Good news! I’ve found another “Unicorn” for your consideration. Now, truth told the E91 isn’t a particularly rare car. There are plenty up for sale every day of the week, since they are really just getting to the sweet spot where the first and (for early examples) second owners dump them. And of those that you can find for sale today, the all-wheel drive 328xi isn’t particularly rare, either. But what is not seen very often is the combination of those two factors plus a stick in the center console which can be articulated in 7 different positions. That’s right, we have a unicorn manual! Such is the unicorn status of this unicorn that “Unicorn” is even included in the sales title of the unicorn! You’d be forgiven for thinking that BMW dealers had a special option box that you could select for your unicorn badge.
Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!
Thus, when it comes time to sell your unicorn package car, you too can tell everyone that this was the only one that’s like it! Except for the other ones that are like it. But don’t mind them. Let’s look at this one!
I had this perhaps unrealistic hope that within the next year, a replacement for my Passat was going to become available from Volkswagen. But the promise of the new Golf Sportwagon Alltrack with a manual and TDi motor – even better, in GTD trim – has been slowly evaporating. First was the news that the Alltrack was delayed until 2017; well, I’ve waited this long since the Quantum Syncro, so okay, I’ll wait another few years. Then came the news that it would only arrive in 1.8T form with the DSG automatic. Like many other wagon hopefuls over the past few years, that was very disappointing to say the least. That doesn’t even begin to encompass the problems Volkswagen has encountered in the past week, as the promise of TDi becomes the new “unintended acceleration” for the brand. So where is a fan of 5-doors to look when considering a newer, all-wheel drive manual sport wagon? Audi? No, like Volkswagen, Audi has decided that the car should shift for you. Instead, it is BMW where you can most recently get your manual sport all-wheel drive wagon jollies in a package which even they have done away with; the classic inline-6, a 6-speed manual and all-wheel drive:
Over the past few years, my wife and I have had an ongoing conversation about what would replace her 2006 Subaru Outback. It’s not that we don’t like the car; in fact, quite the opposite. Subaru really stepped up the quality and look of the fourth generation Legacy and made it close to comparable to the European counterparts. A svelte exterior was matched by a luxurious interior, a great all-wheel drive system, and the theory of Subaru reliability. But there are several places where the Legacy, despite it’s massive popularity, shows its budget origins. The ride is great as long as the roads aren’t rough and are reasonably straight; it doesn’t really like corners much and if there is a bump mid corner prepare for you and your passengers to look a bit like bobble head dolls. Then there’s the transmission; if you went with the Limited spec like my wife originally did, you got the nicer interior wood finish, climate control and leather seats – but the manual was opted out, making them automatic only. Couple that automatic to the 2.5 liter boxer 4 and saddle it with the best part of 4,000 lbs and the result is anemic. But the real thorn in the side has been the reality of fourth generation Subaru ownership; far from trouble free, the Outback has eaten its headgaskets, wheel bearings, batteries and brakes like it’s going out of style. I think when you purchase something like an Audi or BMW wagon, you expect that once it’s outside of warranty there will be a big occasional repair – that’s the trade off for the luxury and performance of the nicer marques. But in a Subaru? It’s then when the other shortcomings really begin to wear on your patience and you begin to think of alternatives. While my natural inclination has been to look at the benchmark for performance luxury all-wheel drive wagons – Audi’s Avants – ironically it’s been BMW who has offered more options in recent years, such as this lovely sport wagon E91 Sports Wagon:
While we certainly all love the idea of the pavement-stomping, Bahn-burner muscle wagons, sometimes that just isn’t practical. Yes, I dream of RS6 Avants, smile at the many E63 Wagons in my area and fanboyishly took tons of iPhone pictures when I saw an M5 Touring (with foreign plates), but those crazy longroofs are as expensive and rare as they are awesome. For the family-man enthusiast, a spruced-up standard model can be a more achievable dream. Today’s E91 fits that bill perfectly, accentuating the sharp, long lines of this generation of 3-series wagons with an M3 front bumper and very low coilovers. The OEM+ look is continued with 19″ Style 95 wheels off a 7-series, while the car also comes with blacked-out 5-series rims as well as the originals. The clean look is continued inside with a gorgeous brown leather interior. It may not be the craziest performer, but it’s a beautiful and useful wagon that will make trips to school, the grocery store, and sports practices a little more special.
Upon my urging, an old friend of mine in the Boston area purchased a BMW E91 Touring with a 6-speed manual gearbox after he learned his first child was on the way. His wife desperately wanted an SUV but in the end, the long roof 3er argument won. He had previously driven a 2001 325xi sedan with an automatic, and a 1992 325i sedan with a 5-speed manual and always missed the joy of rowing your own during his E46 ownership, especially when it came to the smooth gearboxes we’ve come to know from the boffins in Munich. If it’s 3 series driving quality you seek but need a bit more practicality in the mix, our reader Dave is offering his very mint 2007 328xi Touring with the Sport package and 6-speed manual gearbox. BMW isn’t offering three-pedal Tourings stateside, so now is your chance to get them while there’s still a few lower mileage examples out there.
My neighbor Marc has an E46 Touring that has been consistently growing on me in the 1.5 years I’ve lived in my current place. I’ve always loved wagons, but I never really paused and contemplated the E46 wagon until his. It may be the fact that he has a black, low-mileage Porsche 993 Turbo under a cover in the garage. With that kind of firepower waiting for the right weekend, a BMW wagon becomes a very logical choice as a daily driver. In light of recent BMW designs, the E46 is a refreshingly simple shape that, while unassuming in base trim, can quickly become very aggressive. Today’s comes with the venerable M52 2.5l and all-wheel drive, a useful addition even if rear-wheel drive wagons make me tingle. I’d also prefer a manual, but those are pretty rare in longroofs. Having covered less than 60k miles in its 9-year, one-owner life, this 325 has a hell of a lot more groceries left to haul.
Engine: M52 2.5 liter inline six
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
You are looking at a nice looking sporty and luxury wagon. The black exterior + black leather interior color combination gives the car a certain kind of unique classy sporty and aggressive appeal. From the way the car drives and looks and the year of the vehicle – most of the miles on the car are highway miles. There are no reported manufacturer’s defects on this vehicle. A never-smoked-in before beauty that looks great and smells clean.
The engine is very strong and provides the power you have come to expect from a BMW and runs extra smooth. The transmission has the BMW mark on it as well and the transmission is in great condition! The suspension that’s on the car feels very nimble and comfortable at the same time. The A/C works well and blows cold air! We had our mechanic check the car. All in all, the car really runs great!
As you can judge for yourself from the pictures – the interior is clean and looks great! All electrical components on the vehicle seem to be in working order. The check light of the diagnostic computer reads ok. The engine compartment looks clean, and free of any leaks. This BMW is equipped with a climate control system. The power locks, windows and roof all work and are in excellent condition. All the power controls and buttons work. The car also comes with VERY nice all season tires have plenty of tread life left. The tires have been rotated, balanced.
This is an exceptionally looking vehicle – Loaded with tons of extras!
Super versatile with subdued but great looks, this would be a great compromise for someone who likes the BMW driving experience but needs to haul more than a golf bag and enjoys a little inclement weather. I could definitely DD a 325xi, but not at $17k – that’s E92 wagon territory! Someone click the “make an offer” button at half that.