With the shock of the oil embargo finally wearing off, more and more car enthusiasts considered the idea of forgoing fuel economy for better performance. The answer to this growing demand came in the form of the BMW 325i. First introduced in 1987, the 325i was derived as a modification to the already popular 2nd generation BMW 3 series. Although the 325i looked similar to the original 2nd gen E30, the difference lies under its hood. The new BMW 325i abandoned the concept of a reduced-rev/high-fuel-mileage "eta" engine and was replaced with a more powerful bay.
1987: A BMW sports car like no other
The BMW 325i was more popularly coined as the first genuinely sporting BMW since the 200tii. This was all because of the modified eta engine that was commonly seen as definitive of the same M20 family. However, the slight differences between the two BMW models were the reasons why the 325i became one of the most powerful 3 series model during its debut. Aside from the addition of a fuel injection system, the 325i engine was also defined by a shorter stroke—down to 6mm stroke from the eta engine at 75mm. This allowed the rev range to open up an additional 500 rpm that boosted power output to 168 hp. With a test drive resulting in 60 mph in just 7.4 seconds, the introduction of the BMW 325i was a success and it produced a considerable following in the small sport sedan market.
1988: Power in a convertible and all-wheel drive
The popularity of the BMW325i’s power prompted the release of other models that had the same exhibited performance in different car types. Following the introduction of the sedan, BMW decided to adapt the 325i engine into both convertible and all-wheel drive models. The 325iC convertible was the first pure convertible offered in the 3 series and was introduced roughly the same year as the original 325i. The following year BMW debut the all-wheel drive 325iX, which was the 325i's highly touted luxury sports model that gained a following amongst younger drivers.
1992 - 1993: A more powerful engine for the BMW 325i
If the 168 hp featured in the 325i engine wasn't enough, BMW decided to up the notch during the early 90s with another modification in its engine bay. The new DOHC 24-valve aluminum head found under its hood increased output to a new high of 189 hp. The previous record of 7.4 seconds for 60 mph was now replaced with 6.9 seconds. The new BMW 325i was now running fast that ever and even covered a quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 91 mph.
1994: The BMW 325i's style revolution
While other generations of the BMW 325i featured upgrades done under its hood, the 1994 model saw changes in its exterior. The sedan coupe now had a more steeply laidback front windshield and rear window. Together with these changes and its A-pillar back, the 325i coupe looked liked a completely different car. The typical sedan exterior that was adapted to the 1994 model made the BMW 325i more comforting and relaxed. However, its new image similar to a family sedan brought mixed views to most critics. While some believed that the new image made the car more approachable to buyers, critics cited that BMW could have been more radical with the coupe.
1996-2006: A popular performing engine that lasted 10 years
Towards the end of the 90s, the 2.5-liter engine in both the 325i and 325iS was upgraded to a 2.8-liter inline-6. However, this engine change also prompted to the rechristening of the BMW 325i to 328i. It was later rereleased with a more robust 3.0 liter, 215-horsepower engine, and a Steptronic transmission. The same specifications lasted until its last year of manufacturing in 2006.