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

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. Find a BMW 325ix for sale

 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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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. My 325 ix has not been driven since 2003 still starts on the button. Its got one rust spot on  the boot lid under the spoiler, was looking to sell it but no idea what it’s worth

  2. IIRC, these were outrageously expensive when new…like $50K-ish, right?  Compared to say mid-$30K for a regular E30…i think this was a big reason why the iX wasn’t so popular.

  3. Sold mine for $6k in 2004. It was a1990 Dark grey sedan, stick shift.  Regret it weekly. I’ve tried to contact the Wisconsin owner for years without success, I still have his email. It’s the car in which I gave my fiancée our first kiss.

  4. What if I told you that you could drive a rear-wheel drive BMW in the winter? Most BMWs have a pretty good weight balance so there’s plenty of traction in the rear. All you need are some good snow tires. There are plenty of people who daily drive BMW M5’s in the winter, and people in Europe have been driving RWD cars in the winter for decades now, all while laughing at the silly Americans that demand a 4WD SUV to drive when there’s an inch of snow on the ground.

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