By on June 12, 2009

I am turning to the B & B for some new (used) car advice. My current bad weather bomber is a 2004 Jeep Liberty (I ride a bike on any and all good weather days). While it’s served me well, the commute is becoming Novocain for my soul. That and summer trends for higher prices at the pumps is a pain. I’ve narrowed my search down to two finalists: 2002 BMW 325Ci or a 2002 Subaru WRX wagon. The bimmer appeals to my inner snob, while the subie to my inner hoon. Both have around 200k (km’s not miles) but both pack a 2-year warranty. With the Subaru I get the AWD for Toronto’s increasingly snowy winters and the convenience of a wagon for schlepping just about anything I want. The 3 Series was/is the ultimate driving machine. Both run on premium juice, but beat the Jeep hands down for fuel (and fun) efficiency. The WRX has a $2K price advantage, too, but lacks the leather lap o’ luxury the Bavarian boasts. Feature for feature, it’s BMW all the way, but the toys all come at a high price (of maintenance). So what say TTAC’s panel of experts? Test drives start tonight!

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69 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: 2002 BMW 325Ci or a 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon?...”

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    This is a case where car choices are like women choices? The high-maintenance, drop-dead blonde, or the reliable-if-mousy brunette.

    Life is short.

    If you don’t go for the Bimmer, just like the blonde that you didn’t pursue because you thought she was out of your league, you’ll always wonder how it would have been if you did….

  • avatar

    I used to have absolutely no respect for the 325. I couldn’t understand why anyone would spend all that money on a BMW, and then go for the anemic engine option – then I drove one. All I can say is that I was converted. For what it lacks on paper, the engine is smooth, the chassis is perfect, and the car seemed very well put together.

    Granted, buying either of those cars with such high mileage (kilometerage?) would normally be a big no-no in my book, but since it sounds like the bike is your primary means of transportation and this is just a backup, so you won’t be putting that many miles on it and won’t be put out if it ends up in the shop for a few days here and there, go with the BMW.

  • avatar

    If you don’t go for the Bimmer, just like the blonde that you didn’t pursue because you thought she was out of your league, you’ll always wonder how it would have been if you did….

    Just tell yourself that the dude who did pursue that blonde is totally sick of her shit by now.

    (Subie all the way.)

  • avatar

    If this is your bad weather backup, it seems the Soob is the shoe in. BTW, what kind of money are we talking here?

    I agree with Strippo – stick with the reliable brunette. The fun with the blonde doesn’t last forever, but the high maintenance costs do.

  • avatar

    I’d say buy the Subie. It’s a great drive, will serve you better for those utilitarian needs, and maintenance/service won’t break the bank. BMWs are great driving machines, but when the miles (or kilometers) start piling up, they start needing things. And a BMW that needs things isn’t very economical. Engine and tranny will be reliable in the Bimmer, but little stuff like window regulators, gasket failures, and other little nickel and dime stuff will wear on you. I think for the 2 grand you save by purchasing the Subie, you could put some nice aftermarket leather in it and be completely satisfied all around.

  • avatar

    Just tell yourself that the dude who did pursue that blonde is totally sick of her sh*t by now.

    Reasonably well-put, but given the age of both these cars you’re not looking at low repair and replacement costs, even for the Subie, and especially if it’s lived a rough life. The words “glass transmission” come to mind.

    I used to live in Toronto, and I knew a lot of people with WRXs, and they were not kind to them, where 325Ci’s were probably bought by less stress-inducing owners who, as long as they kept up with the maintenance, probably saw their cars suffer no more than the occasional club-district parking lot keying at 2am.

    If you are absolutely sure the Subaru was owned by someone who just took it, their SO and their dog to Blue Mountain or Tremblant, then sure. If it’s on it’s second owner and either is under 25, be afraid and seriously consider the Bimmer.

    If I may make the obligatory “choice that’s not one of those you listed” (don’t you hate it when TTAC’ers do this?), have you considered a Mazda6? It’s faster, handles about as well as either, gets better mileage than either, is cheaper to insure than either (in Toronto you’ll feel this, trust me), probably got treated better and can be bought for less money with less mileage on the clock. The wagon and hatch are especially nice.

    The other point is that the weather in Toronto really isn’t that snowy (or if it is, the traffic quickly turns it to slush) Decent snow tires will see you through the worst of it; the problem I’ve found isn’t getting started, it’s stopping in time to avoid the potential wreck in front of you. The Subaru won’t help you, there.

  • avatar

    Women talk aside, form follows function. If this is really about getting a bad weather car, Subaru. If this is the male equivalent of silicon implants, the BMW. There’s a reason no one invites Paris H. to go hiking in winter.

  • avatar

    Never drove the WRX, but we owned a 2003 325i wagon for 5 glorious years. Just a wonderful car, and with winter tires it was great in the snow. We replaced it with a 2008 328i.

    Maintenance costs were not too bad, and our car was dead reliable. The maintenance schedule is simple to follow and can be carried out by your local decent mechanic. Make sure the example you are looking at has complete service records. Some of the items that you should look for recent service on are brakes (ours went through pads and rotors every 60,000 km), the electronic thermostat (dead at 100,000 km), the O2 sensor, and the clutch (ours was great until the end but at 200,000 km its time might be up).

    *EDIT* Also window regulators. Our fronts were toast at trade-in time.

  • avatar

    you do need it for bad weather, which in Toronto might mean snow. and we all know that 4 wheels are better than 2 when there are a couple of inches of snow or just plain ice.If the beemer comes with an X Drive, go for it, but i doubt that the Ci does, so the WRX would make more sense, unless you want to be pinned down at HQ on snowy days.

    now if you want the whole lot, look for a BMW 325X touring, i looked to see if such a car exists, and according to Wiki it doesn’t, but Wiki is not the most accurate source, and I’m short on time… worst case get the 3 series sedan X drive, it does its job well…and is the best compromise if you would consider something else than the choices.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Just as you didn’t “get” the BMW until you drove it, because it is made better than you knew, and made of better stuff than you thought cars were made of, well, you might find the subaru to be less than it appears when you get up close and personal with it.

    Subie is good on paper, I find them a bit tinny and cheap up close. Just as BMW and Audi are fine on paper but seem overpriced until you find out how nice they are.

    Woman comparisons are fun but I won’t abide the steady company of the mousy brunette if there really is no flame. And just because the blond is a good looking blond does not mean she is a jackass on the inside.

    For cheap utility and mild fun AWD inclement weather vehicle go Suzuki. The BMW will be fine in snow with actual snow tires and no alignment issues.

  • avatar

    now if you want the whole lot, look for a BMW 325X touring, i looked to see if such a car exists, and according to Wiki it doesn’t, but Wiki is not the most accurate source,

    It did, in Canada. You had a choice of the rear-drive 325iT and an all-wheel drive variant. They eliminated the rear-driver either late in the model run, coincident with the X3, or with the new model—I can’t recall which.

    Wonderful car, by the way. I couldn’t swing the payments and insurance, which is why I ended up in a Saab 9-3 instead

    Either wagon is not easy to come by as they’re both rare to start and their owners aren’t that inclined to part with them for the next hot thing, or at least not as likely as coupe and sedan buyers.

  • avatar

    As for fun factor…. the WRX is most fun when driven hard and/or sideways. And for that reason it is the choice if you want to appeal to your inner hoon.

    Don’t listen to the WRX “glass transmission” stories. Of course it will blow up if you drop the clutch at 6,000 RPM. My WRX manual gearbox has 197,000 miles on it and has never has a single issue. Original clutch too. In fact I didn’t have a single issue with the car until 165,000 miles when an idler pulley went costing $150. Brakes last forever too. Most economical car I have ever owned.

    WRX has cooler exhaust note and gear box hum than the BMW IMO.

  • avatar

    I can’t speak for the BMW, except to say that when new, a lot of other cheaper models have either matched them in performance, or surpassed them in value. When used, I often read they are a money pit, and don’t age well. You are trapped by the one BMW dealer in your area for everything.

    As for the Subaru, I’ve owned about five of them, and they’ve never failed to disappoint in a major way. Each one had 1-3 significant problems that overshadowed the whole ownership experience. Personally, I’d buy a Taurus-X in a heatbeat before another Subaru.

  • avatar

    I owned a 2001 330i, back in 2006. It looked great and was fun to drive. I was in love, at 40k miles. By 50k miles, the car had been in the shop many many times and I was out of love. Climate control issues. Moonroof issues. Rad fan. Coolant overflow tank. Battery. ABS issues. The car already came with a stack of repairs that had been done to it under warranty before I bought it. I sold it just before the CPO warranty expired.

    In summary, the car was just under five years old when I owned it and was falling apart. I would certainly not buy one that’s even older, and out of warranty, even if it does look fantastic and drives great.

    I’m in Michigan and we get snow similar to yours. I’d say get that sweet Subaru wagon and never worry about snow again.

  • avatar

    FWIW. Subarus of that era have head gasket issues. Also, make sure the timing belt, water pump, and serpentine belt, plus all of the tensioners are done. The head gasket and the rest could easily eat up the difference in cost between the two cars. There are also some axle/CV joint issues known to pop up.
    I’d also do plug wires and plugs if those are not pretty new.
    The Subaru is an amazing car in the snow. It almost takes the fun out of “hooning around” in slippery conditions.

  • avatar

    Tough choice. The Bimmer is truly a cut above the WRX, but if it’s your only car then the utility and all-weather ability of a Subie would be hard to beat.

    The best option might be a Legacy GT wagon with a stick. It has a nicer interior than the WRX, and is less likely to have been abused by the ‘tuner’ crowd. This model is hard to find with a manual tranny (in the US at least), but definitely worth a look.

    If you’re open to other brands, I second the idea a Mazda 6 wagon. That’s been my daily driver for 5 years and I love it. Coincidentally my ‘toy’ is a 325cic, so it’s the best of both worlds IMO.

  • avatar

    Ummm. I don’t understand that a car that has 15k mile oil change intervals, 100k spark plugs, etc etc etc can “come at a high price of maintenance”. Don’t believe all the fanboys on here that Nippon=good cheap fun cars that run on air and water and never need anything and everything else is “expensive to maintain and repair (all the time)” It’s the same BS the MMM is feeding you. I have a 2001 325 wagon with 146,000 MILES (about a million Canadian miles) and I’ve not had one major repair and nothing I couldn’t fix myself. The car is silly-easy to work on. If you don’t believe me go to any BMW forum and look at the DIY’s. BTW, traction control in the BMW works well in the snow too.

    For what it’s worth you also can’t go wrong with the Subie. Great little car, just don’t expect that it will run on your own farts and high hopes.

  • avatar

    Oooh-Oooh, Subaru!

    It addresses your needs and goes pretty quick. What’s not to love?

    That blonde got fat but didn’t get any less needy. The guy that married her is not happy.

  • avatar

    These cars are different enough that I really believe you’d know which one is for you if you drove both and slept on it. I own an older e46 sedan, and it is indeed a “really really good car,” but it doesn’t snow much here and we are fortunate enough to have a fantastic mechanic. Even with 150k miles, the car drives and looks like it has 15k on it, which is only a problem when I have something bulky or messy to carry, despite the low book value it’s still a nice car, I don’t want to pay for another, and I try harder than I ever thought I would to keep it in good shape. If I could only have one car, I believe I’d be happier with something less nice and more utilitarian so I could just use it without the twang of conscience…

  • avatar

    Easy, E36 M3. You can find one for the same money as a 325 ci, it is way faster and more fun, a little less complicated to work on, and with the careful previous owner investigation psarhjinian recommends, should be equally reliable.

  • avatar

    “…just don’t expect that it will run on your own farts and high hopes.”

    Because for that you’d need a plug-in Prius.

  • avatar

    Other than the fact that 4WD seems like a major advantage for your needs, I would say the BMW all the way. I have owned 2 Subarus and both started falling apart after 60,000 miles. Maintenance costs were outrageous. I would never buy another Subaru unless I was going to trade it in the minute the (short) warranty expired.

  • avatar

    If you are going to keep the car less than 2 years and want to have fun only, get the WRX. If you want resale and long term get the BMW

  • avatar

    Don’t listen to the WRX “glass transmission” stories. Of course it will blow up if you drop the clutch at 6,000 RPM.

    I think that’s the point: a lot of WRXs have suffered this kind of abuse, while a lot of 325s probably haven’t. The “glass transmission” anecdote does have grounding in reality because it’s reflects the experience of many (perhaps not so wise) WRX owners. It may not be the WRX’s fault per se, but it’s not untruthful.

    Besides, high-rpm clutch drops are what you should be buying a Mustang GT for.

  • avatar

    I own a 2002 325i sedan and it has been a fantastic car to drive. Mine has the sport/premium packages and the only concern might be if you have to drive on rough roads often. The ride can be a little rough at times on bad roads if you get the sport pkg. Also I have used 87 octane for 5 plus years and have had no problems at all. The mileage drops about 1 mpg but no problems other than that. Life is short, by a car you actually want to drive!

  • avatar

    Why not get the best of both worlds and buy an Audi?

  • avatar

    The car is silly-easy to work on.

    Well, yes, but not everyone has the time or space to do that. European car fans tend to forget that, just as the people promoting the Subie forget that most WRXs get thrashed pretty hard through their lifetime.**

    If you’re in Toronto, there’s a good BMW mechanic out Missisauga way: Attila at He talked me out of buying a 540iT based on some stuff I missed in the inspection. If you pick the BMW (and I think you probably should, unless you go the Mazda route) get him to look over the car for you.

    ** Same reason I won’t buy a used Integra GSR/R or RSX-S.

  • avatar

    Very different cars. Good luck. It reminds me of the inner conversation I am having as I drive down the street. What do I want today? Hmmm?

    As you know from your Jeep experience, its nice having a beater. I have a 14 yr old Golf, still going strong after 225,000 miles. I am not worried about it, I do not care where I park it, I take my bike on a rack hanging of the back for short trips, or inside for long trips. It’s nice. So the Subie is the probable answer for you. Or my answer for you.

    Shame you cant find a all wheel drive 3 series wagon. That would be wonderful. Kinda having a girl (or guy in my case) who is beautiful AND usefull.

    Trophy wives or partners are not worth it. I wish I didnt know that.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    At 200K Km, BMW’s Vanos units tend to get noisy, ( and you’re in the kill zone for a complete (and I do mean complete) cooling system replacement as a preventive maintenance item.

  • avatar

    I’m driving a BMW 320i…used it all winter in Eastern Canada. Had absolutely no issues with driving it in winter with proper winter tires and the DSC always on. It was actually better than my old Hondas.

    As far as reliability (knock on wood), the car has been great. Thermostat replacement at about 80,000 km was the only bump in the road. Rest has been just maintenance.

    And as for the lesser 3’s being underpowered and all that rot…well…sure if you want to drag race. The WRX, Mustang GTs will dust it. Get the thing on the curves and the handling is crazy. Even my lowly 320 (2.2 litre 6-cylinder) will happily go north of 200km/hr.

    No one ever mentions the brakes. They’re crazy! Pull your eyeballs out if you really stomp on them.

  • avatar

    I was in just the same place you are 3 years ago. I was all set to get a 2003 CPO 328Ci with the sport package and unfortunately auto. Then my wife, yes my wife, found the Subaru LegacyGT new that I originally thought was going to be out of my price range. Ended up getting a demo with leather and a ton of options for $2000 less than the used BMW with 25,000 miles would have been.

    I would get the Subaru, more fun. Sure it doesn’t have all the gadgets, but you will be thankful when those gadgets break.

    There is one thing to be weary of, make sure the service history on the WRX is spot on. you don’t want to find out they have been skipping oil changes when the bearings in your turbo seize up and now you have to buy a $2000 turbo.

  • avatar

    Considering you probably don’t know the full maintenance history on the BMW, and it’s highly expensive even at non-dealer service, go with the Subie. I’m speaking as the until-recently owner of an E46 328i sedan from 70K-154K miles (death by Xterra, not mechanical issues). You could easily spend $1-2.5K a year in maintenance/repairs. Even if you do some of your own work, there’s only so much a person can do at home. That being said, it only left me stranded once (power steering fluid hose slipped off) and it didn’t have any creaks/rattles. The interior was solid. Make sure you get it inspected by a BMW dealer or a good BMW specialty service shop if you go with the BMW. It will be worth the money spent on the inspection.

  • avatar


    Much more reliable, less toys prone to breaking, more practical, while being almost as fun as the bimmer.
    Badge snobbery evaporates quickly.

  • avatar

    + 1 for the Subie.

    It’s practical while still appealing to your inner hoon and beats the Bimmer in appealing to the hoon in all seasons.

    Badge snobbery evaporates quickly

    …in the face of luxury maintenance costs.

  • avatar

    I’d get the wagon… a 325xiT if you can find one, but if not, the Subie. This is for utility and you’re replacing a utility vehicle.

  • avatar

    A few things that haven’t been addressed here. The big question is where will this thing be spending its life? I don’t know how it is in Toronto, but city living and street parking have led to dings dents, and at least one new side mirror. That shiny BMW paint job will cause nightmares when the bodyshop bill shows up. With the subie, I would feel less guilty with some cheap touch up paint or a little diy.

    The subie wagons tended to have more mature owners than the sedan, so that is a point for it. Additionally, I am guessing that the BMW will need a lot of cooling system work. Are we talking stick or auto transmission?

    Also, that 2k in savings goes a long way at a custom interior shop.

    Either way, carfax and an independent inspection are your friends. Personally, I vote Subie. Then again, I always did prefer brunettes.

  • avatar

    These are very different cars but if I were in your shoes I would choose the BMW. It has superior looks and driving dynamics and, with a set of winter tires, will do just fine in the snow. Check with True Delta, but my experience with the reliability of the E46 was very good.

  • avatar

    Both choices are a serious threat to your wallet, mostly because you are buying used. I’d go for the Bimmer, since it will be easier on gas, mostly because the urge to hammer the WRX and risk breaking stuff will always be there. And parts/labor for the 3-series is the cheapest of BMW’s bunch.

  • avatar

    Unless you need the cachet or prefer the BMW aesthetics, definitely the WRX. Quicker, cheaper, and definitely more versatile.

    The one thing I don’t like about Subbies is their heaviness.

  • avatar

    A couple quick comments, I like the Rex but I own a subie NA 2.5 so obviously I’m biased:

    The WRX might not be as fuel efficient as you expect, these things are pretty gas hungry and require premium.

    Also, these model year WRXs do NOT have head gasket issues, those were only the 2.5L from the same era, and these have the bulletproof 2.0L.

    A lot of things about the Impreza feel kind of cheap, the head liner, the cloth, the seats, the plastic bits, the cup holder. But Subaru spent the money on the important bits: the engine, drive train, and suspension. Frankly I’d rather have awesome mechanical bits and sub par interior than the reverse, but YMMV.

  • avatar
    Scorched Earth

    Wow, both excellent choices. Might as well blindfold yourself and pick one, they’re both amazing.

    Buuuut, if you’re using it only for bad weather, get the Subie. RWD and snow don’t mix.

  • avatar

    Buuuut, if you’re using it only for bad weather, get the Subie. RWD and snow don’t mix.

    Toronto doesn’t really get “snow” per se, at least not in the sense that, say, Buffalo NY does. What it does get it slush, wind and ice, sometimes all in the same day. It’s also very urban and the major streets are cleared quite quickly.

    A modern rear-drive car, especially with traction and stability control, will see you through just fine. All AWD really does is get you going at best, and gives you a false sense of security at worst. It certainly doesn’t help you stop or steer: you want snow tires for that.

    If I were worried about weather, I would take the stability+traction-equipped rear driver and slap skinny snows on it.

    What will suck, in winter, is when the guy in the SUV who didn’t buy snow tires and has gotten cocky because of AWD slides right into you.

  • avatar

    Honestly, I’d be inclined to avoid both.

    In both instances, that’s just too much mileage for that age of vehicle. On one hand, you have to worry about BMW reliability and repair costs; on the other, you’re looking at a model of Subaru that is prone to abuse by the demographic that is attracted to them. The romance is going to end quickly when you get stuck with the repair bill that the seller was trying to avoid.

  • avatar

    I own an e46 (touring) and I’ll probably replace it (someday, I’m in no hurry) with a new 3 series.
    BTW, I highly recommend checking out a touring model for a more apples-to-apples comparo.

    I’ve driven a lot of other cars, and for me none matches it for the price I want to pay and the needs I have. That said, I do have a soft spot for Subies and have come this close to pulling the trigger on one more than once.

    Maintenance on an older e46 is not insubstantial. If the car is an automatic, there’s a very good chance that you’ll lose reverse (check out That cooling system “maintenance” (i.e., complete replacement) should come before 200k km — think 90k miles max/145k km). There’s no way you’ll not be replacing window regulators. Etc.

    For me, it’s worth it. Find a great indie specialist and you’ll be happy. But I suspect that you’ll be happy with the Subie too.

  • avatar

    I would say, if you haven’t already, test drive both, and then pick the one that you really like better. It’s not a logical choice and you can’t really vote with your wallet. On paper the subie seems like the cheaper choice, but I’ve heard there are a lot of expensive problems that can crop up with them. Either one is a gamble, it might last 10 years with nothing more than regular maintenance, but either one could hit you hard in the wallet in three years. If that isn’t a problem for you, then choose with your heart. The wrx is more practical, but the bimmer is much better if you’re entertaining clients (or your special ladyfriend). Do you go skiing or outdoorsy stuff? Then wrx obviously… the wrx will be a bit more capable and a bit more fun in the snow, but if you’re not the outdoorsy type, on all other days, you might like the bimmer better.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned since new a 2000 BMW 323ci which is the same as the 325ci (2.5l) with 5 speed stick and sport package. Here is what I can share.
    It is reliable but niggling things will go wrong. HVAC problem fixed under warranty, cam timing sensor went out (would stall out), various recalls fixed under warranty.
    It is very fun to drive and very solid feeling. The engine is still butter smooth at any rev.
    It is suprisingly economical with stick. I get avg. 27mpg and top out at 31mpg on highway runs.
    Make sure that oil changes were done with synthetic oil and one that meets bmw spec (not all do). BMW recommended extended oil change intervals of 15K but many owners, including myself, cut that in half to every 7.5K.

  • avatar

    I have a 2000 328CI. Bought it 6 years ago with 45K miles and now have 100K. I have had very little trouble with the car. The only significant repair was steering components that were a little pricey. However, my experience with all my cars is that all siginficant repairs are pricey and there isn’t huge differences.

    The 3 series coupes are great because they are much more practicle than most realize. For a coupe they have lots of room inside and in the trunk, especially with the 60/40 split rear seats.

    If this has 16″ wheels and with good all season tires, winter weather is not a real concern. Mine gets around great.

    And there is nothing like the feel of the car and those inline sixes.

    I’m keeping mine until the very end.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned a series of 3 series since 1998. They’re not cheap to own, even when they’re being reliable….. and I have to say, I think of a 3 Series as a “good weather car”. Not that they’re bad in bad weather, but that’s not what they’re about (although heated exterior mirrors are a nice touch). They’ll do it, but if you’re urban/suburban commuting in the slush, they’re kind of wasted.

    I’d go for the Subie. I’ve never driven a WRX, but I know a few guys who have them and I grew up close (too close) to Buffalo NY, so I am more familiar with winter boating driving than I’d really prefer to be.

    Somehow I have the impression that for having fun driving in bad weather, the Subie is just going to be a fun ride. Traction at all the corners lets you point and squirt and hang the tail out a little…when you know you can use the nose to pull the car back in line. It is true AWD doesn’t stop you any better, but it doesn’t stop you any worse either.

    I love my 328i for what it does, but in Toronto, it’d be the Subie.

  • avatar

    MHO opinion is that if you have 10 – 15 thousand bucks sitting in a bank account (or can get the money quickly if needed), the BMW is the way to go. It’s way more refined than a Sub, and probably has much better energy, as well. The extra money is for the possible repairs; BMW parts and service can get very expensive. I view the Subaru as an econo-car with a rocket strapped to it – a bicycle with a Corvette engine. The BMW is James Bond in metal (without the weapons).

  • avatar
    Matthew Neundorf

    Thanks to all for the info and advice! A few clarifications from me that might help.

    The trade value of my Jeep (Liberty) is about even with both the BMW and WRX price, so I’m looking for a key swap with maybe a bonus back in my pocket. The reason for the purchase is purely selfish… I’m tired of rollin’ in a truck, and miss a slick shifting manual. Whatever I end up with is a short termer in the garage (2-3 years max) so I’m not looking for another 100k out of either, just 30-40 of relatively easy living.

    The reason behind the WRX being a wagon is because its probably driven a little more conservativley (purely speculative at this point), the extra storage is just an uneeded bonus. The Subie comes with a CarProof report as well. It’s also being sold out of a Subaru dealership which may or may not mean anything really.

    The Bimmer has always been on my list of must haves, and the E46 (IMHO) is the best looking of the bunch. I used to drive a tricked out S-10 Blazer with a small block conversion under the hood, and bald Goodrich T/A’s on the back in the winter so I’m familiar with RWD in the snow.

  • avatar

    The woman metaphor fails on 2 counts.

    BMW’s are as sexy as toast. Maybe good – but boring to look at.

    The wrx is not a reliable brunette; it is a blast. I convinced my girlfriend to buy a wrx wagon of that vintage and ,once you get above 3000rpm and the turbo kicks in, it’s just a rocket. So much fun.

    Sadly the girl left me and I sure do miss the car.

    It rides on rails. If you have the guts – I don’t – you can corner at outrageous speed. On ramps become a playground.

    I also love station wagons and see sedans as a vestigial design. Personal taste.

    I think you’ll love the subaru, and if your friends sneer take them to an on ramp – downshift and give it the boot. If they still sneer, do it again with door slightly ajar. They’ll shoot right out – who needs friends like that.

  • avatar

    Is there really a choice?

    It’s like choosing between VD and winning the lottery.

    Go for the BMW. Period.

  • avatar


    You’re the first person I’ve heard of who likes VD.

  • avatar

    I know this will inspire lots of excellent drivers to chime in with how only idiots don’t like RWD in winter, but the Subaru with AWD is 100% obviously the right choice for a winter car in my opinion. In any case, the WRX is a silly-fun car by all accounts.

    It’s cheaper, more reliable, and has AWD, all of which qualify it as a far more well-suited “winter beater.” If you want to look fancy and have a nicer car, the BMW certainly wins, but for pure love of driving and practicality I think it’s WRX all the way.

  • avatar

    Talk to us after the test drives…

  • avatar

    the WRX is more practical, more reliable, cheaper to run, faster, gets around better and with a few simple mods will drive just as well.

    really, unless you’re hung up on the badge there’s not much reason to get the BMW.

    now, if it was a 330, it’d be a little different.

  • avatar

    Buy the one you like best.

    I like the BMW. I’m not you.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    A final thought.

    Be sure and Google search, “E46 subframe”.

  • avatar

    Check insurance prices, sometimes it can be a big surprise in cost of ownership.

  • avatar

    The Bimmer
    + probably had an easier life
    + probably win you style points (at least w/ yourself, should you need them)
    + wonderful to drive when all is well

    – at 200k km all won’t be well for long (I know, I had a bunch of 3’s Ser)
    – expensive to maintain
    – time consuming to maintain
    – Oh! Snow! Must stay inside (though w/4 snows and a gentle right foot the balance of a 3 Ser makes it very driveable in the foul stuff)
    – girls whose favourite place is the mall or any restaurant requiring reservations and accepting your credit card will be all over you

    For the Subie
    + you will nearly always be able to get where you are going, regardless the weather
    + style, schmyle: drifting a WRX is LIVING!
    + girls who like adventure will be attracted to you
    + subaru = strong and reliable (except for non-rebuilt autos in the SVX) I am on Suby #5 or 6
    + cops won’t notice you
    + you may become inclined to take up mountain biking or kayaking – both of which are good for you

    – you won’t think your unit is any bigger – unless you drift it per above
    – you will nearly never be able to use the weather as an excuse to cancel a date and go out with your mates

  • avatar

    I live in Edmonton, so it’s not too different from Toronto. I would say snow tires are the most important part of winter driving.

    So, does the Bimmer come with nearly new snow tires? If not, beware they are very expensive for a Bimmer.

    The WRX may not be reliable, as pointed out by many, due to ownership demography.

    I myself just bought a new base model Legacy last month. There was some serious discounts going on.

    If you wanted to spend less than that, maybe a used Mazda 3 or Civic? Again, it’s much cheaper to buy snow tires for those cars. Nose heavy FWD + snow tires = good winter beater.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    psarhjinian and other greater Torontonions. Wanna see some neat old school bimmers? Drop by the Benares House in Missisauga July 4th

  • avatar

    Having recently test driven a 335d (d for Diesel) I’d lean towards the BMW, myself.

    If it’s a close enough race between the two cars, just probably go off which car has the best HVAC system and which car’s heated seats work the best.

    Just watch out for that trunk tearing issue if you’re looking at early version 3-series-ses.

  • avatar

    Seeing as these are both used cars, it would depend on how long you plan on keeping them. I have not had a BMW long enough to know how long they go, but I still see lots of really old BMW’s running on the streets. Notice you don’t see too many really old Subarus? I had a Subaru once. They were great. Reliable too. When it crossed the 100K mile barrier, it still ran okay. But when it finally was time to move on to another car, the Subaru did not die gracefully. The Subie drivetrain is not easy or inexpensive to fix.

    So if you plan on keeping the Subie til it dies, I would recommend don’t.

  • avatar

    Might I suggest you consider a 2005-vintage Saaburu 92-X? The 92-X was a Subaru WRX with some euro-style upgrades to the bodywork and suspension, which closes some (but hardly all) of the Beemer quality advantage.

    You otherwise get all the goodnesses and badnesses of a WRX.

    The surprising part is that due to who knows what crack in the order of the cosmos, you can probably get a decent 05 Saabaru with Aero pack, 5 spd, and leather and 60K miles for the price ($10-15K) of a 2002 Subbie WRX with 120K. Go figure.

  • avatar

    I’ve got an 03 WRX, sedan though not wagon. Originally I was going to tell you why the Subie is better, but it looks like you’ve already answered your own question. If a bimmer’s always been on your wish list, then go get it!

    Now WRX’s, I get the impression that a lot of owners mod the crap out of their cars and drive them hard. Doing stuff like turning up the boost on the turbo. Everyone seems to say it won’t affect reliability and that these cars were made to drive like that, but I don’t know. I think I have common sense and that just doesn’t make sense to me.

    I’ve never driven in snow before. I live in Texas. I’ve never seen a real snow storm before. In the rain I really can’t tell you that AWD makes any difference compared to any other car I’ve driven in the rain. So I guess technically AWD should help you in the snow, but still that doesn’t really make much sense to me either. What I mean is, all AWD does is help you with getting traction while accelerating. How would it help while trying to stop, or turn? It seems like stopping or turning would be the difficult things to do in snowy weather anyway, not accelerating.

    You should be happy with the bimmer, but man let me just tell you I get a little grin on my face everytime I start up my car. You’ll be missing out on one sweet exhaust note.

  • avatar
    John R

    A 7 year old BMW with 200k anything? Common, man, use your head.

    The Subie is probably going to be as reliable or better than the Bimmer, but when it come time to repair anything you’ll be glad you got the Subie.

  • avatar

    If you live downtown like me there’s really zero cachet associated with a 3-series … even a coupe. They’re Toronto’s Cavalier or Corolla. It was one of the reasons I went Audi–just so I wouldn’t be facing myself at every light.

    Also, consider that you can enjoy the things the WRX is good at in the city (quick acceleration and all-weather traction) but there’s really no place here to exercise the BMW’s main talent (handling).

    Oh yeah, and my wife’s had a string of über-dependable Subies, so that’s my 2¢.

  • avatar

    If your new ride is intended to be mostly a driving experience in good weather, then BMW should be most satisfying provided you can afford the maintenance.

    If there’s lot of snow/ice and you need dependable transportation to work, AWD will prove essential, provided your tires are winter-capable. Case in point: Neighbor had summer tires on his AWD WRX .vs. Winter tires on my AWD Forester. Snowy parking lot made Neighbor skid helplessly while I drove Forester out with no dramas.

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