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New models - BMW - 3 Series - 323i Touring

First drive: New 3 Series Touring is a true BMW

Dusted off: BMW's 323i badge returns - but where's the diesel Touring?

BMW revives the 323i badge, for its redesigned E91 Touring and the base E90 sedan

BMW logo28 Jun 2006

BMW has released its second fifth-generation 3 Series bodystyle. Dubbed E91 in BMW-speak, the German-built 323i Touring (sedans are sourced from South Africa) replaces the E46 320i Touring as the company’s compact luxury wagon combatant.

Prices start at $68,900 for the six-speed manual, with the six-speed automatic model beginning at $71,500. The move sees the revival of the famous 323i badge on a BMW, dormant since October 2000.

It is also found on the 323i four-door sedan, BMW’s new entry-level six-cylinder sedan.

At $64,800 for the manual, the 323i fills the gap between the $61,500 320d Executive and the $73,400 325i, which continues.

Both 323i models are powered by the same 2.5-litre, magnesium alloy, twin-cam, 24-valve, Valvetronic in-line six-cylinder engine found in the 325i.

However, it has been detuned to deliver 130kW of power at 5800rpm and 230Nm of torque at 3500rpm.

This contrasts to the 160kW and 250Nm boasted by the 325i, delivered at 6500rpm and 2750rpm respectively.

Inevitably, performance drops in the 323i sedan vis-à-vis 325i sedan, taking 0.9 seconds longer from standstill to 100km/h (7.9 seconds – 8.8 for the auto), and lopping off 16km/h from the 325i manual’s 245km/h top speed (325i auto: 242km/h).

At 8.4 litres per 100km (9.0L/100km for the auto), fuel consumption remains static.

In the 323i Touring, the 0-100km/h sprint time takes 8.2 seconds (auto: 9.0 seconds) on its way to a 227km/h maximum velocity (auto: 224km/h).

14 center imageBy comparison, the old E46 320i Touring’s 2.2-litre in-line six-cylinder engine developed 125kW at 6100rpm and 210Nm at 3500rpm, facilitating a 8.9 second 0-100km/h dash time (auto: 9.8 seconds) and a 223km/h top speed (auto: 213km/h).

Meanwhile, the 323i Touring’s average fuel consumption is 8.6 litres per 100km, or 9.2 for the automatic, a significant improvement over the old car.

Carbon dioxide emissions are 208g/km and 222g/km respectively.

Although from the windscreen forward the Touring is pure E90 sedan, from there back the body is bespoke.

Underneath, the aluminium double-joint front axle and five-arm rear axle MacPherson strut suspension set-up is also sedan-derived.

Espousing a 35mm-longer wheelbase, the E90 323i Touring is 42mm longer at 4520mm, 78mm wider at 1817mm, and 9mm higher at 1418mm, than its E46 predecessor.

Yet, at 1470kg (auto: 1500kg), the new wagon is 15kg lighter despite having a 25 per cent stiffer body.

Luggage capacity is also up, by 25 litres to 460 litres seats-up, expanding to 1385 litres with the split/fold rear seats folded. Aiding this is a sizeable underfloor area, thanks to the elimination of a spare wheel and jack for 250km/80kmh-rated runflat tyres.

Versatility also grows, thanks to standard roof racks and a separate opening rear window which, when opened, automatically retracts the cargo cover. A proliferation of tie-down hooks, a 12-volt socket and luggage fastening straps are also present.

Equipment levels in both 323i models include stability control, anti-lock brakes and a trio of safety-related BMW acronyms (DBC: Dynamic Brake Control, CBC: Cornering Brake Control and ASC+T: Automatic Stability Control and Traction).

Six airbags, leather upholstery, cruise control, rear parking radar, climate control air-conditioning, Bluetooth mobile phone preparation, CD audio, rain-sensing wipers, auto-on/off headlights, remote central locking, a multi-function steering wheel, DataDot technology, are also standard.

A luggage compartment option is also available on the Touring, consisting of a partition for the recess beneath the floor, floor and side-panel nets and a washable plastic cover on the underside of the floor, for muddy objects etc.

As with all E90 3 Series models, options like an i-Drive controller, DVD navigation, automatic cruise control, voice-activated controls and a $5500 M Sport bodykit and cabin enhancement are also available.

BMW believes the $8600 saving the 323i sedan represents over the 325i sedan will expand the six-cylinder 3 Series sales portfolio extensively.

Around 120 323i Touring sales are slated in the model’s first 12 months, and the new wagon is expected to attract new buyers from non-BMW luxury SUVs as well as cheaper premium imports.

Talking rivals, the 323i Touring is flanked by three Audi A4 Avants, the $53,550 96kW/195Nm 2.0 CVT auto, $59,200 120kW/225Nm 1.8 Turbo CVT auto and $67,000 147kW/280Nm 2.0 Turbo FSI quattro manual, as well as a pair of 120kW/240Nm 1.8-litre supercharged C200 and 150kW/245Nm 2.5-litre V6 C230 Estates autos from Mercedes-Benz. These range from $68,990 to $80,490.

2006 BMW E90 323i sedan and E91 323i Touring prices:

323i sedan - $64,800
323i sedan (a) - $67,400
323i Touring - $68,900
323i Touring (a) - $71,500

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