Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Heroes and Villains 1 – BMW 325i e30

It is time to look back over cars I’ve driven that have made an impression, whether good or bad. Some cars have lived up to my expectations, some cars have disappointed. A good reputation or a prestige badge is no guarantee of hero status. Most of my judgements have been based, out of necessity, on a single car. I understand the limitations of this method and therefore no judgement is final. A bad car can rise in my estimation but equally a good car can fall from grace.

First to come under scrutiny is the 1980s icon the e30 version of the BMW 3-series. With smart, square-cut styling; smooth 6-cylinder engines; good build quality and a sporting reputation it was the small saloon everyone wanted. Even now it is held up as a sporting icon.

The example I drove had plenty to commend it. It was nicely made, the interior plastics were clearly a cut above mass-market cars, it had a light and airy cabin, a good ride and a smooth 2.5 litre 6-cylinder engine. What surprised me were the things that were not good. The driving position felt strangely offset, the wheel and pedals were not in line with each other or with the seat. The engine did not feel as though it had 177bhp and made more noise than I expected. The worst aspect was the steering; low-geared and slow to respond; it also grew heavier as more steering was applied which made the steering feel like winching a heavy weight up a slope.

Maybe a 325i with sports suspension and a close-ratio gearbox would feel more like a sporting car. As it stands the e30 3-series is a fine, well-made, quality saloon but I can’t understand how it earned a reputation as a driver’s car.

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