Wednesday 30th January 2013


The real successor to the E30 M3 or a marketing exercise for the gullible? We err on the former...

Depending on where you stand appreciation of the E90 BMW 320Si marks you out either as a discerning enthusiast for motorsport-honed homologation specials. Or the biggest sap to ever worship at the altar of 'race on Sunday, sell on Monday' marketing nonsense.

Si was a homologation model for WTCC glory
Si was a homologation model for WTCC glory
For those of us in the former camp the Si is one of the cooler homologation cars ever built and an elegant riposte to those for whom bottom line horsepower figures and mine's bigger than yours displacement seem to be the only arbiter of performance credibility. It could, at a push, even be considered the nearest BMW has ever actually come to building a spiritual successor to the E30 M3 and much closer to that car's core values than anything that's worn that badge since.

The very real danger you could, were it not for those lovely 18-inch Motorsport wheels, lose your treasured Si among the 320d throng crowded outside any given service station on the British motorway network is one of the many cool things about it. Likewise the perverse pleasure in the fact that for all its purist WTCC connections it's not actually that fast. Skins of rice puddings - and, indeed, most hot hatch drivers - have little to fear from its 173hp or 147lb ft of torque. 0-62mph of 8.1 seconds. Nor, in fact, do 320d drivers, who have a couple of tenths and diesel torque in hand.

Carbon cam cover among the upgrades
Carbon cam cover among the upgrades
It's the kind of engine that needs its neck wringing to really make progress - GT86 doubters need not apply - but, happily, it's built for exactly that. In an age of heavy-nosed, low-rev sluggers this zingy, revvy four-cylinder 3 Series is a real revelation and, perhaps, a more relevant performance car than many 'real' M cars. That it had to be built, probably to the dismay of the sales and marketing department, to allow the motorsport division to win at WTCC (Andy Priaulx taking the 2005 crown in the Si) is deeply cool to the more rebellious among us too.

And, oh, the geekery! Like the fact the homologation roots mean a more oversquare configuration (bore up by 1mm, stroke reduced by 2mm), bigger intake and exhaust valves and ditching Valvetronic for cleaner high-rev response. Or that the cylinder head was cast in the same facility as F1 engines. And the carbon cam cover (you don't have that on a 320d...) helps save 10kg and lower the centre of gravity.

Private Le Mans Blue example looks good
Private Le Mans Blue example looks good
Just be responsible about how, with whom and where you deploy such critical information. Women will literally throw themselves at you. As they rush for the door.

Having made the case for why you might want one here's an example of one you could actually buy. There are five currently listed in the classifieds, including two at BMW main dealers for, respectively, £8,995 and £9,850 and with respectable mileages. For the 49K on the clock and rather smart Le Mans blue paintwork this privately offered example for £8,500 looks rather tempting though, even if the fuzzy pics mean you'd probably want to check it out in the metal first. Given an equivalent 'regular' 320i isn't much cheaper and a similar vintage main dealer 320d can cost a couple of grand more there's no excuse not to indulge your inner geek and make like Priaulx.

BMW 320Si (E90)
1,998cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power (hp): 173@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 147@4,250rpm
MPG: 31.7mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 223g/km
First registered: 2006
Recorded mileage: 49,700
Price new: £24,975
Yours for: £8,500

See the original advert here.




Author: Dan Trent
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