BMW 3 series (E9x)


History

The fifth-generation 3-series was introduced in 2005, as successor to the successful E46. Each model now received its own code: E90 sedan, E91 touring, E92 coupé, E93 convertible. After the controversial E65 7-series and E60 5-series, BMW decided to play it safe with the E90’s styling, resulting in a somewhat bland car, especially regarding the tail lights. The dashboard lost its driver orientation, which had been a BMW hallmark for a long time.

The E90 received a major facelift in 2008. Typical BMW L-style tail lights and a new hood gave it more character. The coupé and convertible did not receive a facelift and retained their rather smooth and a bit boring design.

Performance

The E9x came with new engines, ranging from an underpowered (and thus not offered everywhere) 316i to a 330i that had its power increased from the E46’s 231hp to 258hp (272hp after the facelift). A turbo-charged 335i (3.0 liter, 306hp), a shape of things to come, was added later to fill the gap between the 330i and the M3.

Dry weight is between 1435 and 1600 kg for the two-wheel drive gasoline versions. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h is around 6s for the 330i and 5.5s for the 335i – sports car territory. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h.

A special case is the 320si, with 2,600 built to homologate a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine for the FIA World Touring Car Championship. At only 173hp, it’s not really any faster than the standard 320i, but it is reportedly a lightweight and nimble car. Unfortunately, there are many reports of major engine trouble and poor handling of these issues by BMW.

Pros

The last BMW 3-series with naturally aspirated six-cylinder engines. The 330i offers plenty of power. A modern and reliable car that is perfectly suitable as daily driver.

Cons

Not BMW’s prettiest car, especially the models before the facelift. Complexity means the possibility of high maintenance costs.

My pick

330i coupé or a facelift 330i sedan. If you’re adventurous, consider the 320si. They are readily available and not expensive, considering the limited numbers made, which is probably due to the well-known engine issues and the lack of power compared to the 330i/335i . If you decide to go this route, try to get one that has already had its engine rebuilt.

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