It may be one of the cheapest BMWs, but the 3 Series is also one of the brand’s most important models. In the eyes of many fans, it is the embodiment of traditional BMW values, especially when it comes to driving prowess. That’s true even for models without M badges, especially older ones. And luckily, these older 3 are often more affordable than you might think. One of these bargains is up for grabs this week on Bring a trailer: a 2004 BMW 325Ci.
A 2001-2005 BMW 325Ci isn’t as fast as an M3, but it still handles like an E46 3 Series
|Motor||2.5-litre “M54” inline-six|
|Unloaded weight||3197 pounds|
|0-60mph time||7.0 seconds (manual, Car and driver)|
The E46 M3 is often seen as a highlight, not just for the 3 Series, but for BMW. With a zesty gem of an inline-six, stellar handling, but enough comfort for everyday use, the E46 M3 remains a marquee sports sedan. However, while it has notable chassis and suspension upgrades, it is still built on the bones of the E46 3 Series. And those bones underpin the 2001-2006 BMW 325Ci as well.
The E46 325Ci comes from a time when BMW naming conventions made extremely logical sense. “3” for “3 Series”, “25” for its 2.5 liter engine, “i” for fuel injection and “C” for “coupe”. And it’s a real coupe, not a racy ‘Gran Coupe’ sedan. This technically makes the 325Ci the predecessor to today’s BMW 4 Series.
Compared to the M3 and even the 330i ZHP, the 2001-2005 BMW 325Ci may seem like little on paper. However, its smooth engine, excellent weight distribution, stellar suspension and “beautifully direct and well-weighted” steering allowed it to triumph over the contemporary A4, Mercedes C-Class and Lexus IS300 in Car and driverhands. And the Infiniti G35 beat it mainly because of its extra power and lower initial price.
Yes, the 2001-2005 BMW 325Ci isn’t as technologically well-equipped as the latest 3 Series. But that simplicity is becoming a virtue in the used market. And, more importantly, it only takes a few minutes behind the wheel to demonstrate why BMW enthusiasts praise this era of cars so highly.
You can bid on this inexpensive 2004 model at Bring a trailer
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The 2004 BMW 325Ci currently on sale at Bring a trailer should be a great way to validate that last statement.
It may have an automatic, but it also has four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, stability control, traction control and that refined M54 inline-six. Plus, it has a zero accident history and just over 44,000 miles on the odometer. Additionally, the seller reupholstered the headliner, sunroof cover and pillars last month. And the only flaws are cracks and chips on some center console plastics. In short, this coupe is clean.
In addition to its excellent condition, this 2004 BMW 325Ci is also well equipped. In addition to the previously mentioned features, it comes with fog lights, power mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power seats and automatic climate control. It has “just” leatherette upholstery, but it also has wood trim and a BMW Business CD audio system. And a previous owner replaced the diver airbag assembly in 2017.
Is a 2004 BMW 325Ci reliable?
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As of this writing, this 2004 BMW 325Ci is currently listed at $4,700 with four days remaining in the auction. The cheapest 325Ci with similar mileage on Autotrader costs about 2.5 times more. In short, this clean coupe is also a certified cheap buy.
Since this is a used luxury car, getting a pre-purchase inspection is always a good idea. But overall, a non-M E46 like this 325Ci is generally a reliable car. Yes, you still have to deal with issues like water pump and VANOS failure. However, these are high mileage issues and modern aftermarket parts are much sturdier. Also, the M54 does not have connecting rod bearing issues like the S54 engine in the E46 M3.
Also, Mike Kent of the BMW Enthusiast Auto Group expert shop praised the M54 straight-six engine when I spoke to him recently. The only suggestions he made were to replace the DISA valve in the air intake and to make sure the oil pump nut is properly attached. But otherwise, it’s a robust powertrain.
So if you’ve ever wanted to experience BMW in its heyday, this 325Ci could be your budget ticket.
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