Car Corner
Eliminating the Competition (BMW 325Ci Convertible)

September 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

This month I am presenting another installment in my search for my next new (or almost new) car. The original article put the new Mustang (due out for 2005) up against a handful of coupes and convertibles. This month I am going to take a look at one of the cars on that list for possible elimination.

BMW 325Ci Convertible

BMW - The Ultimate Driving Machine. Or is it? I test drove a BMW 325Ci Convertible equipped with an automatic transmission. My wife does not drive a manual, so I am restricted to looking at automatic equipped cars for my next car. That is the reason I took the following test drive.

Keep in mind that this is not a full road test. Primarily I wanted to test the 325Ci with an automatic to see how much power it had, and I was after was some basic feeling for the comfort of the car overall.

I see plenty of 325i and 325Ci cars on the road. I don't know anyone that owns one, or that does not like them. They must be good enough or BMW wouldn't be able to sell them. Right? Unfortunately, I think that too many people are not looking for the "Ultimate Driving Machine."

In my short time behind the wheel of a 325Ci with an automatic I initially thought it moved pretty well. But as I pressed harder on the accelerator, I found the car only seemed "sporty" when the tach was above 3000 rpm. Below that the car just moved along like any ordinary car. The engine was - without a doubt - the smoothest engine I have experienced, but it was slow at low revs.

I was surprised by this because it didn't always seem that way. What it boiled down to was the transmission. If you caught the right gear it seemed responsive. Mind you, 184 hp pulling a 3500 lbs. car is not going to break any speed records. But if the car failed to downshift, leaving the tach below 3000 rpms, it seemed like a long time before the engine made it into its sweet spot.

I did not drive a manual equipped 325Ci for comparison, since a manual will not go over on the home front. If I were able to look at cars with manual transmissions I would still test drive a 325Ci so equipped. As stated, the engine was the smoothest engine of any car I have driven, and it begs for a manual to take advantage of it.

For me that leaves me to consider the BMW 330Ci. The price difference between a 325Ci and 330Ci is about $6,000-$8,000. That may be enough to push me out of my budget. However, I plan to drive a 330Ci convertible with an automatic to see how it performs. Until then, if you are thinking about getting an "ultimate driving machine" I suggest you stay away from the 325 with an automatic. Heck, even my father-in-law's Toyota Avalon is noticeably quicker, especially in low speed stop and go traffic.

At this point I am eliminating the 325Ci with an automatic from the list of cars I am considering. It is too slow for a performance oriented vehicle. I was impressed with the comfort of the BMW, so I look forward to testing the 330Ci.

Sorry BMW.