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BMW 3-Series Sport Wagons



  • Although I admit I'm biased (since I own a 323 wagon), I think the body styling is absolutely gorgeous. It still takes my breath away every time I see it in the parking lot or my garage.

    In terms of 323 or 325, I think that 323 has plenty of zip. I drove our old Subaru Outback (165 hp) today after weeks of driving only the bimmer. I nearly got run over merging on the highway because the I had grown used to the BMW's acceleration (although horsepower numbers are similar). I'll bet that you can get a good deal on one of those remaining 323's, so that may be a factor too.

    The cargo area is small for a wagon. However, the rear seat room is sufficient (bigger than the 3-series sedan and the Audi A4). Cargo room is fine for the everyday stuff that I carry: stroller, groceries, Tonka dump trucks. I wouldn't use it to haul lumber though!

  • As an A4 Avant owner, one big difference I noted is that the 323T has more rear seat leg-room, but much less cargo space in the back. Since I have a dog and no kids, the Avant works best for me. But the 323t is nice too.
  • - Looking for a good dealer or online website to purchase a 325 AWD Wagon. Know of any where I can a discount from MSRP?

    - Since the 325 AWD Wagon is a new model, are my hopes of getting a discount from MSRP slim?

    - I also have a dog. Is getting the leatherette the better option over leather?

    - How much slower will the AWD be over the 2WD wagon?
  • chilidchilid Posts: 3
    I've heard its very tough to get a deal in your area. Try Cutter in Santa Barbara if you don't mind the drive. 1500 over invoice is possible.
  • I have a dog, and leather seats, they work fine, though leatherette should be o.k. too. Check the rear cargo area of the 325 though - it's pretty tight if your dog is big. (I've got an A4 Avant, which has more rear cargo room for dogs but less rear leg room for people)
  • After nearly 6 months and 9K miles, this is a follow-up to my previous postings #32, 38, 45, 47:
    - The right side rear view mirror doesn't tilt down every time (yes, mirror switch is in correct position). Other than this, there are no defects. I will have this fixed at 1st scheduled oil change.
    - Braking, steering, road holding, transmission, cruise control are all fabulous. Engine power good, but occasionally I would like more.
    - Seats "breaking in" now and fairly comfortable even on 6 hour trips. Note that sports seats are difficult for some elderly folks to slide over while getting in/out of car.
    - Sports steering wheel is needlessly hard and uncomfortable to grip. I am planning to install a padded cover. Steering response is positive, but could use a little more assist, IMO.
    - Rear hatch doors (door and glass panel) have to be closed VERY firmly, else in-dash warning light will be on though the door seems to be closed ok.
    - Not enough driver legroom on right side! Gas pedal is almost directly under steering column, so body position is actually twisted a bit to left. This is my major complaint with an otherwise fine car. Can't adjust driver's seat so right and left feet are equally supported with knees at same angle.
    - Excellent fuel economy. Average 22mpg around town, 29 highway, with moderate sporty driving.
    - Audio system better than I thought, especially since speakers have broken in. I don't plan to upgrade anymore.
    - Would like more cargo capacity every now and then, but overall there is plenty of room. Typically only 1-2 adults including driver, but occasionally 1-2 adult passengers. I have to remove cargo cover from behind rear seat when carrying taller items. Rubber straps on cargo floor are very handy. Haven't used roof rack yet.
    - Sports suspension and tires are awesome. Everybody really digs the looks, even my grandmother!
    - My 9-year old G-20 with 5-speed feels more nimble and responsive than the 323iT, though it isn't actually faster, is much noisier (engine!), and the suspension isn't nearly as refined. (Note: the G20 weighs nearly 500 pounds less.) The G20 seats, steering wheel and legroom are all superior, IMO. I think the feel of the steering, with more assist, is what makes for most of the difference. My wife actually prefers driving the G20 -- which is fine with me.
    - The 323iT is definitely a keeper. I think my daughter has her eye on it for when she gets out of college in 4 years!

    Cheers, Ken
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    Ken, your experiences are interesting. How can a 9-year old Infiniti beater of a car match up in handling with a state-of-the art, new wunder car from Bavaria?

    I'll tell you why: weight. There is just no substitute for the lack of it. I am always amazed by folks who say they want a sports car and end up with 4k-lb sleds that accelerate like the wind (courtesy of big powerful engines) but make corners feel like you are tap-dancing with a hippo. The G20 (and similar Sentra SE) are very well-engineering lightweight cars with nifty four-cyl engines and great handling. They don't have that great a suspension control, but when you start out with 500-lbs less to control, you don't need that great a control.

    That is why I'm going for a 325i over the 330i and being careful on the options list. Stuff like sunroofs, electric seats, etc. adds up. Even worse is stuff like AWD. I'm not happy with adding another 140-lbs for my wagon vs. the sedan, but the utility is just so much better.

    If handling is what you're after, less is always more.

    - Mark
  • rjsenrjsen Posts: 30
    Careful with the weight thing. Remember, more weight = more downforce = more grip (to an extent). The M5 weighs about 4000 lbs., and it handles amazingly. As for AWD, if it's so bad, why is the 911 Turbo only available with AWD? The handling benefits of a good AWD system far outweigh (no pun intended) the drawbacks.
  • hicairahicaira Posts: 276
    You say :
    "The handling
    benefits of a good AWD system far outweigh (no pun
    intended) the drawbacks."

    True, IF (and only if) you have enough power (torque) to overcome the disadvantage of additional weight. The 911 has that in spades. The 325 is a bit weak to begin with. Now a 330ix wagon might be just the ticket - but of course, they don't make one.

  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    You're right in that weight increases traction which compensates for the greater weight you have to accelerate. So a heavier car can generate the same cornering loads that a lighter car can. And you're right, AWD is a great feature if you're trying to lay down 400+ hp without lighting the tires up all the time.

    Cars like the M5 and 911 Turbo are incredible machines with great handling - I guess my point is that they offer their performance in a way that has little relevence to most drivers and that smaller, less powerful, lighter weight cars have more "approachable" performance that is relevent to the sport driving most drivers do.

    If you read the tests of cars like the Z06, 911 Turbo, and M5, you see that they were tested on the race track because that was the only way to get close to their limits. So while they are wonderful machines when driven between 80-150 mph on smooth fast roads with no traffic or cops, I don't get to the track very often and I don't think many people do. These are great cars for car journalists, race drivers, and super enthusiasts who don't mind going through $1000 in tires in a weekend. And great cars for the few who are really skilled and are willing to risk their life and license more than I care to.

    Finally, I don't have much need for a car that is constantly yawning back at me and saying "Is this best you can do?" To me, driving a 150-hp car is a little like fishing for 5-lb trout with a 2-lb test line - much more fun than winching them in on 20-lb test.

    - Mark
  • M5's are no great auto-crossers. 911 turbo is somewhat better, thanks to its lighter weight (only a six cylinder, relying on turbo charging to get the 400bhp), and shorter wheel base. But a turbo-charged Miata probably can beat them both at auto-crossing, which is probably the physical test that best correlates with the feel of "nimbleness." The feel of nimbleness relates to fast transient response. You have to have light weight and short wheel base to get that. However, so long as the underlying propulsion system is the same (ie. IC engine burning conventional gasoline), you have to have the bulk to generate the 400 bhp necessary for straight line performance in super cars. For a 1.8L four cynlinder to put out that kind of horse power, you will have to have someting like 20+psi mega turbo and/or 12k rpms, like the Honda Civic of the 1980's that dusted all the other competitors at the CART races and eventually got banned because of it; the engine had to burn tulene mixture, not conventional gasoline that you get at the pump.

    In real life driving, short wheel base makes for bumpy ride, and 2400lbs light weight among 3500lbs fleet average makes you a prime candidate for road kill.
  • My dealer says the conti tires included with the 17" wheels in the 3 series wagon are quiet soft. Does anybody know how much mileage I should expect from a set? My concern is the actual cost of a lease that I am currently thinking about.
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    I'll take a shot at a few of your questions:

    1. Auto transmissions are separate options on all the 3-series cars. I think the BMW web site also confirms that the premium pkg and steptronic are separate options.

    2. I think you'll find the BMW and VW similar in reliability. Once out of warranty, the BMW will likely be more expensive to repair, simply because it is a more expensive car that caters to a more upscale market. The BMW's longer warranty and free maintenance might offset this, especially if you don't anticipate keeping the car for a long period.

    3. You can't get AWD on any US BMW wagon, so if you want an AWD wagon, your choices are the VW, Audi, and Volvos. Mechanically the BMW's AWD option on the sedans is similar in function to the VW system although mfg by a different supplier. The systems on the Audis and VWs are the same as both companies are associated.

    It sounds to me like you want AWD, like the VW wagon, and can't tell any functional difference between the VW and BMW. In this case, I'd save some money and get the VW. It is also a larger car than the 325iT, almost as big as the Audi A6.

    Finally, don't compare prices by what the salesman "offer" while you are strolling around on the lot. Way, way too many variables to tell if you are getting a deal or not. The proper approach is to test drive a number of cars you are interested in and then go home and use web sites like (or the mfgs) to price out exactly the car you want - from this, target one or two cars you are interested in and get all the data on MSRP and dealer cost. Then do your haggling over price, which BTW, can be done via fax, phone, or email without every having to step foot on a lot.

    I purchased my 325iT at a good discount without ever stepping foot on the lot.

    Good luck,

    - Mark
  • I went through the same dilemma a few months ago. I chose the BMW wagon because of three things:

    1. I liked its handling better (I drove the 323, not the AWD). The Passat had a touch more body roll through hard corners and didn't seem quite as crisp.
    2. I read a lot on both bimmer and VW enthusiast web sites. It seemed (through anecdotal evidence only) that bimmer complaints were limited mainly to minor squeaks, etc., but that the Passat had left people stranded. So it appeared that while overall reliability is comparable, I was worried that if something went wrong with the Passat, it was more likely to be catastrophic.
    3. Finally, I think I just loved the BMW wagon more on an aesthetic/gut level.

    The bimmer wagon is smaller than the Passat though, and more expensive as well. I think you'd be happy with either car. You could consider cargo/price versus handling/luxury/upscale name.

    More than 3,000 troublefree and glorious miles!
  • I had a 2001 Passat GLX 4motion Wagon on order and I cancelled because of the B to B warranty, only 2 years is kinda scary. The fact that VW has an iron engine block instead of aluminum turned me off. My 7 year old Mazda MX6 has an aluminum block, I don't know why VW is so far behind in that respect. Also I decided that I had to have Xenon HID headlights, my Mazda's lights are pathetic so I wanted great lights on my next car.

    I have now ordered a 325iT. The VW does offer many goodies for the price, if I equipped the BMW similarly it would have topped $42k (MSRP). I had to give up the AWD and auto with tiptronic(steptronic) to keep the price down on the 325iT. I wouldn't put an auto in a BMW anyway, especially one with only 184 hp. This was not an easy decision, giving up all the luxury features in the VW all for $31k was painful.

    The BMW AWD system is supposed to always have a higher % of power to the rear wheels than to the front. This is supposed to maintain the sporty handling characteristics that BMW is famous for. The VW will proportion more 60% power to the front if that's where the best grip is.
  • As I understand, the BMW AWD system is fixed at 67% rear, 33% front. If, for example, the rear wheels start slipping, it still sends 67% of the torque to those useless wheels. For the record, this trikes me as quite silly. In the VW/Audi (and most Subarus), the torque distribution starts at 50%/50%, but adjusts depending on which wheels have traction.
  • I'm planning to buy a 325 sportwagon. I'm living in NC. Is the AWD worth the extra $1750?
    BTW Does someone know a dealer in this region that wants to accept about $1500 over invoice?
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    Whether AWD is worth the cost is a personal decision. I used to live in the RDU area and I recall the snow was pretty limited. So, for me personally, I'd skip it. The AWD version is considerably heavier and handling will also be less crisp. You've got the added mechanical complexity as well. But if it gives you peace of mind, perhaps you want it anyway.

    If you do go AWD, you might want to consider the stick. If you burden the 2.5L with both AWD and step, it will become a bit lethargic. In fact, with a step and AWD, I'd probably vote that the Passat is a better car for this mission.

    Don't know about your local market, but I got about $1500 over invoice on my deal. If you fax around your request, I'd bet someone will take you up on it.

    Good luck,

    - Mark
  • mschukarmschukar Posts: 351
    Have you ever noticed that most of the vehicles in the ditches on a snowy highway are SUV's? Maybe it's just my imagination, but the problem with AWD is you can go like a bat out of hell, but you can't stop or maneuver better than anyone else (perhaps worse because of the increased weight & height). People get over confident when they don't feel their tires slipping and drive too fast for the conditions.

    I've been driving to work for 13 winters in Iowa and Wisconsin with 2WD and never missed a day of work because of weather. I don't think you need to lug around $1700 of dead weight 360 days a year just for the occasional snow that the plows can't take care of.

    On the other hand, if snow in NC is worse than I think, save $1200 and buy a set of snow tires and rims from Tire Rack. Not only will you be able to go like a bat out of hell, but your car will handle and stop (read, avoid accidents and ditches) much better than with AWD. Also, if you happen to hit a curb on a slippery curve, you'll trash a $50 steel rim instead of a $200 polished aluminum rim.

    We bought a set of Blizzaks (sp?) for our Volvo V70 wagon last year and are very happy with the performance.

    Just my $.02 worth.

  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    I look at it this way. As an average, most of us have maybe ten situations a year where we have to deal with significant snow. Seven of the ten, a RWD car like the 325i with any decent tires will get through fine. Two of ten, a RWD car with good snows will get through fine. One out of ten, you need AWD to get through. But that is the day that I really don't want to be out on the roads AT ALL.

    If I do have to be out that day, I'd rather have some steel wheels, good snow tires on all four wheels, and a set of chains in the trunk rather than AWD. Then you have a good chance of stopping as well as you are going.

    AWD is a little like an insurance policy for something you probably won't encounter. If it makes you sleep better, and you don't mind the significant handling, expense, acceleration, and service tradeoffs, go for it. It is a little like an extended service policy - it doesn't make economic sense, but if it gives you more peace of mind and the expense isn't significant to you, why not?

    - Mark
  • mstsscmstssc Posts: 89
    As the owner of both a fwd V70 and 4wd Rodeo in Canada, I agree with the above posts. I equate the need for awd to be the same as buying a pickup for the 2 times a year you need a sheet of plywood from Home Depot. In fact, I prefer to drive my V70 with snow tires than my Rodeo in the winter.

  • rleerlee Posts: 8
    I picked a stick AWD because I go where snow is. I was stuck once in Stowe, VT with my RWD truck in a parking lot, don't want to it again...
  • taratara Posts: 30
    Hello! I just wanted to introduce myself, my name is Tara and I've just started working for I'll be your new host for Station Wagons:)
  • The only other wagon with AWD AND manual would be the Audi allroad -- it has a 250 hp biturbo V6 with a 6-sp manual transmission as std. Unfortunately, the base stickers at about $42, but it is seen as a direct competitor to the Volvo XC. The unique feature of the Audi is its variable height suspension.

  • nancyznancyz Posts: 4
    Any suggestions for getting a good price on a 325ix wagon in the NYC metro area? My local dealer is willing to take $600 off retail price, but with a $4K markup over invoice that isn't much. Edmunds TMV is equal to retail and is over list.
    Also, does anyone know if the 6 disc DC changer is the same for a new 325ix as for a '98 528ia? I am selling the 528 and know that I won't get much more for the car with the CDX in... If no, are there comparable or better aftermarket changers available that work with this car? $200 for the 1 CD in dash and $600 for the changer doesn't seem like a great deal.
    Any suggestions for other cars that I should look at before committing to the 325? I want AWD and manual shift. The Subarus seem a bit tinny. I looked at the A4 but need to special order and wait 4 months to get manual and the dealer said that they were going to stop making the A4 Avant in the summer. I don't really want the last off the production line. Loved my Volvo wagon but the XC doesn't come in manual. Thoughts?
  • larssunlarssun Posts: 14
    No idea about price, I live in Vermont.
    The CD player will not work in the 325. My wife had a 98 528 with 6 changer. I wish I would have
    bought a manual would have added to the already
    fun car to drive. I test drove them all and the only car that I would have bought would have been
    the BMW X5 with the sport package which is the best of all worlds.
  • nancyznancyz Posts: 4
    Lars, Do you have snow tires on yours or are the stock all weathers good enough for VT? I drive north every weekend in the winter to ski and have to negotiate a fairly steep driveway. The SUVs have no problem but all others are challenged by this hill.
  • larssunlarssun Posts: 14
    I am trying the all season(stock tires) for this winter. So far I haven't had any problems but
    I haven't had to climb any icy mountain roads and in Vermont ALL the roads going to ski areas are the cleanest in the state(we need the money).
    My wife bought a 330ci convertible and we orders
    winter tires for it and I might next year.
    These cars are remarkable you just can't get them to spin out they just take over a straighten things out and return control back to you.
  • I am in the market for a staion wagon or mid size SUV. Am looking at a number of cars including BMW 3 series wagon, Nissan Pathfinder, Saab 9-5 Wagon, and reluntly Ford Explorer. Own a Volvo that has been one problem after the next, and also have a Nissan with 218,000 miles on it and still going strong. I really like the little BMW wagon but am concerned about their reliabilty issues. Can some of you out there offer feedback and your experiences? I really don't want to buy an Explorer, and the Pathfinder's rear seat is small and I'm afraid to buy another swedish product. Thanks,
This discussion has been closed.