 528iT service loaners that were due to be sold at several thousand off the new price. That was enticing -- but then I drove the 323iT. At first I wasn't overly impressed. After a second drive, and a thorough review of my wants and needs, I decided it was the one. I also tried the A4 2.8 Avant, but I think the 323iT is a better car for only $1k more if comparably loaded. I did not test the Volvo or Suburu wagons.

    I bought the 323iT from the sole BMW dealer in Macon, GA, 85 miles south of Atlanta. They were a pleasure to deal with, and sold it for 5% over invoice, plus tax, tag and title. Atlanta metro area dealer quotes ranged from MSRP to $1400 off, even though the 323iT is apparently not in much demand. I haven't seen another one on the road yet. The Macon BMW dealer quickly found the exact car I wanted. They traded a dealer in TX for cars due them from BMW's lot in Spartanburg, SC. They had the car in just 4 days, and even sent a driver to pick me up in Atlanta. (Dealers in Athens, GA and Birmingham, AL had similar prices to the Macon dealer. It pays to shop around!)

    I chose Titanium Silver as it emphasizes the styling lines, is easy to see, stays cool in summer, and doesn't show dirt much. Other options include gray leather, Steptronic auto, sport-premium pkg., and CD upgrade. The 323iT is sporty and fun to drive! With the sport-premium package it has most of the luxury amenities available in today's finest cars. I am 6' and find the seating position comfortable. I sometimes wish the center section wasn't so close to my right leg. The 323i wagon has more rear legroom and headroom than the sedan.

    Unfortunately, the sport suspension and snazzy 17" wheels allow more road noise, but the secure handling and lack of body roll make up for it. Generally, wagons have more noise than sedans because they have more windows and less rear wheel well isolation. The 3-spoke sport steering wheel has more useable hand grip area, though it could be a little rounder and softer.

    The stock 10-speaker sound system is pretty good, and sounds better as the speakers break-in. The BMW/Alpine CD-changer is about $400 mail-order, and a 30-minute DIY install. I am considering upgrading the amp and speakers to an A/D/S P650, 345is.2, and 235is. The steering wheel audio controls are wonderful as it lets me ride the volume and track/station selections depending on mood and traffic conditions.

    Due to the coded driveaway protection, it would be difficult to steal this car. However, there is no alarm in the 323iT. The "E46" factory alarm kit is about $235 mail-order, and takes the average DIY an hour to install. A dealer has to program the computer to recognize the alarm components, and this will cost about $35. A complete dealer install would probably run $400 or so.

    All in all, we are very pleased with the 323iT. It has great looks and numerous safety features -- most importantly BMW's justly famous handling and braking. Many well-designed items sprinkled throughout continue to surprise and delight us. It is practical for our needs and should be reliable for a decade of regular use.

    We are already eyeing the possibility of a used 5 or 7 series to replace the G20 in a couple of years!
  • a6wagona6wagon Posts: 19
    I spoke with the local BMW guy and he told me that the 323iT AWD version will be out in October. He could take my order in August. This will make the 323iT an even better value. It has the same system as the X5. I currently own a 97 Audi A6 wagon, 90K miles, no problems. Yet, when I drove the X5, the DSC-X was awesome. I drove on ice and liquid detergent with the accelerator nailed to the floor. There was not a hint of slippage what so ever. I want a 323iT, but will wait for the AWD living here in Chicago where the winters can be rough. Thanks for your comments brechbiel. This vehicle is a, AWESOME alternative to the X5 in terms of value, flexibility and fun!! The fact that it lacks demand is even better. Better price and uniqueness on the road!!
  • richardtbrichardtb Posts: 11
    Did you actually want to purchase the 323iT
    with the sport package or did you buy this way
    because the wagon that you found had it?
    I was tempted in getting it because of the seats,
    however I did not want the tires that come with
    it. Many people who are on claim that
    they have the sport package and an extra set of
    tires for when it snows, but that was too much of an expense and trouble for me. Maybe that is
    not of an issue in Atlanta. The salesperson also
    told me that the performance tires are also a
    pain if you drive in bumpy roads.

    I was planning to buy the cd-changer from the
    dealer instead of getting it for cheaper via mail-order so that it gets the 4 year car warranty
    instead of the 1 one year party warranty. If
    anybody thinks that this is a waste of money, please let me know.
  • a6wagona6wagon Posts: 19
    Where do you live? If you live in any place you get snow, then you should opt for the normal wheels over the sport package. I drove the sport package with the 5spd and felt like I had just gotten beat up after driving for about 20 minutes. Here in Chicago we have the worst roads in the US. Ask yourself - how are the roads where u live and what is the weather like? this will help you determine what is best for u.

    IMOHP in terms of the CD, go through the dealer for the warranty - if the dealer is any good, it will save u some hassle in the long run.
  • richardtbrichardtb Posts: 11
    Thanks, the advice is very helpful.
  • richardtbrichardtb Posts: 11
    Something else that I was going to add given
    your name on I have an 91 audi
    200 (105k miles) and the only problem I have had
    so far has been with stereo head unit that had
    to be replaced twice (first time under warranty
    for free, second time for $100). The 91 audi 100 does not have a good service record so I don't know if I was lucky or whether the 200 was built better. I would have bought the a6wagon but I found it a bit too expensive (although worth it if I really needed the space). a4wagon backseats were a bit too small.
  • brechbielbrechbiel Posts: 13
    Richardtb, I preferred the combined sports-premium package. True, I sometimes wish the suspension and tires were more compliant and made less noise, but I do not find it excessive. After all, if that were my chief criteria, I would have chosen the Lexus ES300!

    I drove both versions, and the standard suspension/wheels do not yeild a dramatically quieter ride. IMO, the "cruising" ride is pretty darn good with the sports pkg, and the 17" wheels are real lookers. All things considered, I am glad I chose the sport package. The 3-spoke wheel lets me put my hand in the 4-5 or 6-7 o'clock positions, which is not possible with the 4-spoke wheel. I find the sports seats an improvement over the standard seats. I will rarely use the foglights. BTW, I believe the standard suspension already has larger rear components to help compensate for the potential load. Fortunately, there is rarely any snow to contend with in Atlanta.

    If you drive the sports equipped 323iT quickly around a bumpy corner, it hangs in there!
  • Hi ...

    I am a proud new owner of the 323i wagon, though I went for the basic options to keep the price down. The leatherette seats tend to make for a bit of a sweaty experience unless you have the air on cold all the time. I was wondering if the leather seats do the same? The seat covers offered by BMW look pretty limited ... no interest in woolly sheep ones, and the cotton ones are clearly dustcovers & not meant as functional driving seat covers. Any suggestions?

    Other than that, at 6'3" I am very happy with the room & driving position, and the telescoping steering wheel makes an excellent difference for those of us with long legs. Backseat room seems adequate - certainly better than I had thought now that I've seen a few adults in the car with me.

    I got the in dash CD because on long trips I definitely go through more than 6 CD's, and personally find changing disks no trouble at all. At $200 to have factory installed, it seems very reasonable, and I'm more than happy with the sound & volume range (no cassette, but last one of those I bought was Roxette's second album back in 1991).

    Still haven't properly experimented with the steptronic mode, but will do so on next trip upstate.

    So far, so good....!!
  • bimmerpilotbimmerpilot Posts: 17
    I've considered trading my wonderful 328iS in on "something more practical" in my wife's words. I just couldn't find anything I'd be happy with. Not until I read about the 323iT and the input here from those who now own one and others that have driven the car. I'll be taking my 3 in for inspection II next week and it will be a perfect time to take the wagon for a test drive.
    Have any of you traded another Bimmer in on your 323iT? Do BMW dealers usually allow more of a trade-in value on incoming Bimmers?
    I remember seeing 3 series wagons based on the E36 and always wished they'd sell them in the US. It's great to see the 323iT being offer here.
  • Karen_SKaren_S Posts: 5,092
    ...First Drive: 2000 BMW 323i Sport Wagon.

    Come back here to post your comments.


    Wagons host
  • tomsrtomsr Posts: 325
    I have longed for a Beemer for years but always
    thought they were out of my price range.Now that the 323i sport wagon is here and around $30k
    a closure look is needed.What about cost of maintenance I've heard horror stories about.What about theft rate.How do I keep my wife from getting it? Should I also compare it to VW Passat?
    We,ve had our eyes set on an Acura 3.2TL but since
    I'll be giving up my Explorer the practical me says wagon with luxury features and fun.
  • twoof1twoof1 Posts: 308
    All BMW's now come with 3 year or 36,000 mile bumper to bumper service included at no charge. This covers everything from oil & filters to windshield wipers!!
    Theft rate is very low. The insurance rate on my '00 Z3 (convertible) is lower than the rate on either my Volvo XC wagon or my Diamante sedan.
    On the question about keeping your wife away, The only thing I have found that works is a very long leash!!
    Good luck
  • bimmerpilotbimmerpilot Posts: 17
    I have a 328iS that I've put 40K miles on and it's only been in the shop for free scheduled inspections and oil changes. The car is typically driven over 300 miles a week with 20 of those miles being up and down a twisty turny canyon road. Lucky me. : )
    I too had heard about BMWs costing so much to maintain years ago. I've owned five (all of them 6 cyl. cars made in germany) and would not agree. Most of the people that I hear that from have never owned a BMW or owned one back in the early eighties or even earlier.
  • brechbielbrechbiel Posts: 13
    My family of four has had a BMW 323iT Sport Wagon for about a month. It is driven mostly by me and my 18-year old daughter. Overall, it has more than met our expectations, though there is room for improvement in several areas. This is our experience after 2200 miles. (See my previous postings #32 and #38)

    We have taken the 323iT on two "mountain" trips from Atlanta, GA. One 600-mile trip to Asheville, NC included the Blue Ridge Parkway and even more twisty side roads. The other 450-mile trip was to the Smoky Mountains. I had so much fun driving this car I had to remind myself to look at the scenery! We got around 28mpg on both trips, which is quite good considering about a third of the miles were driven on mountain roads, and the air conditioner was in constant use. Driving on relatively flat roads without A/C will probably yield 31-32mpg.

    As delivered from the dealer, all tires were inflated to 35psi. On the first trip, I reduced the front to 30psi and kept the rear at 35psi. This was a little quieter, but the tires really needed more air for twisty road driving. On the second trip, I increased the front to 33psi and the rear to 37psi. This gave a little more road noise, but better handling. (The door sticker for 225/45ZR17 tires and light-medium loads calls for 30 front and 36 rear.)

    The sport and manual modes of the Steptronic auto were very useful in mountain terrain. I mainly used sport mode, except for long downhill sections where I switched to 3rd, 2nd, even 1st. After the 1500-mile break-in, I was less reluctant to use the lower gears -- because it would sometimes push the RPMs to over 4500. The GM-built Steptronic auto is exceptional. The ergonomics are excellent with the shifter moving even closer to you when in sport/manual. I initially wanted a manual tranny, but that was vetoed by my family. I am happy with the auto now, especially considering the added convenience in city driving and the impressive gas mileage.

    I am 6' tall, 145lbs, with a "lean and lanky" build. For me, the sports seats are just a little too firm and lacking in lumbar support. Not bad, but alas not as comfortable as the gorgeous velour seats in my '91 Infiniti G20. Also, when I have the seat positioned for optimum legroom, I would like the telescoping steering wheel to come about 1-2" closer than it can. Ahem, I think that people with big rumps will find the sport seat side and bottom bolsters too close together!

    For me, the gas pedal is just a little too close to the centerline of the steering column. This results in my lower body twisting slightly to the left. This somewhat compromised pedal location is due to the inline 6-cylinder engine and rear drive transmission intruding into the driver compartment. This is not a big deal, but a larger rear wheel drive car or most any front drive car will have more room for the right leg.

    The gauges and controls are comprehensive and easy to see in all daylight conditions, and are rear lit in a pleasing red color at night. The A/C has plenty of capacity to cool the entire wagon on a hot day. On Auto mode, it will blast you for the first couple of minutes until the car begins too cool down. My wife finds the initial noise distracting, but I remind her that the alternative is to be hot longer!

    The audio system power level and speaker quality is probably adequate for most listeners. Music lovers will likely want to upgrade. I have the CD upgrade, but no changer. I usually carry at least a dozen CD's on long trips and I never know which one I want to listen to next, so the CD changer would probably not have much practical value anyway. The steering-wheel-mounted volume controls and radio/CD track selectors are fantastic, especially to fine tune the volume level with music having many quiet passages.

    There are two cupholders in front. The driver will want to use the front-most one, and it works quite well. The other cupholder is located under the fold-up armrest, and is somewhat inconvenient. A tall drink simply will not fit there, but a 12oz. can or small cup is OK. Our solution is to use one of the rear cupholders for the front passenger -- but we found these too small in diameter for some drinks.

    As I expected, the wagon configuration is very practical. The rear liftgate is tall enough for me to stand under in the rain. Two people can sit in the rear opening and change into hiking boots at the same time.


    A car this expensive should have an alarm system. I thought it had one when I bought the car! The wiring and computer are ready for it. The siren, tilt and motion sensor components are probably less than $100 at manufacturer cost. The dealer will want about $400-450 to install the BMW E46 factory alarm kit.

    Most of the dashboard is flat black, which is great because it avoids glare. BUT, there is a strip of several inches, the same color as your interior, that goes across the width of the car between the main black dash section and the base of the windshield. With gray or sand interiors, and depending on the light, this can cause an annoying reflection across the entire lower windshield. If the interior is black, this will not be a problem.

    When going from reverse to forward, it takes the auto transmission too long to make the shift. I find I have to stop completely and wait until I feel the change, then I can go forward. If I remove my foot from the brake and press the gas too soon I get a "slamming" sensation as the forward gear engages.

    It is sometimes inconvenient, even annoying, to use the center console buttons to raise/lower the windows. At a minimum, the front passenger should have his or her own door-mounted button. The 323iT has one-touch window and sunroof opening via the key or remote control. You can also use the key in the doorlock to close the windows and sunroof. Very convenient. On a hot day, you can open the sunroof and windows to vent the heat before you get in, but you have to close each window one by one. A separate button to open/close all windows would be convenient. I suppose this wish should go under the heading "How easily we are spoiled!"

    The rear shoulder belts are not tall enough for a 6' passenger. They will tend to slip off the shoulders. Backseat room is ok for two 6' adults, but there is not enough shoulder/hip room even for small teenagers. The rear armrest is too long and/or wide for the size of the rear seat area. With the armrest down, a large adult passenger's leg will hit the armrest. The rear cupholders on the center armrest are not big enough. By the way, the only defect (so far) is that the rear center seatbelt will not pull out.

    The 3-spoke sport steering wheel could be more comfortable. IMO, the stitching on the inner rim is too coarse, the shape is too angular on the front edge, the grip diameter is not large enough, and overall, it is too hard to the touch.


    The BMW 323iT has a smooth, fuel-efficient engine with a broad power band. The Steptronic auto nearly duplicates the economy, control and feel of a manual, but with far more convenience. Handling and braking are fun and confidence inspiring. You forget you are driving a wagon. Styling and design are top notch. It is a real head turner according to my teenage daughter and her friends. The quality of materials and construction seems a good value. Overall, it has been a reliable, comfortable and fun to drive vehicle.

    I would buy it again, but I would probably skip the sport package. However, those 17" wheels and tires sure are cool!
  • goldnbrgoldnbr Posts: 8
    Having taken some measurements of the cargo area
    in the 323iT, I'm pretty sure it will fit a bike
    (with front wheel off) in the back with both rear
    seats folded down. Does anybody know for sure if
    you can fit a bike back there with only the left
    rear seat folded down? It looks like it might just
    make it, but I'm not sure.

    Also, does anyone know why the cargo volume is
    rated so much less than the Volvo V40? The overall
    sizes of the 2 vehicles are almost identical. Is
    the BMW's cargo area interior narrower and not as

    Thanks for any help.

  • brechbielbrechbiel Posts: 13
    In #45 I wrote:

    "Backseat room is ok for two 6' adults,
    but there is not enough shoulder/hip room even for small teenagers."

    What I meant to say was:

    "Backseat room is ok for two 6' adults,
    but there is not really enough shoulder/hip room even for three small teenagers, though they will fit."

    Of course, three children will fit fine in the 323iT backseat, but a minivan will be better for long trips with small kids. (Been there, Done That!)

    Hope this helps!
  • richardtbrichardtb Posts: 11
    I am not sure about the volvo, but I know that
    in comparaison to the audi a4 avant, the bmw
    has less cargo volume to give more room for the
    backseat passengers.
  • Jim,

    I am an avid bicyclist who posed the same question of being able to fit a bike or two into the cargo area of the 323 wagon. I believe the EPA cargo volume with rear seat down is about 48 cu. ft. I looked at the Subaru wagons and with 68.6 cu. ft. available, I can fit two bicycles into the area WITH front wheels in place. Subaru are coming to market with a horizontally opposed 6 cylinder (similar to Porsche concept) late this year. Price with all the do-dads is anticipated at $30,000 with another $2,000 for VDC (vehicle Dynamics Control) and McIntosch Audio System. I'm strongly leaning towards Subaru for size, equipment and reliability reputation. I'd be happy to discuss my thoghts further if you have an interest.

  • Jim,

    Second comment. We've gotton two bikes (with wheels removed) into a Subaru Outback WITH one rear seatback in the upright position and one flat.

  • superman5superman5 Posts: 154
    is everyone paying msrp for wagons too in
  • zigster38zigster38 Posts: 117
    Yep, I'm curious too...anyone pricing these wagons in norcal? What's the going rate?


  • hicairahicaira Posts: 276
    Best could do was $500 under MSRP in So Cal.

  • kortegakortega Posts: 7
    Has anyone gotten a good deal on the 323 sport wagon? I live in the Bay Area and quoted me $34,438 for the wagon with automatic, leather, sunroof, power seats, in-dash CD and metallic paint. That's only about $100 under MSRP! Yikes!!!! Tell me what you savvy shoppers are getting for your 323iT. Thanks!
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    There are just not enough 3ers out there floating around without buyers to create real price flexibility at this point in history...that's just a fact. Few dealers have big inventories of unsold cars, especially 323s and most especially wagons. The only one available at my local dealer is ludicrously loaded with options and has an MSRP of $38k+...he'd no doubt be willing to generously knock off $700 or so, and you'd still be left with too much money.

    Some dealers have a temporary glut of 328s, especially now that all of the buzz is on the 330s, but that is the only car I know about in the 3er line that is standing for any serious discounting right now. Can you do better than $100 off? Yeah, almost certainly...the online buying services are now having to exist in the real world since the stock market fell out of bed, so the giveaway deals are a thing of the past...I haven't had a price quote from them in weeks [I check regularly on about a dozen benchmark cars of different makes] that couldn't be beaten by any urban dealer in a heartbeat. But don't look for much more than 2-4% from MSRP, and in the case of a wagon, not that much. Supply and demand...
  • richardtbrichardtb Posts: 11
    I do not know about the west coast, but in the
    midwest and east coast 323iTs are not selling well
    and the standard price is $1500 over invoice.
    You do not have to buy them loaded, if you can
    wait, special order one as I did. If you check,
    there is a dealer there - in Virgina, right out
    of D.C. - who advertises his wagons for $1500
    over invoice. This may be a bit of a treck for
    you people in the west coast. However, when I
    had checked prices for the wagon (here in the
    midwest) on carorder and cardirect (a month or two
    ago), I also got the same high prices as the one
    you are quoting, which led me to believe that it
    was not such a good idea to use these sites.

    One last point, if you can wait, you may want
    to wait until sept and buy the 325iT (with an
    increase in hp from 170 to 190).

    I hope this helps.
  • rygracerygrace Posts: 1
    I recently priced a 323iT wagon in Jacksonville Florida. The dealer was willing to take $600.00 off MSRP. That was his absolute best offer.

    The problem as stated previously, is supply and demand. The dealer in Jax did not have any 323iT in stock and all he had on order, through August, had already been sold.
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    The last few posts illustrate perfectly why the old saying about politics is also true of pricing: "Everything is local..."

    The economy is still red-hot in Calif, notwithstanding the stock market's recent traction problems, and all "lux" makes are moving pretty briskly. Certainly no one is advertising discounts of any real $ on 3ers, much less prices like $1500 over invoice. Sounds like a trip to DC and a Smithsonian visit might be in order...
  • goldnbrgoldnbr Posts: 8
    Yes, a bike will fit in the back of the 323i wagon with the right rear seat in the up position. It's a tight fit between the hatch and that rear seat, but it does fit. This was with the
    front wheel of the bike taken off of course. With both seats down there is absolutely no problem.
  • kortegakortega Posts: 7
    I just placed my order for a Titanium Silver 323iT with automatic, leather, moonroof, power front seats and in-dash CD at Weatherford BMW in the Bay Area. The dealer stated that for a refundable $1000 deposit, I could place my order, wait for the car to arrive and then negotiate the price when it was delivered to the dealership. If for any reason I didn't want the car, the deposit would be returned to me. Is that how BMW dealerships operate? I've never ordered a car before. I've always just bought the car off the lot. There seems to be a strategic disadvantage to the buyer with this method. From reading the other posts, I looks like I'll be pay close to sticker prices for this baby. I would like the 190 hp engine but I'll need a car within the next month. Besides, I jump in hp will probably mean a jump in price. I'm hoping to get $1000 off MSRP or am I just dreaming?
  • jrct9454jrct9454 Posts: 2,363
    Right now, you're probably dreaming to get $1k off this car in the Bay Area. HOWEVER, by the time the car actually gets here, the market may very well support that kind of price. What Weatherford is counting on of course is that you won't walk after waiting weeks for your car, and that they will get by with a token discount. I probably would have insisted on a firm price before the past, their internet guy was pretty straightforward and was offering competitive prices...maybe that's changed with the current supply/demand situation.

    If you get stiff-armed by these guys, try East Bay [Pleasanton] - they have a big internet presence and have satisfied a lot of people...good buzz...
This discussion has been closed.