The Best Budget-Friendly German Sports Sedan?
Produced from December of 2004 to October of 2013, the BMW E90 will forever be one of the best 3 series platforms to be offered by the German geniuses at BMW. For all of us fans of high displacement, the E90 holds a special place in our hearts as the first and last BMW 3 series to boast a 4.0L naturally aspirated V8 (the S65 engine). Closely related to the E90 sedan, an E91 wagon, E92 coupe, and E93 convertible were also offered. But we're here to talk about the classic, four-door sedan!
Ever since my father brought home his first BMW —a Silver 2007 335xi —I was determined to buy one of my own. After spending my early years landscaping, repairing cracked phones, and running a small consignment business, I had saved just enough to buy my first car: a 2007, black on black, RWD, 6-speed manual transmission BMW 328i. Equipped with the naturally aspirated 2.8L straight-six N52, this 328i wasn't quite as snappy as my dad's twin-turbocharged 335xi with the infamous N54 engine, but it was certainly much more reliable!
My father's 335xi was sold in a state of disrepair related to the turbos, and the kicker is it had significantly less miles than my 328i did! If I recall correctly, the 335 had practically half as many miles as the 328 when it was sold. This was an underrated perk of the less powerful (but also less costly) 328 model. A solid, trustworthy engine that wouldn't leave you stranded. This reliability combined with stellar fuel economy made the E90 a phenomenal roadtrip vehicle when not carving up the backroads. Which leads to another underrated topic: steering! The E90 was the last BMW 3 series to have real hydraulic steering. This iconic, heavy hydraulic steering has been replaced with less desirable electronic steering in newer models. Electronic steering allows for some sort've cool features like speed proportional steering to make parking and low speed maneuvers easier, but at the cost of disconnectedness between man and machine. In my opinion, the ultimate driving machine needs to have real hydraulic steering for the best driving experience. This is something I often miss about the E90.
Aside from a stout, torquey engine and stellar handling characteristics, what else makes the E90 such a great choice? Well, as long as no major problems arise, it's friendly on your wallet too. Depending on your budget, the legendary E90 M3 and the zippy 335 models can be surprisingly affordable, but the 325 and 328 models are super budget friendly. Because of how popular the E90 3 series was, there's tons of 'um out there for sale — many of which are still in good shape. 325's and 328's can be found on Facebook Marketplace and other sites for just a couple thousand bucks (usually anywhere from $3000-7000 depending on condition). That's like a quarter of the cost of new Toyota Camry or Honda Civic!
For a couple thousand bucks, you get a car that can do a lot. Somewhat predictably, the E90 is great at handling through twisty roads and tight corners. However, it's also an unsuspectingly good utility vehicle too! The rear seats fold down to create a massive cargo area that you could practically sleep in laying down, roof-rack mounting points allow for a range of accessories to be used (I often mounted up my skis or mountain bike), and —if equipped with an optional tow hitch — the E90 can even tow a low of up to 4000 lbs! How many sports sedans can do that?
Overall, the E90 is just a really fun and practical vehicle. From carving backroads to roadtripping and hauling gear, this car can do it all. And on a budget too! There's few cars that look this good, perform this well, and offer such great versatility for just a couple thousand bucks! If you're looking into used sport sedans (or sport wagons for that matter), give the E9X lineup a look!
N52 328i and 325i never came in 2.8L, only 3.0L in the states and 2.5L was available in other countries.
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