1989 BMW 325ix Touring
There is an old joke, that basically says if you ask a BMW fanatic to name the five best BMW's ever made, he'll name five different models of the e30. The e30 chassis, the 3-series built from 1982 through 1991, is perhaps the most widely loved compact BMW of all time, and although values of the e30 M3 are famously skyrocketing of late, prices for all of the increasingly hard-to-find small BMWs are holding very, very strong. Famous for their lively handling, lusty engines and outstanding build quality, it is the e30 that in a lot of ways cemented BMW as the choice for the young professional looking for one car that could do it all.
Unlike a number of other exciting platforms, we actually got most of the good e30's in in the USA. We got the M3, the 325ix, and the 325is. We got the coupes and the convertibles and the four-doors. We got the all-wheel-drives and the sport models.
But we never got the wagon.
The wagon, or "touring" as BMW calls it, makes a tremendous amount of sense, particularly in a modern world. The packaging is excellent, and even with my rather large frame behind the wheel, there is still plenty of room in the back for two normal sized adults. Three in a pinch. With the touring back, luggage capacity is extended without a feeling of heft behind the wheel, and to my eyes at least, the styling is spot-on. Factor in their rarity on US roadways, and the e30 touring is exactly the kind of car to make a BMW fanatic smile.
I have never really considered myself a "BMW fanatic," per se. I have owned two, a 1976 2002 which I liked quite a lot, and a 1991 850i which I, uhh... did not. I never shop for a 3-series. Maybe I find them too common or something. For whatever reason, I never really think of 3-series BMWs as something I particularly want to own.
Right up until I drive one. And then I invariably want to buy it.
Clawing Around The Spanish Mountains
Driving this car really took me back. There is something primal about the way this car drives. Something atavistic about the way it makes me feel when I'm behind the wheel. This is from my generation, this little 325. It was born right about when I was coming of age, and I am a firm believer that the sporting cars from the 1980's were the last sporting cars to feel "traditional" in their driving dynamics. Don't get me wrong, modern sports cars can be inspiring as hell to drive, but in a rather different way. The 1980's were, to me at least, the last of the cars that felt light, twitchy and alive.
And that's the one word I would used to describe this 325ix Touring. "Alive." The famous e30 foible, the rear suspension that has a propensity for lift-throttle oversteer, is to me one if its greatest strengths. Much like an air-cooled Porsche 911, the reputation for flying off into the weeds ass-first is far greater than the actual risk of doing so, but what it does do, that semi-trailing arm rear suspension, is make the back of the car a little... twitchy. A little pointy, particularly on bumpy pavement. And it feels alive.
Don't get me wrong, this car isn't going to bite you. The AWD makes the handling universally stable and predictable, and the Bilsteins and modern tires give you all the grip you'll realistically ever need. But the way the suspension feels just puts a smile on my face every time I bend it into a corner, and I can tweak the attitude of the nose of the car simply by using the throttle pedal. Overcook it into a tight corner and the tail will come around a little, sure, but who cares? Let it! Steer it with the throttle and the little wagon will come sailing out the other side like a rocket, and you'll be grinning like an idiot the whole time.
The engine feels remarkably strong. Much stronger than I expected, and it has that typical BMW small six exhaust note. Guttural at lower RPM, then building into a snarl through the midrange, and raspy on the overrun. It's enough to make you want to rev it through the gears again and again and again, just to listen to it sing.
And the steering. I don't think anyone does steering as well as BMW does, and these old ones are some of my favorites. Lightly assisted, with tons of feel and the best weight and response of any vehicle anywhere.
Rally Cars For Rally Masters
This car was built in January of 1989, but wasn't sold until almost 18 months later, and was eventually purchased by Antonio Zanini, rally legend and nine-times Champion of Spain. He used the car throughout the 1990's, giving it regular, but light duty as a daily driver.
When Zanini retired and decided to move to Uruguay, he called the car's current owner, a gentleman named Javier and a former Spanish Rally Champion himself, and said: "I have a special car I want you to buy from me. It is far too nice to sit in a barn here with my other cars while I am away."
Javier bought the little touring and has used it lightly, but regularly, ever since. The headliner was sagging a bit, and has been replaced. The dashboard developed a small crack, which was repaired. Other than that, the car has been serviced and maintained as original as is realistic, and is in lovely shape commensurate with the low mileage.
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