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BMW 325i Problems

Are you having problems with your BMW 325i? Let our team of motoring experts keep you up to date with all of the latest BMW 325i issues & faults. We have gathered all of the most frequently asked questions and problems relating to the BMW 325i in one spot to help you decide if it's a smart buy.

BMW Column

Take it back to the dealer and insist that they investigate it. It sounds like there could be a wiring problem in the steering column. I wouldn't continue to drive the car until the problem is found and fixed. If the dealer won't do anything, contact BMW and enlist their assistance, if all else fails go to an auto electrician.

Used BMW 328i review: 1995-2000

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, BMW should be feeling pretty pleased with its 3-Series. In the last 20 years or so many companies trying to get a slice of the affordable prestige market have copied it.

There’s no doubt that the 3-Series has been one of the outstanding performers of the last 20 years or more. It has proved to be the favoured way of moving into the European world of prestige motoring for many Australians, and still holds its own in a market filled to overflowing with clones.

Over the years the 3-Series range has been expanded, and now includes a model to suit everyone, from the Compact hatch, the ubiquitous 318 sedan, to the smooth six-cylinder sedans and coupes, the sizzling hot M3 sports sedan, and the slinky convertibles.

BMW were one of the first to bring a convertible to the Australian market, starting with the pretty cabriolets and convertibles of the E30 model in the 1980s. They have maintained a drop-top in their range, and the 328i and the models that have followed have become the benchmarks for soft top motoring.

MODEL WATCH

Convertibles haven’t always been popular in Australia; a country where the blazing sun can fry exposed skin in minutes in summer. It seems odd really, but Australia was considered too hot to enjoy the thrill of open top motoring, while Europe was regarded as the perfect environment for a convertible.

That thinking is outdated. Old time convertibles, while perfect on a mild spring day, were inconvenient and uncomfortable, just ask anyone who was stuck in a sudden downpour trying to erect the roof.

Today’s convertibles, epitomised by the BMW E36, are everything the old ones weren’t. The most important development has been in the roof function, which can be raised and lowered in a matter of seconds, without even leaving the driver’s seat.

There’s no chance of being caught in a sudden shower, and what’s more, once the roof is in place it’s sealed so it won’t let the rain in like old ones would. It’s also well lined so it’s quiet and snug inside.

A modern convertible is like having a sedan when the roof is up, and a sporty car when it’s lowered. A great compromise for those who appreciate a car that can crossover the boundaries that separate family transport and sports motoring.

The E36 328i convertible arrived in 1995, an update of the previous 325i model. It used the slinky lines of the 3-Series coupe, with a well developed soft top that attached to the windscreen header with a clasp operated by a single grip, and folded away out of sight behind the rear seat.

To raise or lower it you simply had to be stationary, twist the clasp and push the roof away from the windscreen header, and flick a switch on the centre console. It was simple, and it all happened in a few seconds.

The 328i is built on the same agile platform as the rest of the E36 3-Series. With independent suspension all round, four-wheel discs, ABS and traction control, it is armed for action.

Add to that one of the sweetest six cylinder engines ever built and you’ve got a potent performance package. In the case of the 328i, the engine has a capacity of 2.8 litres; it’s a straight six, with double overhead camshafts, fuel injection, and VANOS variable valve timing that made it a powerful performer right through the rev range. Peak power was 142 kW at 5300 revs, while peak torque was 280 Nm.

Transmission choices were sporty five-speed manual with a nice shift, and a smooth five-speed auto.

As would be expected of a car this expensive the 328i convertible came well equipped. Alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise, remote central locking and alarm, leather steering wheel and trim, power mirrors and windows, and radio/cassette sound came standard.

Dual airbags provided crash protection.

IN THE SHOP

The 328i convertible suffers few problems. Overall the 3-Series is a tight, well built car that stands up well over the long term.

They tend to use up consumables at a fast rate. Things like brakes are consumed quite quickly, with OE pads and discs quite expensive. Likewise they tend to use up rear tyres quite quickly, which can also be expensive to replace. Both are the cost of the BMW’s high level of performance.

Nothing much goes wrong with the six cylinder engine; it’s as sweet an engine as you will ever drive, with a neat note and plenty of punch.

It’s important with convertibles to check the operation of the roof, to make sure it goes up and down smoothly. Check also the condition of the roof fabric, looking particularly for frayed areas, split stitching, and damaged seals, which can occur with regular use over the long term.

Check the rear window for fogging or discolouration, which might mean a replacement is in order.

Inside, check for signs the car has been left out in the rain with the roof down. It does happen. An owner might have cruised to lunch, and left the roof down while dining, only to be caught out by a sudden shower.

Look for water stains in trim and carpets, perhaps even lift carpets to check underneath.

Convertible roofs are expensive to replace, and can be difficult to adjust, so it’s important to make sure the roof on the car you want to buy is in good shape. The roof on a car that has been regularly garaged will last longer than one that has been left outside in the elements.

Like all cars check for a service record, one preferably from a BMW dealer or an acknowledged BMW expert.

OWNERS’ VIEW

Paul Sabine of Brooklands Motors has a low kay 1996 328i auto convertible for sale at $46,990. It’s a one owner car, black with tan leather trim, and 44,000 km on the odometer. It drives smoothly, is tight as a drum, with just a few stone chips on the grille and bonnet. The roof needs a minor adjustment where it catches on the rear cover while being raised.

LOOK FOR

• proof of regular service by specialist

• smooth straight six engine

• agile handling and smooth ride

• easy to use power roof

• slinky styling

THE BOTTOM LINE

Smooth, tight convertible with sweet six engine, sporty handling and efficient roof.

RATING

90/100

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Used BMW 318i review: 1991-1998

For a blend of performance, handling precision, comfort and refinement it’s hard to go past any of the BMWs of the last 20 years, and of course there’s the prestige that comes with the blue and white spinner badge. In many ways BMW has become the benchmark for the car industry. The Bavarian company’s cars have been pace setters since the mid-1980s, particularly since the beaut E30 3-Series and the equally brilliant larger E34 5-Series were launched.

They were great driving cars that put the fun back into motoring, cars that were enjoyable to drive, safe and refined, the sort that made you want to get behind the wheel.

Today there are plenty of other models from rival car makers that challenge the BMW stars, but few have managed to fully capture the thrill of driving that is part and parcel of the cars from Bavaria.

The E36 3-Series launched in 1991 saw a natural progression of the E30. It was bigger and more refined, but built on the things that make BMWs so appealing.

Today the E36 represents an affordable ticket into the BMW driving experience, an attractive car for the young and young at heart. It equally appeals to older drivers wanting to downsize from a larger family four-door.

MODEL WATCH

By the time the E36 3-Series appeared in local showrooms it was already coming under attack from other car makers who had been busy preparing their own versions of the smallest Beemer.

The success of the 3-Series, particularly the E30, wasn’t lost on BMW’s rivals. Its blend of performance, handling and beaut styling in a compact sedan was attracting more and more buyers who didn’t need the size of a Falcon or Commodore, but appreciated the prestige of driving a Euro badge.

The 3-Series was, still is, BMW’s biggest seller here. It was in no small part responsible for the German brand’s rise to pre-eminence as the leading Euro importer in the mid-1990s.

The E36 318i is a conventional booted four-door sedan. Inside there was accommodation for five, but it really was a little squeezy if you tried to fit five into a space that was more comfortable for four. Still, if you wanted to fit three across the rear bench the unfortunate soul who got the middle slot had the safety of a lap and sash belt.

Front seats were comfortable buckets trimmed in durable cloth. There wasn’t any adjustment of the steering column, but the driver had the protection of an airbag from 1993.

Power was modest. There was a new 1.8-litre fuel-injected four cylinder engine, the M43, but it was still a two-valver and BMW chose to concentrate on refinement and fuel efficiency rather than chase performance, hence the power gains over the previous four were relatively small.

With variable length inlets the power flow of the BMW four was smooth and uninterrupted. So smooth was the delivery that it felt flat to some.

Peak power was put at 85 kW, up just 2 kW, and that occurred at 5500 rpm, while maximum torque was 168 Nm, up from 162, and that was achieved at 3900 rpm.

There’s no denying it, the numbers were modest and that resulted in modest performance with the 0-100 km/h sprint requiring 11.3 secs and the 400 metre dash taking a fairly leisurely 17.9s. Fuel consumption, however, was well under nine L/100km on average.

Gearbox choices were a five-speed manual that had a delightfully slick shift, or a smooth four-speed auto, which was the choice of most buyers.

Despite the modest numbers the thrill of driving the BMW on the open road wasn’t dulled. It was always beautifully poised, fluid and well planted, which was both reassuring and challenging.

Front suspension was MacPherson strut, the rear multilink independent, with anti-roll bars at both ends.

Brakes were a combination of ventilated front discs with solid rears, with the safety of standard ABS from early 1992.

Steering was power-assisted rack and pinion that was well weighted and helped point the 318i so precisely.

Alloy wheels were optional, steel wheels came standard and they had full wheel covers, but that hardly made up for the lack of alloys.

ABS and metallic paint became standard features from April 1992, driver’s airbag from November 1993. A passenger’s airbag joined the features list along with power windows in November ‘94; the following year saw auto climate control air-con standard as well.

The 318i Limited arrived in 1996 with alloy wheels, wood trim and six speaker sound. An Executive model replaced it in June 1997 to keep the E36 going in the final months before it was replaced by the E46 in Aug ’98. In addition to the standard features of the regular 318i it also boasted leather trim and remote central locking.

IN THE SHOP

The 3-Series is generally robust and reliable providing it’s serviced, which includes regular changes of coolant. Failing to change the coolant can lead to problems with corrosion in the engine and cooling system ancillaries.

Check for a verifiable service record, preferably by a BMW dealer or recognised BMW specialist and walk away from any car that doesn’t have one.

Engines, transmissions and drive lines are all reliable and give little trouble in the long term if looked after.

Like all Euros brake wear is an issue, witness the build up of brake dust on the front wheels of most of them, so be prepared to replace not only pads on a regular basis, but disc rotors as well.

Quality of interior trim components is quite high and they generally stand up well in our hot sun.

Likewise the paint, even the metallics, withstands the onslaught of the sun well, and there’s little evidence of fading. Look instead for signs of accident damage and small dings caused by careless drivers.

Dealer servicing is expensive, as are the factory parts, so look for a BMW specialist and you’ll save plenty.

OWNERS VIEW

Dave Odorisio has owned his 318i for eight years. It has now travelled 135,000 km and still gives great fuel economy. He says the comfort and feel of road control make it too good to sell. Although he says the 318i lacks in performance Dave has fitted larger wheels and upgraded the suspension, which has made up for the lack of grunt.

MG enthusiast Michael Tait bought his BMW 318i auto in 1998 with 32,000 km on the odometer. He says it’s a comfortable city and touring car, although its performance can be best described as leisurely. It has now covered 150,000 reliable kilometres, and in that time four tyres, a radiator and water pump have been replaced in addition to normal service items.

LOOK FOR

• unbeatable prestige of BMW badge

• precise, well balanced handling makes driving a pleasure

• refined, quiet and comfortable, a joy on long trips

• modest performance, but very economical

• reliable and robust over long term

• check for verifiable service record

 

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Used BMW E30 review: 1983-1991

If the number of fresh faces I’ve recently seen driving BMW’s early 3-Series is a reliable guide the E30 has to be one of the coolest drives in town. With clean sporty looks, spirited performance and competent handling and braking, the E30 3-Series is seen as a cool alternative to the popular Japanese models that are beginning to lose some of their gloss in the eyes of young drivers.

MODEL WATCH

The E30 3-Series 318i first came on the local market in 1983 as a stylish and well proportioned rear-wheel drive two-door sedan, followed a year later by an equally pretty four-door version which made it more practical for carrying friends and families.

Power initially came from a 1-8-litre overhead camshaft fuel-injected four-cylinder engine that boasted peak power of 77kW and maximum torque of 145Nm. There was a choice of five-speed manual and three-speed auto transmissions, suspension was independent all round, and it had four-wheel disc brakes.

Standard features included power mirrors, tachometer, Eurovox radio/cassette sound system, full wheel trims, and a chrome tail pipe extension was added to the exhaust.

Central locking and Alpine radio/cassette sound became standard in 1985, and power steering became available as an option.

Sports suspension became standard in 1986, and the following year its performance was boosted with more power, which then climbed to 83 kW.

Power steering, leather sports steering wheel, air-conditioning, and a Eurovox radio/cassette sound system was added to the standard features list in 1989.

This post-’89 model is definitely the best choice if you want a four-door. It is still a sweet little car today, remaining tight and generally free of rattles and squeaks even with 160,000 km or more showing on the odometer.

Performance is brisk, the four-speed manual a delight to use, the clutch light. The ride is comfortable, handling responsive, and power steering quite precise even though it’s relatively light.

Inside there are bucket front seats, which are comfortable and supportive, clear and easy-to-read instruments and well laid-out controls, and a powerful sound system. Air-con adds to the comfort and a sunroof makes for pleasant driving on warm sunny days.

Perhaps the best of the E30 series was the 318is introduced in 1990. Available only as a two-door with five-speed manual gearbox the only choice, the 318is was powered by a sporty 24-valve double overhead camshaft 1.8-litre fuel-injected four -cylinder engine.

Peak power was 100 kW and max torque was 172 Nm, enough to have the 318is capable of 202 km/h.

Standard features were air-conditioning, power antenna, Eurovox radio/cassette, power steering, metallic paint, central locking, leather sports steering wheel, sports suspension, body coloured front and rear spoilers.

Leather trim, sports seats and ABS brakes were standard from October 1990.

ON THE LOT

It’s best to buy the latest model you can afford, that way you’ll get the car with the lowest mileage and the most life left in it.

On that basis the post-’89 models are the ones to go for. Expect to pay between $9000 and $13,500 for a two-door car with up to 190,000 km on the odometer; four-doors are $500 more expensive.

The pick of the E30 bunch, if you can live with a manual gearbox and two doors, is the sporty 318is built between 1990 and 1991, which can be yours for $10,500 to $15,500.

IN THE SHOP

Now up to 20 years old the E30 can be expected to be showing the wear and tear of a long life on the road so it’s wise to spend extra time checking any car you’re considering buying to avoid trouble.

Like most BMWs, the E30 3-Series was bought as a prestige car when new, and as a result many were well cared for, some even pampered, but as time has passed they have been passed down the line to second, third and more owners. Many of these later owners haven’t had the money to properly maintain the cars and as a result many have fallen into disrepair.

The best E30 to buy is the one-owner mint condition car that has been regularly serviced. But, as they are hard to find look for a car that has been obviously well cared for, one that has a verifiable service history. If the service records show the one mechanic has serviced the car make contact with them and check out its history.

Go over the body thoroughly looking for substandard accident repairs, mismatching sections of paint, badly fitting panels and hardware. Also check for rust around the rubbers at the bottom edges of the doors, and rust in the windscreen and rear window openings. Rust isn’t a common problem, but can be if insufficient sealant has been used when a windscreen is replaced.

A service history that can be verified is a must. It not only tells you that the car has been regularly serviced, but who has serviced it, and it gives you a good guide to the accuracy of the odometer reading. It would be nice to think that the car you’re buying has been serviced by a BMW dealer, but that would be a rarity in a car as old as the E30 is now, so don’t be put off if it hasn’t been serviced by a BMW dealer.

The most critical thing to check is that the cam timing belt has been regularly changed. BMW recommend that it be replaced about every 40,000 km, which equates to about two years of normal driving. If it hasn’t been replaced there is a real risk that it will break or strip, and that can mean substantial, and expensive internal damage to the engine. It only takes about two hours to replace the belt so it’s worth having it done.

Also check the engine for a build-up of oil sludge. The easiest way to do this is to look through the oil filler cap. A thick layer of sludge could mean an engine rebuild soon, as the sludge gradually blocks all of the oil feed lines in the engine. This normally doesn't occur with regular servicing and good quality oil, but with lower quality engine oil and missed services it's a possibility.

The 3-Series is quite a sporty little car so look for signs that it has been modified or thrashed by youthful or inexperienced drivers. Look for non-genuine parts like sports exhausts, lowered and stiffened suspension and larger wheels.

The trim generally stands up well, although you can expect to see some warped and discoloured plastic components on the dash and rear parcel shelf.

LOOK FOR:

• Sporty styling still has plenty of drive-by appeal.

• Trim, taut and terrific body has few rattles and squeaks.

• Brisk performance with responsive handling and good braking.

• Verifiable service history that confirms replacement of cam belt.

ALTERNATIVES:

Ford Laser KF hatch – 1990-91 – $2000-$5000

Toyota Corolla CS – 1989-91 – $2000-$7000

Nissan Pulsar – 1991-92 – $2500-$8500

Honda Civic – 1990-92 – $4000-$9500

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Used BMW 316i review: 1995-1999

Survival is a strong motive for action, as it was for the new Compact hatchback version of BMW’s E36 3-Series. It’s really quite simple, to survive as a carmaker you have to grow. The bigger you are the better your chances of staying in business, and BMW as a small to medium sized car company in world terms had no option but to make their cars more affordable so more people could buy them.

The risk if they didn’t was to be swallowed up by one of the big players, like Ford or General Motors who were out to add to their portfolio of models.

BMW was in the envious position of being an aspirational brand, one people wanted to park in their driveways even if the range was out of their reach.

The 3-Series was the people’s BMW, but even that became a stretch for most people as its price rose. The 3-Series now is a real aspirational model in the range, and more affordable models have been introduced below it.

BMW’s first move to make their cars accessible to more people was the 3-Series Compact introduced in 1995.

It’s most unlikely that BMW will ever offer a model in the sub-$30,000 price range, that would sully the image of the brand as an aspiration purchase.

That’s the trick for a company like BMW. You want more people to buy your cars because volume makes for more profit, but you can’t afford to have too many cars out there because that could damage your brand image.

The 3-Series Compact was the company’s first, careful step in making a car that had a more affordable sticker while retaining the appeal of the marque.

One look at the Compact and you can see the strategy. Viewed from the front it looks for all the world like a regular 3-Series, there’s the same kidney grille, the same bonnet, the same front guards and bumper, and most importantly the same blue and white spinner badge. Clearly a BMW. But viewed from the side or the rear and it was all new with its tail shortened into a hatchback.

The shortened tail made no difference to those who wanted to park a BMW in their driveway, it looked like a 3-Series, had the badge, and the shortened tail was even attractive to most people on seeing it for the first time.

What mattered most was that it was priced below $40,000 and that opened the door to BMW ownership for more people.

Parked alongside its sedan brother the Compact was 233 mm shorter despite sitting on the same 2700 mm wheelbase. That meant the interior was roomy for front seat passengers, if not quite so roomy for those in the rear seat.

The hatch arrangement resulted in quite a large boot space, which in combination with the 50/50 split-fold rear seat delivered a flexibility perfect for carrying just about anything you needed to move.

Under the skin the hatchback was all BMW. A 75 kW 1.6-litre single overhead camshaft fuel-injected four-cylinder endowed it with modest, but adequate performance.

There was a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed auto, the latter dulling the performance somewhat, but a popular choice with buyers none the less.

The suspension was a familiar combination of MacPherson Strut at the front and semi-trailing arm independent at the rear.

It rode and handled well, and with ABS-assisted disc brakes front and rear, it also stopped well.

At launch there was just the single model offering, with standard air-conditioning, central locking, power steering, power windows and mirrors and AM/FM radio cassette sound.

Remote central locking, rear head rests and traction control were added to the list of standard features early in 1996 when it was renamed the Hatchback.

The Contour was added in January 1996, and brought with it standard alloy wheels, metallic paint, leather steering wheel and fog lamps.

The BMW badge is enough for some people to stretch their budget to buy it without considering the costs of service and servicing a prestige car can be more expensive than other cars. The result can be compromised servicing, so check for a service record, one that hopefully has a history of servicing by a BMW dealer or acknowledged specialist.

Look specifically for things like regular oil changes, annual coolant changes, and annual brake fluid changes, all of which keep the BMW ticking along as it should.

Brakes tend to need replacement at intervals of 50,000 km or so and original equipment BMW rotors are expensive. Aftermarket rotors are available which will do the job, but you won’t find these on offer at BMW dealers.

Lift the oil filler cap and observe any sludge, a sure killer of engines, and a sign that the oil hasn’t been changed.

The 1.6-litre M43 engine has a timing chain as do most modern BMW engines so there’s no requirement for servicing in that area.

Generally the 3-Series is a well built and robust vehicle that will do quite high mileages without too much trouble.

The Compact had dual front air bags standard, and was given front side airbags in 1998, which provided an impressive secondary crash protection system, over and above the primary protection afforded by ABS and traction control.

The E36 rated better than average for occupant protection in the 2004 Used Car Safety Survey, and average for its impact on the occupants of cars it hit.

• Prestige of BMW badge

• good resale value

• cute hatchback styling

• flexible boot space

• good ride and handling

• good crash protection

• modest performance from 1.6-litre engine

• service records a must

Stylish and practical hatchback for the young or young at heart that comes with a BMW badge.

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Which small car to buy

LIKE you, I prefer rear-wheel-drive cars for the way they drive and feel on the road. I'm also in favour of buying used BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes because you get to drive a better car than you might otherwise be able to afford, but they can be expensive to service and repair. For that reason I am loathe to recommend them. But I also agree that some of the cars coming from Japan look good, and I particularly like the new Lancer. I wouldn't be concerned about front-wheel drive at all, there's nothing wrong with the way they drive, handle, steer or brake.

Do you recall 1992?

THE warranty ran out a long time ago and there's no evidence that the cause of your problem is the one that led to the 3-Series recall.

Air of confidence

I GUESS because tyre companies haven't yet worked out how to make a tyre puncture-proof without reverting to the solid rubber tyres used before the invention of the pneumatic tyre early last century. The closest we've come is run-flat tyre that is fitted to the latest BMW 3-Series.

Used BMW 316i review: 1995-1999

The 3-Series was the people's BMW, but even that became a stretch for most people as its price rose.  BMW's first move to make their cars accessible for more people was the 3-Series Compact introduced in 1995.

MODEL WATCH

The 3-Series Compact was the company's first, careful step in making a car that had a more affordable sticker while retaining the appeal of the marque.

One look at the Compact and you can see the strategy. Viewed from the front it looks for all the world like a regular 3-Series: there's the same kidney grille, the same bonnet, the same front guards and bumper, and most importantly, the same blue and white spinner badge. Clearly a BMW. But viewed from the side or the rear and it was all new, with its tail shortened into a hatchback.

What mattered most was that it was priced below $40,000 and that opened the door to BMW ownership for more people.  Parked alongside its sedan brother, the Compact was 233mm shorter. That meant the interior was roomy for front seat passengers, if not quite so roomy for those in the rear seat.

The hatch arrangement resulted in quite a large boot area, which in combination with the 50/50 split-fold rear seat delivered a flexibility perfect for carrying just about anything you needed to move.

Under the skin, the hatchback was all BMW. A 75kW 1.6-litre single overhead camshaft fuel-injected four-cylinder, endowed it with modest, but adequate performance. There was a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed auto, the latter dulling the performance somewhat. The suspension was a familiar combination of MacPherson Strut at the front and semi-trailing arm independent at the rear.

It rode and handled well, and with ABS-assisted disc brakes front and rear, it also stopped well.

At its launch, only the single hatchback was offered, with standard airconditioning, central locking, power steering, power windows and mirrors and AM/FM radio cassette sound.

Remote central locking, rear head rests and traction control were added to the list of standard features early in 1996 when it was renamed the Hatchback. The Contour was added in January 1996 and brought with it standard alloy wheels, metallic paint, leather steering wheel and fog lamps.

IN THE SHOP

The pull of the BMW badge is enough for some people to stretch their budget to buy it without considering the costs of servicing a prestige car. The result can be compromised servicing, so check for a good service record, especially one done by a BMW dealer.

Look specifically for things like regular oil changes, annual coolant changes and annual brake fluid changes. Brakes tend to need replacement at intervals of 50,000km or so and original equipment BMW rotors are expensive. Aftermarket rotors are available which will do the job, but you won't find these on offer at BMW dealers.

Lift the oil filler cap and observe any sludge -- a sign that the oil hasn't been changed.

The 1.6-litre M43 engine has a timing chain as do most modern BMW engines, so there's no requirement for servicing in that area.

CRUNCH TIME

The Compact had dual front air bags standard and was given front side airbags in 1998, which provided an impressive secondary crash protection system. The E36 rated better than average for occupant protection in the 2004 Used Car Safety Survey, and average for its impact on the occupants of cars it hit.

Read the article
Used BMW 328i review: 1995-2000

They have maintained a drop-top in their range, and the 328i and the models that have followed have become the benchmarks for soft-top motoring.

MODEL WATCH

The E36 328i convertible arrived in 1995, an update of the previous 325i model. It used the slinky lines of the 3-Series coupe, with a well developed soft top that attached to the windscreen header, with a clasp operated by a single grip, and which folded away out of sight behind the rear seat.

To raise or lower it, you simply had to be stationary, twist the clasp and push the roof away from the windscreen header, and flick a switch on the centre console. It was simple, and it all happened in a few seconds.  The 328i is built on the same agile platform as the rest of the E36 3-Series. With independent suspension all round, four-wheel discs, ABS and traction control, it is armed for action.

Add to that one of the sweetest six-cylinder engines ever built and you've got a potent performance package. In the case of the 328i, the engine has a capacity of 2.8 litres, it's a straight six, with double overhead camshafts, fuel injection, and VANOS variable valve timing that made it a powerful performer right through the rev range. Peak power was 142kW at 5300 revs, peak torque was 280Nm.

Transmission choices were sporty five-speed manual with a nice shift, and a smooth five-speed auto.  As would be expected of a car this expensive, the 328i convertible came well equipped. Alloy wheels, airconditioning, cruise control, remote central locking and alarm, leather steering wheel and trim, power mirrors and windows, and radio/cassette sound came standard. Dual airbags provided crash protection.

IN THE SHOP

The 328i convertible suffers few problems. Overall the 3-Series is a tight, well-built car that stands up well over the long term.  They tend to use up consumables at a fast rate.

Things like brakes are consumed quite quickly, with OE pads and discs quite expensive. Likewise, they tend to use up rear tyres quite quickly, which can also be expensive to replace. Both are the cost of the BMW's high level of performance.  Nothing much goes wrong with the six-cylinder engine. It has a neat note and plenty of punch.

It's important with convertibles to check the operation of the roof, to make sure it goes up and down smoothly. Check also the condition of the roof fabric, looking particularly for frayed areas, split stitching and damaged seals, which can occur with regular use over the long term.

Check the rear window for fogging or discolouration, which might mean a replacement is in order.  Inside, check for signs the car has been left out in the rain with the roof down.

Look for water stains in trim and carpets.  Like all cars, check for a service record, one preferably from a BMW dealer or an acknowledged BMW expert.

OWNER'S VIEW

Paul Sabine of Brooklands Motors has a 1996 328i auto convertible for sale at $46,990. It's a one-owner car, black with tan, leather trim, and only 44,000km on the odometer. It drives smoothly, is tight as a drum, with just a few stone chips on the grille and bonnet. The roof needs a minor adjustment where it catches on the rear cover while being raised.

RATING

16/20 Smooth, tight convertible with sweet six engine, sporty handling and efficient roof.

LOOK FOR

  • Slinky styling
  • Get proof of regular service by specialist
  • Smooth straight- six engine
  • Agile handling and smooth ride
  • Easy-to-use power roof
Read the article
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