What is it?
Hot on the heels of Team BMW UK’s Andy Priaulx claiming the FIA World Touring Car Championship, BMW announced details of a limited-edition version of BMW’s 2006 World Touring Car – the BMW 320si Saloon.
To the untrained eye, this looks like a normal E90, but to those in the know it’s something very rare and very special indeed. The BMW 320si is a homologation special produced to meet the requirements of the 2006 World Touring Car Championship with only 2,600 being made (500 sold in the UK – 192 left on roads).
There are many reasons why the UK press referred to it as the mini-M3 but the headline act is the engine. Hand-built in the same factory as the BMW F1 engines, the 2.0-litre is a masterpiece. As well as being more powerful and higher-revving, it is also much lighter. With aluminium cylinder linings and a valve cover made out of the more expensive and much lighter carbon fibre, BMW saved 10kg in the engine alone.
What’s it got?
Over and above a sporting suspension set-up, the M Sports Package featured as standard on this special model comprises BMW’s Aerodynamics Package with modified bumpers/ side-sills, nappa leather sports seats, an M leather steering wheel, M footrest, foglamps and interior trim finished in aluminium. In addition, the wheels are the unique 18”items taken straight from the WTCC car along with larger brake discs (300mm all round).
The biggest difference is that special N45 engine made at BMW’s engine plant at Hams Hall, near Coventry. The 320si engine isn’t just a mildly tweaked version of BMW’s regular 148bhp 2.0-litre unit. It has been engineered to rev higher; the bore and stroke are altered whist the induction and exhaust valves are all bigger. The compression ratio is increased, cylinder liners are aluminium alloy rather than cast iron, and there’s no Valvetronic induction system. The cylinder head is cast alongside BMW’s F1 engines.
When you lift the bonnet, you’re greeted by that carbon fibre cam cover. Not only does it reduce the weight by 10kg, it looks fantastic!
How does it drive?
When you combine the weight-saving, compulsory manual gearbox, razor sharp throttle response and improved performance from that hand-built engine, what results is a proper driver’s car.
It’s all about agility and balance. The power has been increased to 171bhp, the way the 320si attacks real world B-roads that really makes this car special.
2006 was right at the pinnacle of ‘my engine is bigger than yours’ and 0-60 times being the only measure of performance, but the 320si is that refreshing shining light where the focus is still on driver enjoyment.
The feel on the road is often compared to the jewel in the crown of BMW, the E30 M3.
Why this one?
Our low-mileage example finished in Carbon Schwartz paintwork has been collector owned and is in incredible condition inside and out coming with the highly-desirable Dakota/Schwartz interior colour finished in Nappa leather upholstery.
It has new Brembo drilled and grooved discs and pads all round. The car remains delightfully original, drives well and comes with all supporting history, documents and keys.
This forgotten BMW was rare when launched in 2006 and all but almost impossible to find in this low-mileage original condition today.