Richard Aucock
27/08/2009 10:46 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

BMW 325i million-mile car review

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

Model: BMW E30 325i
Bodystyle: three-door saloon
Engine: 170hp 2.5-litre six-cylinder
Transmission: four-speed automatic

GALLERY: million-mile BMW 325i
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What is it?

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

Going round the clock was once a feat few cars managed. Owners would even photograph the change from 99,000 miles back to 0, it was so momentous. It's far easier nowadays, thanks to solidly built motors. So, what's big about this BMW going round the clock? Well, its clock contains six digits...

That's right - 1,000,000 miles, on the very same engine it left the factory with. The feat was achieved by Mobil 1, to prove its engine oil really does minimise wear. It put the 325i on a rolling road, and ran it non-stop for four years. Then, after proof was provided, it was put back together and sent to us.

Where does it fit?

Million mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

The BMW 325i was once the Yuppie's express of choice. Those moving up from a MkII Golf GTI defaulted to it, helping establish the 3 Series' sporting reputation. And, speaking of reputations, with 170hp, but weighing what a Clio does today, the rear-driver sure was fast. Too fast for some, who then discovered the lack of electronic safety aids...

The intention wasn't to do that with this car. There was nothing to stop us - this museum piece has covered over 40,000 miles on the road since its challenge, and is still used as hard as ever. The plan, however, was to simply drive it. And discover just what cars are like after a million miles.

Is it for you?

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

This car is not for shrinking violets. It is white. It is left-hand drive. It has bright red leather. It has huge Mobil 1 graphics across almost every surface. It is a mobile billboard for engine oil. It's right to shout, though. Just as few experience 200mph cars, it's rare to encounter million-milers.

Nobody needs a 200mph car. They sell because the engineering required to do so makes them brilliant. Same here. It's the simple feeling of knowing 'it could'. Indeed, has. It's a walking billboard for the anti-scrappage, make use of what you've got brigade. See: modern cars really CAN be this tough...

What does it do well?

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

It performs unfeasibly well for a car with 1,041,000 miles on the clock. It's saddled by the auto gearbox, yet still manages to thrive and be lively. Sounds are delicious and there's not a single dodgy rattle or whine in evidence. The six-digit speedo currently reads '041000'. That's what you'd swear it's covered.

If you're coming from a modern 3 Series, this feels so much more compact. The handling is a bit soft, but steering feel is sublime and it's exceedingly easy to place. The ride is decent too, and the cockpit has all the driver-focused feel BMWs used to be famed for. The star, though, is that million-mile motor..

What doesn't it do well?

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

By modern standards, it's noisy, the ride can be sudden and it doesn't half lean into corners. Press on and the rear-drive handling really can feel uneasy, too; remember, there are no safety nets here to catch you. Brakes are no great shakes, either.

All of these are not faults with this car, but of 20-year-old models in general. Therefore, its biggest failing is to show that cars can actually last. If everyone thus stopped buying cars, progress would be frozen. Cars would get no safer, no cleaner, no better. We'd become set in time. This risk is that this BMW gives power-wielders ideas...

What's it like to live with?

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

It's just like any classic 3 Series. Just one that's covered a million miles. We know it's hardly insightful, to say 'you'd never think it'... but there's just not a single giveaway. Smoke? Glowing oil pressure light? Lethargic performance? All missing. That's posh oil and BMW engineering for you, alright. Proof that it is worth spending a bit more..?

Elsewhere, the seats are extremely hard in this car, but supportive, and thin pillars mean superb visibility. The dated dash is clear, it has rudimentary but still working electrical bits, the boot is big; it is only really an appalling lack of rear space that lets daily use down.

How green is it?

Million-mile BMW 325i (© Image © Motoring Research)

Recycling is all well and good - but, like refilling a glass water bottle, there's nothing as satisfying as reusing. Imagine, then, if you drove a whopping 50,000 miles a year. You could do so, for 20 years, IN THE SAME CAR - as this BMW proves. Some say this is far greener than building new.

There is another side, though. This BMW probably averages 25mpg. Today, you can get a diesel 3 Series, with yet more power, that's even faster/bigger/safer/comfier - that uses half the fuel and emits a fraction of the emissions. So, in one sense, you'll struggle to get greener. But not in another...

Would we buy it?
We'll never get the chance to... but, if we were, we wouldn't mind. Why? Because it's a demonstration of just how good cars actually are. With the right servicing, they genuinely will go on and on... and not feel like they will athesmatically keel over when they do so, either.

If you want, you thus genuinely can have your own timewarp car. Buy something, treat it right, take care of it, and it'll last as long as you do. Question is, with the constant lure of the new, would you really want to? Although this BMW is fun, given the choice, we'd take a modern car any time...

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