During our recent stint with the 2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe prototype, we also had the chance to explore and drive an iconic BMW – the E36 BMW 325i. But this was not your typical E36 3 Series, but rather one refined by the folks at BMW Individual.
This E36 BMW 325i in Violet Metallic hails from the stables of BMW Group Classic in Munich featuring a comprehensive rehaul, both on the outside and inside. The car is essentially new, with just 11,600 kilometers on the odometer, and it was used sporadically for media scenic drives.
An Exclusive Interior
Let’s start with the interior since it’s quite striking. The cockpit greets the driver with an almost completely analog speedometer, with only the onboard computer providing digital information, such as the mileage. The fact that several monochrome displays light up in the center console is due to the extensive special equipment of this car.
The steering wheel, with its relatively thin rim and without a single button, also looks like a little journey through time. It’s also covered in the same Violet Metallic color with the center section in a black contrasting color. The manual knob also gets the same violet treatment, again surrounded by black panels.
It’s the seats that steal the show though. A two tone combination between purple and violet is something that you rarely see in a BMW, but in this case, it works. It’s quite unique, without being flashy, and inspires spirited driving.
The Violet Paint – Different Hues At Different Times Of The Day
First of all, this is not the Techno Violet that we’ve seen before, especially on the E36 M3. It’s a significantly lighter shade of violet, and one that changes hues based on the lighting conditions. It can be quite vibrant under the sun, and a bit purplish in the shade.
Regardless of the angle, this E36 BMW 325i looks the part. It brings a combination of exclusiveness, sportiness and elegance in a single package, and it would make a proud addition to any car collector’s garage.
A Trip Back In Time
If you turn the key to start the engine – there was of course no start-stop button yet – the inline six-cylinder from the M50 engine family comes to life. Within seconds, you can feel the “unfiltered” driving experience of the 90s. The steering system provides an amazing amount of feedback, informing the driver of any bumps and faults in the road surface.
The wind noise is clearly noticeable even at speeds below 100 km/h, whereas in today’s 3 or 4 Series you are almost completely isolated from the outside world. Furthermore, another major differentiator from today’s BMWs is the tires. In this case, 205 size wrapped around 15 inch wheels, which look comically tiny by today’s standards.
Another important difference concerns the all-round view because the thin pillars of the body and the large glass surfaces allow a clearer view of the surroundings in front of, next to and behind the vehicle. That is a good thing, because our test car naturally does not have a blind spot assistant, parking sensors or reversing camera. After all, it doesn’t have an infotainment screen to display the images.
Practically, all electronic driving aids, with the exception of ABS, are also not on board. The electronic stability control, which has meanwhile been expanded with countless sub-functions and has been standard for a long time, was installed in our BMW 3 Series E36 with a simple approach.
If you want a different driving experience, use the selector lever of the five-speed gearbox, downshifts two gears and goes full throttle!
The downshift should not be forgotten because the naturally-aspirated six-cylinder requires speed. Below 3,000 revolutions per minute, the propulsion is kept within narrow limits – and it should be briefly remembered that the BMW 325i was the top model below the M3 at the time.
The 1995 BMW 328i with 193 hp was also only slightly faster. While today’s top model below the upcoming M4 is called M440i and accelerates to 100 km/h in around 4 seconds, a factory specification of 7.9 seconds in 1994 was still a real breakthrough. All four-cylinder engines needed over 10 seconds at the time to reach 100 km/h.
Of course, it’s not only the engine and acceleration that made the E36 BMW 325i quite special. Thanks to balanced weight distribution, rear-wheel drive and an unladen weight of hardly more than 1,300 kilograms, the E36 325i is a hoot to drive and throw into corners.
In the end, it’s a completely different driving experience from today’s BMWs, somehow more honest and direct. While modern cars forgive the driver’s many small mistakes, driving skills are still the focus of E36 325i.
After all, electronic helpers are not included on board.