The New 2006 BMW 325i: A Review

Auto, Personal finance

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I finally got around to buying a second car to supplement my much beloved 15-year-old Honda Accord 5-speed manual. That car is still going strong and reliably and will probably outlast my new purchase: a beautiful . Feast your eyes!

2006 Monaco Blue 325i
Japanese vs. German Engineering
Having been out of the car market for so many years, I opted to test drive tons of new cars from the practical to entry-level luxury/sport: Lexus IS, Acura TSX, Acura TL, Volvo S60, Audi A3, Volkswagen GTI (gotta love those “Fast” commercials), Mazda3, Honda Civic, and probably a few more that I can’t remember right now. Believe it or not, this was the first time I’d ever tried driving a German or European car.

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What I noticed was that although both Japanese and German engineering are world-renowned, they focus on very different things. This is sure to be obvious to car geeks, but it was a completely new revelation to me. Japanese cars focus on reliability and simplicity of platform and design (there’s a reason Toyota is so efficient) whereas German cars focus on new technologies. The feel of the drive of these two camps is also completely different. While I’m sure the IS was finely constructed and of high quality, I didn’t find the car responsive or connected to the road at all, even with a manual transmission. The Acura TSX in manual was more fun, but still not quite there except at high revs, and the TL was simply too big a car for me personally. Neither one was more exciting in automatic than a regular Accord. The pseudo-manual transmissions in all of these cars were incredibly mushy and responded only after a long lag. In the end, the most enjoyable cars to drive were the new GTI (with that incredible DSG) and the 325i. I actually preferred the DSG over manual in the GTI, and in the end I decided I could live with an automatic transmission in the 325i. (The DSG is also in the A3, but to experience real excitement, you need the GTI!)

In the end, it simply depends on what you’re looking for in a car. I know many (if not most) people who, at the $30K and up level, are looking for a comfy ride. I realized that I happen to be one of those who hasn’t yet matured enough or otherwise gotten to the stage of being willing to sacrifice luxury for the driving experience (and what an experience it is). If you are looking for luxury, it’s worth checking out the German/European cars: they pay attention to detail in a way that Japanese cars still can’t match. However, the tradeoff is usually in long-term reliability.

German it is

After much hemming and hawing, and for a slew of reasons I won’t go into here, I elected to buy the 325i out of all of those choices (sure, the 330 would have been great, but not at $6K for an extra 40 horses.) I decided on a base-model 325i with black leatherette with only automatic transmission as the only option. My basic reasoning was that BMWs are notorious for their long-term costs, and even with 4-years/50K miles of bumper-to-bumper warranty and all regular maintenance included, I didn’t want extra technology and features to end up costing me more in the long run. Besides, I didn’t think they added that much to the driving experience itself. (Instead of navi, I’ve decided to rely on Google GLM on my cell phone, which I recently successfully hacked to add many extra features.)

I couldn’t tell enough of a difference between black leatherette (BMW speak for vinyl) and leather, and having a dog made the decision pretty easy. Plus, personally I never enjoyed the leather smell or the idea that I’d knocked off a few animals just so I could sit on them in my car. (Note: for anyone contemplating tan leather vs. leatherette, it’s worth going to your local dealer to see how the tan ‘ette holds up over time. It showed considerably more wear than the black on the ones I saw.)

I’ve now owned my new car for less than a week but feel a smile sneaking up on me every time I drive it. Yes, I even look for excuses to go places just to drive the car. I wonder if it’s the nearly perfect 50:50 weight split on top of everything else that makes it so easy and comfortable to manoeuvre. Inside, you feel like you’re in a sealed capsule, and though I hate to say it, there’s probably a reason BMW drivers have a reputation for being jerks on the road. For better or worse, you feel like you can handle or do anything in it. At one of the test drives, a dealer took us on a wild ride to show how the X3 could perform like a sportscar too, in large part because of the 50:50 weight distribution. Very impressive, ’til I realized the car averaged, at best, 16 miles to the gallon.

The joy and pain of technology

BMW has nailed the concept of first-degree price discrimination, a.k.a. basically charging money for any little thing that’s included in most other cars at its level (such as fold-down rear seats, power seats, multi-CD player, etc.) Nevertheless, new technology is definitely there.

I am still in the process of figuring out all the options that are included (even on the base model), but here’s a fun little table of a few so far, including their plusses and minuses:

Technology Hey, cool factor D’oh!
Run-flat tires No spare needed, they run for 150 miles at 50mph They can’t be repaired. Even if you just get a nail in them. ~$350 each to replace.
Rain-sensing windshield wipers Wipers adjust speed depending on how hard it’s raining Waiting for the day the electronics go on the fritz (notorious in BMWs) and roll down all the windows instead, as someone who called into Car Talk one day complained (though this was on his truck, not a BMW)
Auto-recycle of air The car will sense pollutants and automatically switch to recycled air rather than vent from the outside Same as above when the electronics fail…
No dipstick: digital readout of oil level/condition The car will tell you when you need an oil change based on oil conditions and levels (not just mileage) Gotcha! You have to go to a BMW dealer to get your oil changes. Thank god they’re included for 50K miles.

More to come as they’re discovered…

I realize that with this car there’s a chance I’ll either swear off all German cars and switch back to Japanese, but I also decided that if I didn’t try something different now, I’d end up driving Japanese the rest of my life without ever knowing what, if anything, I was missing.

Warranty and Maintenance Options and Costs

A note on the run-flat tires: I either made a wise decision or got suckered into wasting money on a tire and wheel warranty that Autonation offers which will fully pay for the cost of repairing or replacing (in this case, only the latter, since the tires are irreparable) any tire or wheel for 5 years with no deductible. Note that this is only available at the time of purchase of the car, and, I guess, from an AutoNation dealer. There’s a lifetime limit of $4000 on this service, but I suspect it might be worth it given my personal luck with tires and nails. The service cost $475, and the finance guy threw in roadside assistance, so I think we ended up getting a 48% discount. If anyone has experience with this service, I’d love to hear about it.

There’s also an option to extend the warranty and maintenance service for 2-years or 50K additional miles that can be purchase before your initial warranty and manintenance expire. For various reasons, right now I’m considering using instead. I confirmed with BMW USA that the 2-year extended warranty that BMW offers is for mechanical breakdown only and is not nearly as comprehensive as the initial 4-year bumper to bumper one. Though I’ll have to compare the exclusions side by side, they sound pretty similar. GEICO’s MBI is $6 per month versus an MSRP of $2249 for BMW’s. I’d also love to hear from anyone who has experience with GEICO’s MBI, even if it’s not on a BMW.

Love the car so far…

…though I have to admit the 5- and M-series have even better looks. I’m just not sure I’ll ever be ready to drop $55K+ on a car. But who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get a good deal like I did on this car.

With any luck, we’ll be keeping a Japanese and German/European car in our arsenal from now on: one reliable, one fun to drive. One can dream that perhaps there’s a Porsche in my future…


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14 Feedbacks on "The New 2006 BMW 325i: A Review"


oooh, gorgeous car. You’re so much more of a “driver” than I am. I think you meant Audi A3 in your 1st paragraph, right? (You said Acura). Congrats on the new purchase! What’s his name?


Thanks for the catch! I’ve never been a car namer, but you’re welcome to make a suggestion :P

Believe me, your A3 has *many* more comforts than mine. Incredible what BMW considers standard (no power seats, single CD player, etc.)…if I’d wanted the features your car came with, I’d have been forced to consider a different make :(

After all, money is for spending ยป

[…] We recently bought a brand new 2006 325i and have not looked back. (And here again, I have to recommend using to buy whatever car you’re thinking of next.) Our other car is a 15-year-old Honda Accord, still going strong. We love both cars for different reasons, and I definitely had worries about buying German after a Honda. I know the BMW won’t be as reliable, but you can’t have it all, and the more I drive it, the more I love it. […]


Great article, and great purchase! I’m also in the market for my first big car purchase (moving from the east coast to the bay area and am looking into the entry luxury sedans). I’d appreciate it if you could email me the names of the dealerships/dealers who gave you the best pricing (and who you thought were reliable people). Thanks for the help!


Quick question, how many miles did your 325i have when you first took it in for an oil change? When I look at the oil indicator on the car, it just gives me a 15k benchmark…it seems that it’s relying just on miles to tell you when you need to chagne your oil. Anyways, my car just got over the 5k mark and I’m use to having my oil changed by now so I was just wondering what the deal was with the 325i.



Actually, I haven’t yet taken it in for an oil change. It’s not our main car and still has a ridiculously low mileage on it for the time we’ve had it (slightly over 3K). The computer indicates that my next oil change should happen in 2/2008 at 16K miles (!!) (edit: just checked, the computer now says 2/2008 at 15K miles, so something changed) but according to all the e90 forums I’ve read, there’s a lot of controversy over the computer figure.

Most people get their oil changed at least at 7.5K it seems, and many sooner, including some who change it once right after the initial break-in period. I guess there’s no “right” answer. As far as the dealer covering the oil change, the consensus seems to be that most dealers say the car must indicate that an oil change is needed in order for it to be covered by the warranty and free of charge. The dealer we talked to told us that the computer does monitor the quality of the oil, etc. to determine the next oil change and doesn’t just use a default time/mileage schedule (e.g. every 15K), which is what the Honda has.

Let me know what you find out/decide. I’d be curious to learn more about this myself!

Zach C

The “no dipstick” thing is a pain. I have a 330, and it just told me that it was low by at least a quart. With 2800 miles on it, I thought that was odd but added it anyway. Then it still said it needed another quart. Now I was really suspicious. Either it was really burning oil, or the computer was wrong and I had just added oil when it didn’t need it. Without a dipstick, there was no way to tell. Afraid to drive it in case of over-full oil, I left it parked the rest of the weekend until the dealer was open again on Monday. Keeping the car two days, they told me the oil level sensor had failed and was being replaced.


Zach, thanks for sharing your experience. I hope that doesn’t happen again and that it was covered by the warranty. I have yet to bring my car in to the dealer for service, but it seems finding a good one for service ’round these parts is a bit of a challenge, so I’m not really looking forward to it :(

My 6-month-old 325i has been discontinued! | Experiments in Finance

[…] I bought my new car at the end of March after doing an ungodly amount of research, but I don’t remember reading anything that suggested that BMW was planning on discontinuing the model later this year. In fact, I believe the last major redesign of the car (E90) was in 2005. […]


Just bought a 2006 325i, has features we could live with. Love this car, I can’t say enough about this car. We simple love it, like u say, we make up reasons to drive the car. Bought the extented warranty of 100,000 miles or 72 months. When we first test drove the BMW it was the 5 series and the 7 series. When we saw the 2006 325i, it looked as big as the 5 series and fit us just fine. This car is great……

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I live in San Francisco and am in the market for a new BMW as I just sold my 2001 X5. What was the name of the Bay Area BMW dealer that you ended up buying your 325i from?


I will have to say i currently own a 2006 325i and it has been the best car i have ever owned.. i absolutly love it. im just not big on the 18,000 mile oil changes bmw requires

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