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BMW 325iX: BMW's Little Known All-Wheel Drive Beginnings

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2017

In today's world where people want one vehicle that's a truck, a car, an SUV, a sports car, a family car and a minivan -- all in one -- we kind of take for granted that BMW offers all-wheel drive in every car they sell. Of course they do! They have to appeal to people in the north, snow people; people who want to drive a BMW despite the fact that they live in a place where the three most common types of home are brick, timber and igloo.

But this wasn't always the case. Back when I was a kid, growing up in Colorado, nobody really had BMWs, because they were all rear-wheel drive, so they didn't work in the snow. Then, when the X5 came out in 2000, people started flocking to them: You could finally have BMW performance with all-weather capabilities! It was a revelation! And then came the all-wheel-drive 3 Series, and eventually the all-wheel-drive 5 and 7 Series, and now everything is all-wheel-drivable.

But before all that, there was the 325iX.

The 325iX debuted in the U.S. for the 1988 model year, and it lasted until 1991 -- and it was a major anomaly: In the world of rear-wheel-drive E30 models, it was the only one with all-wheel drive. It was apparently BMW's test bed to see if people were interested in all-wheel drive, and apparently it failed, because they didn't revisit AWD for another decade.

But for people in cold, northern climates, it was a great car: You basically got the handling, the size and the experience of an E30 3 Series, but with all-weather-traction capabilities. I think every single one of them was sold in Colorado and the Northeast, all driven by people who thought they'd spend their whole lives in front-wheel-drive cars, using chains every time it snowed.

Offered in two- or four-door form, the E30 325iX was distinguishable from the standard 3 Series in two basic ways. One was the slightly flared fenders and larger rocker panels, which gave it more of a utilitarian, can-do look. The other was the wheels: The iX had different wheels from the standard model; a subtle change, but enough of a revision that eagle-eyed E30 enthusiasts can tell them apart.

These days, a clean E30 325iX is impossible to find -- and they aren't especially sought-after, as the "E30 tuner crowd" prefers rear-wheel-drive cars for their handling and drifting capabilities. Presumably, however, there are a few out there. They're all in Colorado or Vermont. And they all have ski racks attached to them.

 Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

Photo credit: Mr.choppers

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BMW 325iX: BMW's Little Known All-Wheel Drive Beginnings - Autotrader