BMW 320Ci Cabriolet | Shed of the Week

Seat covers are temporary, class is forever

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 23 September 2022 / Loading comments

As Shed was approaching the end of his Silesian break he thought he would do a quick price comparison between used cars over there and here in the UK.

At an ‘auto centrum’ in Tychy, the town where Fiat Chrysler has been manufacturing cars for the last 30 years, he found a 9,000-mile 2020 Dodge Challenger 6.4 392 ScatPack Widebody for £49,000, which is about what you’d pay for a similar one over here, and a 2021 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT with 2,500 miles for £40,000, which is actually a bit less than the UK equivalent. 

More interestingly, to him at least, was an 83,000-mile 2016 Porsche Cayenne Diesel 4.2 advertised at the same outlet for just under £59,000. The UK equivalent would be nearer to £31k-£32k. 

At this point two things popped into Shed’s crusty old head. One, that there was clearly a lot of respect for used German motors in Silesia, and two, that this week’s sub-£1,500 SOTW offering, a clean-looking late-model E46 320Ci, might be worth a fair bit more in Silesia than the £1,490 that was being asked for it in Croydon as we went to press. 

Shed doesn’t follow world news much, or at all to be honest, so now he’s excitedly researching the idea of setting up a UK-Silesia trade channel for used BMWs. While we wish him all the best with that, let’s take a more detailed gander at this 320 ragtop. 

As has so often happened with niche German models there was a substantial overlap between the production of the old E46 3 Series convertible and the new E90 3 Series. By March 2006, the registration date of our shed, the succeeding E90 model had already been coming off the line for well over a year. The engine in our 320Ci will be the smooth and well-liked M54B22 2.2-litre oversquare inline six producing 168hp at a whizzy 6,100rpm and at 155lb ft at 3,500rpm – nice stats when matched up with the five-speed manual gearbox. 

Timing is by chain and reliability should be good as long as the correct maintenance has been carried out and you don’t rev the unmentionables off it from cold. Ignore the signs and coking up of the valves can be a problem as can thermostat-related coolant issues. The block is aluminium and there can be trouble with the head threads. Cam position sensors get squiffy too. 

But, as said, looked after properly this is a great drivetrain. 0-62mph comes up in the low eights on the manual and you can go on to 140mph if you like. The official combined fuel consumption figure is 31.7mpg but mid to low twenties is more likely in mixed use.

The mileage on this car is low for the year at 119,000 and the MOT history gives no particular cause for concern. A small oil leak was reported at 98,000 miles in 2019 along with some front end ball-joint play. After that, what comments the testers have made have been related to the sort of wear and tear you’d expect to see on a lightly-used vehicle (damper oil misting, cracking tyre sidewalls). It looks like the front brakes were done earlier this year, so that’s a cost neatly sidestepped. 

The ragtop doesn’t look that raggy, and the pics show that it goes up and down, a feature that Shed always appreciates in any elegant filly that may come his way. Some owners think that their E46 tops are broken when in fact all they need to do is move the lever under the bootlid into the right position and hey presto it’s all fixed. The seats haven’t fared quite as well as the roof. It looks like Bob the binman has been doing his collections in it. If that sort of thing bothers you you’ll have no trouble picking up a full used set of leathery replacements for as little as £250, or under £400 for M Sport items. 

Summer may be over in the UK, but you can mentally extend the season in something like this. Strike fast before Shed tries to nab it for his first Silesia-bound containerload. 

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