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E90/E91/E92/E93 (2006 - 2013)
The E9X is the 4th evolution of the BMW 3 series including a highly tuned twin turbo 335i variant pushing out 300hp and 300 ft. lbs. of torque. BMW continues to show that it sets the bar for true driving performance! -- View the E9X Wiki

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  #1  
Old 05-30-2005, 04:59 PM
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The HACK The HACK is offline
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Drove the E90 325i @ Irvine BMW

Since they gave us an early afternoon off on Memorial day weekend, I decided to head on down the street to Irvine BMW to see PhillipeK and try to wrangle an E90 for an extended test drive instead of dealing with the traffic on the 5 freeway back home. Since Doeboy and Kaz both work in the area, I decided to call and see if we can arrange a group test drive.

Anyway, PhillipeK was gracious enough to go hunt down the ONLY E90 they have on the lot that hasn't been sold already, a sparking graphite E90 325iA with sports and premium. Irvine can't seem to keep their E90s on the lot and they're flying off the lot like crazy, just that 1/2 hour that I was out with PhillipeK, we got paged a few times to return the car for test drive.

First impressions, and I'm sure you have all heard/seen the pictures enough times...The sparkling graphite is remeniscent of the old steele grey, except with more "depth" to the color. It's darker yet under direct sunlight, a deep tone from a light grey to a dark grey. The "flame surfaced" grooves and curves on the car accentuate this color. Oddly enough, I think very basic, monochromatic tones no longer work on the E90 like it did for the E46. If you are going to get a grey, make sure you get a grey with a hint of color in it. Titanium silver and black both look rather plain with the lines on the E90. The overall proportions are BMW like, and there's no way you'd mistaken it for anything else. The only thing I don't like about the newer BMW designs, is that from a 3/4 view off the ground, they tend to look tall. The E60, 65, 85, 90 all need to be appreciated from the point of view of another driver. If you're standing up and looking down on the newer BMW designs, it looks weird.

Actually, the BEST point of view for the E90 is behind the steering wheels of one. I like the interior dash layout, the two simple dials shows you exactly what you need to know, with all the little peripheral information easily available at the touch of the signal stalk. An odd feature I noticed that was present on the E90 but not on the E60, 65, and 85, is that the dash is slightly oriented driver side. The entire dash curves out a little further on the passenger side, thus the radio and center console is actually facing the driver at a very slight angle...I don't know if it's an optical illusion, but the buttons are 10X easier to reach on the E90 than the E85, which has a much smaller interior but very flat dash.

Fire up the engine with a simple press of the button, and you're presented with a VERY muted tone from the engine. As far as exhaust noise and engine noise is concerned, it's hard to even tell if the engine is on at 3,000 RPMs. I'd like it more if they had put in a throatier exhaust, or pipe in engine noise ala E85 3.0s. Makes shifting much easier by the pitch of the engine. But on an automatic, it probably didn't make an iota of difference, when it upshifts for you as you approach redline. The first thing that came to mind, and out of PhillipeK's mouth, was that we need to take this to an autocross course. Fresh out of the box the suspension and chassis is very tight. Not as tossible as the Z4, but a lot more planted and stable around the corner. The 17" run-flats aren't as rough as the 18" run-flats on the Z4, I think the suspension is tuned to be much softer than the purposefully built Z4. But as we took the various local streets at some pretty insane speeds, PhillipeK remains the only car salesman that's not even the slightest bit frightened by my street manners (although, to be honest...My steering input and throttle input is probably 100X smoother than what he's used to with the "regular" customers he'd get). Took an on-ramp at probably near the maximum speed possible, throttle steering it to get it to point to the exit properly...And although the car rotated fine, it's not like my daily drive or my old 323Ci where you will feel the rear end wiggle as you ease in and out of throttle...It's more of a smooth transition as you feather the throttle. A big smile crept up my face and I keep thinking, man, I can't wait to take one to the track. They've taken the guess work out of throttle steering, and the car rotates so nicely you'd think it's designed to be driven ON THE TRACK. Steering wheel feels like it's smaller in diamter and thicker, with nicely weighted steering (car has no Active Steering) that feels like pre-wussified E46 steering and better dead on center feel. The electronic, valvetronic throttle responds quickly under WOT, and kicks alive past 3,000 RPM. In fact, it revved up so quickly it took me by surprise, I ran out of 1st gear much quicker than I had anticipated and the car upshifted.

Then we pulled into Doeboy's work parking lot next to the DSP, Doeboy joined us and we poped the hood and inspected various parts of the car. Hm...interesting oil cap design, is that a HINGE we see? Yes indeed. No more losing the cap in the engine compartment and making a mess, the cap is hinged right on the oil filler. Pop open the cover for the brake reservoir, and the reservoir is about 50% larger than the E46 reservoir. Must be a more powerful brake booster, the brakes feel like they're a touch too sensitive for track applications. Then I proceeded to get on the ground and check out the underside of the car (or the little of it I can see), and the front and rear suspensions are completely redesigned. Gone are the L-shaped lower control arm in the front, and the L-shaped trailing arm in the back. The front appears to have multiple links but I couldn't see enough to confirm, the rears are definitely an upgraded, 5 link suspension. The dual climate is a very welcome upgrade for those of you/us with spouse or s.o., and the rear leg room is a big improvement over the E46. Headroom seems to have improved, but the side room remained approximately the same.

There are a lot of interior niceties that could've brought the base price up much higher, but the vehicle as tested stickered at $38,000, pretty much along the same pricing if you had fully optioned out an E46 325i...Except that this 3.0 liter "325" is a lot stronger than the 2.5 liter in the 325i. The 325i feels almost as strong as the E46 330iA, with a flatter torque curve and just a hair less get-up-and-go under 3,000. But past 3,000 RPM that engine clicks to life and pulls just as strongly as the E46 330iA. Even the base vehicle at $29,000+ offers a lot of little items that the E46 didn't, stuff like rear cup holders and rear ventilation, rear reading lights, dual climate...etc. The interior material quality is definately a small step down from the E46, but a step up from the E85...There seems to be more give to the plastic/vinyl above the dash, although there's still that somewhat un-natural feeling about them.

I told PhillipeK that overall I give it an A-. Mostly because we couldn't score a 330iM for the test drive. I can over-look a lot of minor inconveniences for the abundance of features thrown into the E90, but I can't live with the steptronic transmission for a long time. Granted, it's a great unit for what it is, an automatic, but it is a piece of sh*t automatic none-the-less. The only automatic that I have ever driven that comes close to impressing me, was the unit on the 7 series. Alas, that did not trickle down to the 3s.

If I was in the market for a car to replace my wife's 323Ci in this price range ($35-$40K), I would be back at Irvine today with a deposit in my hand. Can't wait to see what the coupe is going to look like.
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  #2  
Old 05-30-2005, 05:06 PM
PhilH PhilH is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The HACK
The only automatic that I have ever driven that comes close to impressing me, was the unit on the 7 series. Alas, that did not trickle down to the 3s.
I sort of have the same opinion when I drive my dad's 540iA. I think it probably has more to do with the torque of the V8 than the transmission.

I'm looking forward to instrumented testing of the 325i 6-spd manual from the magazines. I bet it's going to be pretty quick.
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  #3  
Old 05-30-2005, 05:09 PM
Mathew Mathew is offline
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Is there a Cliff Notes version?

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  #4  
Old 05-30-2005, 11:51 PM
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doeboy doeboy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathew
Is there a Cliff Notes version?

Ask Cliff if he's read through it all yet...
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  #5  
Old 05-30-2005, 11:55 PM
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doeboy doeboy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The HACK
Then we pulled into Doeboy's work parking lot next to the DSP, Doeboy joined us and we poped the hood and inspected various parts of the car.
DHP. Get it right...

Quote:
Must be a more powerful brake booster, the brakes feel like they're a touch too sensitive for track applications.
Just means the driver has to be smoother with the pedal inputs.
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  #6  
Old 05-31-2005, 10:00 AM
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The HACK The HACK is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilH
I sort of have the same opinion when I drive my dad's 540iA. I think it probably has more to do with the torque of the V8 than the transmission.

I'm looking forward to instrumented testing of the 325i 6-spd manual from the magazines. I bet it's going to be pretty quick.
The 7 series automatic transmission programming/brain is amazing. The one time I drove it I kept thinking that it's predicting when I want to downshift from my pedal movement. Could be that massive V-8 and it's torque doing wonders, but out of all the automatics I've ever tested, the E65 had the best automatic.
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  #7  
Old 05-31-2005, 10:03 AM
The HACK's Avatar
The HACK The HACK is offline
Rest in peace, Coach
Location: People's Republic of United States
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
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Mein Auto: '06 MZ4C, '09 WRX Wagon
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mathew
Is there a Cliff Notes version?

Plus: Engine, little quirky add-ons like hinged oil filler cap, beefier suspension mounts, better suspension, dual climate, rear passenger vent, better steering and better throttle response than E46, does everything the E46 does but BETTER. Very tight chassis.

Minus: Can't hear the exhaust. BMW should use the same engine sound generator they used in the E85.
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:08 AM
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doeboy doeboy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The HACK
Minus: Can't hear the exhaust. BMW should use the same engine sound generator they used in the E85.
Just put a "Sounds of F1" CD into the radio and be done with it...
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  #9  
Old 05-31-2005, 10:18 AM
john4.4x5 john4.4x5 is offline
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Location: Texas, USA
 
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Mein Auto: 06 330i & 07 CLS 63 AMG
Quote:
Originally Posted by The HACK
The 7 series automatic transmission programming/brain is amazing. The one time I drove it I kept thinking that it's predicting when I want to downshift from my pedal movement. Could be that massive V-8 and it's torque doing wonders, but out of all the automatics I've ever tested, the E65 had the best automatic.
I have driven a 2005 745i SP and a 2005 745Li Non-SP. Their transmission is very nicely programmed for adaptive intelligence as well as smooth shifts. I assumed this tranny is the same unit for the new gen R6 I-6 engines.

However, being the owner of a 2005 CLK500 with the new 7-speed auto , it is a HAIR smarter and smoother believe it or not. Downshifts from 7 directly to 3 are amazing.
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