If I’m honest, neither the outrageous Passat W8 nor the overpriced A4 Avant from Sunday really thrilled in the same way as the 2.7T-swapped B6 Ultrasport build did. Granted, you could just about buy both the Audi and the Passat for the same price as that build, but if you’re going to take on a complicated older fast wagon, there must be some sort of reward for all the risk, right?
Well, not to be outdone, here’s a stellar BMW option. The standard 325xi Touring, while available with a 5-speed manual, isn’t nearly as exotic sounding or performing as the duo from the other day. The M54 2.5 liter inline-6 was about 100 horsepower down on the Passat W8 and they weighed pretty close to the same. BMW also chose to not equip any of the xi models with the M-Sport suspension, either. While the 3-series was substantially cheaper than either the A4 2.0T S-Line Titanium package or the Passat W8 4Motion, out of the box it also didn’t feel as special.
Of course, if you rip it apart and rebuild it with a S54 borrowed from a M3 and a 6-speed from a X3, the story changes a bit…
Long before â€œClownshoeâ€ mania, BMW had another slightly off-beat hatchback in its lineup. The company recently spent a fairly sizable sum advertising the lineage between the new 2 series and the original 2002, but as generally impressive as the new 2 is, the one thing lacking is a model similar to the E6 Touring model. Okay, the F45 and F46 tall hatchback models channel a bit of that, but letâ€™s be honest â€“ theyâ€™re not exactly what enthusiasts love. And similarly polarizing is the Touring model in the E10 lineup. The Michelotti design channeled some of the GT feel from the Glas acquisition, but while the fluid lines of the 1600GT worked well in a low slung sports car, moving to the taller and more upright E10 platform gave the Touring slightly odd dimensions.
Shortened by about 6 inches and with additional glass, the Touring had modern conveniences like split-folding rear seats and was available in five different engine configurations over its short three year model life. From 1600 to 2002, the model designations referred to the engine capacity â€“ imagine that! Here we have a Typ118 E6 – the 1802 Touring.
Although my recent experience with a BMW wagon wasn’t the most endearing of my automotive life, I have to admit I still keep an ear to the street every time an interesting one comes up. If nothing else, the promise of what BMW offered in their wagons was compelling – at least, until very recently. That’s because in addition to the 5-doors from the 3- and 5-series appearing on these shores in the E34, E39 and E46 generation, so too came all-wheel drive. “BUT, AUDI!” the internet insists. And right they’d be. Except that as the 2000s drew to a close, so too did the performance versions of Audi’s Avants – and with it went the manual option. So if you wanted to row-your-own, you had to turn to BMW to get what we see here – an all-weather faithful 5-door companion. While the “M” versions of the wagons didn’t come this way, what we did get was what you see here – the option to have the classic inline-6 mated to a manual transmission with near perfect weight distribution. Equip the package with the Sport option, and you got some nice alloy wheels and fantastic seats too. Even 17 years later and with a not insignificant amount of miles accrued, this is a package which stirs the soul:
Update 8/30/18: The asking price has dropped from the original $32,995 to $28,995 now.
While it was Audi who cut their teeth in the fast wagon market, the S6 Avants we saw the other day were the end of an era for the marque in the U.S.. Sure, the A6 3.0T Avant carried on and was just as quick, but its sales numbers dwindled as the naughts came to an end, and it was removed from the market in 2011. The A4 soldiered on, but even its offerings were slashed – first to fall was the S4 Avant, followed by the normal A4. Today, you can only get the automatic 2.0T Allroad if you want a 5-door Audi.
It was BMW who picked up the reigns of big sporty German wagons in the 2000s, with V8-equipped E39s leading towards the E61. Not to be outdone, the E46 introduced American customers to the smaller 3-series wagon for the first time (though it had been around for 2 prior generations) and that continued with the E91.
However, even though BMW offered two wagons right through 2010, they were rewarded with minuscule amounts of sales. In 2009, the company sold 1,430 3-series Sports Wagons in the U.S. – accounting for only 2% of sales of the E9x here. It was just as bad for the 5-series with 878 sold, so the company dropped it from the U.S. lineup in 2010. Frankly, it’s amazing that BMW continued to sell wagons at all here.
But they did, and you could order yourself up a neat sporty wagon. It wasn’t an M3, true, but the N52K-equipped 328i produced 230 horsepower and could be opted in rear-drive, 6-speed manual configuration with the M-Sport suspension:
BMW’s second generation M5 followed the same recipe as the outgoing E28; manual transmission, rear-drive, howling inline-6 under the hood. But the E34 was far from a copy of the car that was really credited with being the first super sedan. BMW upped with power first with the 3.6 liter version of the S38; though the increase in displacement was a scant 82 ccs, the result was impressive. BMW Motorsport GmbH fit a new cam, a higher compression head, and a new engine management system to yield 311 horsepower at a rev-busting 6,900 rpms. They weren’t done.
In 1992 M upped the capacity again, this time to just 5 cc shy of 3.8 liters. Even higher compression, a further revision in electronic management, and a few other odds and ends now netted 340 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque. Again, they weren’t done. Perhaps tired of Audi cornering the go-fast-5-door market with their 200 20V Avant, in 1992 BMW launched the M5 Touring. Production began in March 1992 and ran through 1995. All E34 M5 Tourings were left-hand drive 3.8 models, and a total of 891 were produced.
BMW opted not to bring the enlarged motor or the M Touring model to the United States, as the 540i took over the top rungs of North American production. As a result, this car has been the subject of many M enthusiast fantasies until today, when you can finally buy and drive them here!
Back to wagons!
Today’s example is another fan-favorite model, of which it seems surprisingly hard to find a great example. The E39 continued and expanded the 5-series wagon’s popularity by bringing bigger wheels, more power and updated looks to the mid-range Audi-challenger. Like the first generation, these were only available in rear-wheel drive in the U.S., so matching the all-wheel drive variants available from…well, everyone else, required a very good looking and potent package. BMW pulled that off, with the Sport versions of both the 528i and 540i Tourings thoroughly encapsulating the ethos of the great Euro wagons.
But there was a catch.
If you wanted a manual gearbox, you had to select the lower output 528i model. For all its shouty V8-ness, the 282 horsepower 4.4 liter M62-equipped 540i only came with BMW’s Steptronic if you needed to haul ass and a family. Of course, that hasn’t stopped a few enterprising individuals from combining the manual from the sedan with the more desirable wagon:
Continuing on the wagon theme, today we’re going to take a look at something in a similar vein – but oh, so very different. This 1994 BMW E34 Touring is in many ways the antithesis of yesterday’s S6 clone; it’s an original European model, it’s very bare bones, and it’s a diesel.
The story behind BMW’s foray into diesel power in the U.S. was pretty interesting. BMW had developed the M21 2.4 liter turbocharged inline-6 diesel in the 1970s with fuel prices rising; it finally launched in the early 1980s with the E28 524td. But you probably best know that motor for its appearance in mid-80s American iron; an attempt by Ford to improve the fuel economy of its large executive Lincoln Continental. The marriage didn’t work; although the M21 was a good motor (especially when compared to GM’s diesel!), gas prices were falling and the economy was recovering by the time it finally came to market. But since BMW went through the effort to get the M21 legal for U.S. shores, they brought the 524td over here, too. It was a slow seller in the E28 lineup; equipped only with an automatic, BMW dealers shifted 3,635 of the diesels.
No surprise, then, that when the E34 launched, the diesel didn’t come back with it. Though the U.S. market didn’t see the M21 in the lineup though it soldiered on. The M21 was replaced in 1991 by a new version, the M51. Now displacing 2.5 liters and with an intercooler in “s” version, the 525tds upped the power from the 114 seen in the 524td to 141 and it had 192 lb.ft of torque at only 2,200 rpms. This motor carried BMW’s diesels through the 1990s, and was available in everything from the 3-series to the 7-series.
So it’s a bit of a treat to see the M51 in North America. It’s more of a treat to see it in a Touring, and in great shape, and hooked up to a manual transmission. Yes, the want is strong in this one!
Edit 10/01/2017: After fixing a few more things and covering about 10,000 more miles, the buyer of this unique 325iT has it back on the block again in a no reserve auction. – Ed
The E46 wagon has emerged as perhaps the last bastion of good, clean, simple German longroofing. Modern wagons are bulbous, overstuffed with features, and crazy expensive. The biggest options on today’s 325i Touring are color choices, while the mechanicals and general usability remain refreshingly simple: no sunroof, inline-6, 5-speed manual, manual seats. Manual, but in Tanin red leather, just the kind of curveball reader/seller Rob clearly likes. A nice, plain white exterior? Why not add discreet M-pinstriping and anything-but-discreet Creamsicle Orange lower valences? The 7-spoke Style 4s are nice but plain – leave them for the all-season tires and you get summer-rubber on blackened Style 68s! The colors may jump all over the place, but if anything they draw attention to a sweet car that represents a simplicity we have all but lost.
“Too expensive” shouted a few Facebook comments on yesterday’s 330xi Feature Listing. “It’s 11 years old with 130K. WTF!”
He wasn’t alone, and I find that strange. Because, well, here’s a 14 year old 325xi. It’s got 159,000 miles. And, the asking price is a latte away from $8,000. There’s no maintenance disclosed, nor the careful care shown to our Feature Listing car, either.
But my guess is no one will be complaining that this particular all-wheel drive BMW is overpriced. That is simply because of the configuration in this case. While it’s certainly very rare to come across the E90 sedan in the specification of the Feature Listing from yesterday, I’ve never seen an E46 in this spec – nor are you likely to see another. That’s because this particular car is claimed to be one of one – the sole BMW Individual spec’d Dakar Yellow 325xi Touring 5-speed Sport Package.
The US-market never received the touring (wagon) version of the E30 3-series. But these cars are now old enough to import under the 25 year rule, which means you can find aÂ steady trickle of these popping up on eBay for sale over here, and various accounts of enthusiasts’ attempts to bring them over. And no wonder: the E30 estate isÂ a handsome and utilitarian looking car, practical and quite stylish.
TheÂ E30 was offered in Europe with a wider rangeÂ ofÂ engines than we received here, so there a variety of different longroof options to choose from.Â There were two four cylinder models (aÂ 1.6 liter andÂ a 1.8 liter), twoÂ six cylinder models (a 2.0 liter and 2.5 liter, with the latter also beingÂ available in “iX,” all wheel drive spec), and a 2.4 liter naturally aspirated diesel inline six. This particular car is a 316i, the entry level model. While the car isÂ currently located in Germany, it’s being advertised on US eBay to temptÂ American E30 fans with a taste for forbidden fruit.