Decked out in Sparkling Graphite (BMW-speak for grey) it arrived at the Topdeals offices with 14 445 km on the clock, having been traded in by a Johannesburg-based chartered accountant on a new X3.
More importantly, it has a Motorplan valid for a further four years and 85 000 km, proof of a lengthy pre-delivery inspection, no stone chips or scratches (all magically removed during the inspection) and free use of the BMW On Call emergency breakdown service.
Will our real-life experience with the car live up to the effusive promises made by BMW Premium Selection? That's what we'll find out over the next year.
Despite the great strides made by automotive designers in improving the looks of their wagons (remember when driving a station wagon was akin to taking the ugliest sister to the ball?) the 325i Touring still falls short of being particularly attractive. The front three-quarter view is typical 3-Series and consequently pleasing to the eye. At the rear, the Munich designers made a gallant attempt at innovation by sloping the tailgate and adding some interesting style lines. But, not surprisingly, the Touring can't match the style of its sedan stablemate.
Beemers are usually well equipped - providing you're willing to pay for most bits of kit as an optional extra. On our long-termer, the 'extras' bill totals a whopping R57 000. This includes auto transmission with Steptronic (R14 500), an electrically-operated panorama glass sunroof (R15 700), electric seat adjustment with memory (R9 700) and CD changer with 6 CD shuttle (R3 700).
Ergonomics and Accommodation
In day-to-day use, the Touring is easy to live with. The luggage area is big, although the sloping tailgate robs you of a bit of usable space if you're loading something like a table. The seats fold easily without the need for muscle or mechanical guile, and there's decent space in the back when the seats are up. Beemers have always been driver's cars, so there's little to complain about up front. Mind you, the remote control that serves as a key takes some getting used to. The key slot is located to the left, and close to, the steering wheel. If you're a left-hander (which most of us aren't) it's possibly a simple operation. But for us right-handers, the close proximity of the steering wheel makes getting the 'key' in and out of the slot tiresome.
Yes this is a used car, but with less than 15 000 km on the clock you'd expect it to be close to mint condition, unless Evel Knievel was the previous owner. BMW Premium Selection?s long pre-delivery checklist further ensured that any evidence of stone chips, scratches or indiscretions by the last driver weren't in evidence by the time the car reached us. The bodywork's as good as new, as is the interior.
Performance is normally a Beemer strongpoint and there's no reason why this car should be any different. The 2.5-litre, 6-cylinder engine is smooth and powerful, with the 160 kW and 250 Nm more than ample for sporty highway driving and daily commuting. The gearbox is sluggish from pullaway in first gear, but soon makes up for it as the revs increase. The problem has more to do with the Highveld altitude than any mechanical or design shortcomings.
Quite simply, it's excellent. As a range, the 3-Series has nothing more to prove. As a used car, our test unit is the equal of any new vehicle when it comes to quality. In fact, apart from the mileage, there's nothing to differentiate it from a brand new unit that's just come off the showroom floor. Basically, a 'new' vehicle at a less-than-new price - an equation that's hard to beat.
Model Year - 2006
Odo Reading - 17 945 Km
Price When New - R319 000
Price Now - R349 000 (Includes Extras Worth R57 300)
Vehicle Supplied - By Bmw Vehicle Distribution Centre, Rosslyn