Although the four cylinder BMW 2002 is the model that put the propeller logo on America’s consciousness, it was their legendary silky and powerful sixes that really came to define the company. BMW essentially built their brand on having the best engines, bar none. And this is where that long legacy started: the “New Six” (E3) 2500 and 2800, in 1969.
These cars got off to a somewhat slow start in the US due to their aggressive pricing, but came into their own as the Bavaria, which combined the bigger 2.8 and 3.0 L sixes with the 2500’s content/trim level. The 2500 was only sold for a few years here, and was always a rare sight, but this Road and Track review clearly identifies the E3’s many virtues, which where only enhanced within a few years.
The title of this review is odd, given that only the 2500 was tested. It’s hard to grasp how compact and tidy these cars were. Its 106″ wheelbase is 4″ less than a current 3 Series, and their overall length is almost exactly the same. Yet these were the cars which with BMW pushed into the Mercedes-dominated luxury class. Its successor, the first & Series, did that more definitively, but the long-wheelbase 3.3L/Li were definite steps in that direction.
How I loved this page of technical specs in each R&T review. I once wanted to compile everyone ever printed, to make a superb easy-to-access file of every car’s technical specs. Maybe that’s still a good idea; anybody got a full collection of vintage Raod and Tracks?
This is more of a first impression than a typical full road test, but it captures the tremendously attractive qualities of the BMW New Six. Its engine, which hadn’t yet been called “turbine smooth”, was simply superior to anything else in its general price class, and made the Mercedes six look a bit geriatric.
A late E3 3.0Si has always been one of the most desirable cars of mine. There were two main sources for that lust: auto motor and sport raved about it endlessly, as if it was the second coming. Well, it was BMW second six, after their legendary pre-war sixes. According to them, no sedan engine had ever had such “bite” as the injected 3 liter six, in its non-smogged European form, and yet was so perfectly tractable, quiet and smooth. It was a car that BMW would only surpass with the M5, some years later.
And some friends of ours in LA had one no less, in this blueish-silver. It was an automatic, but how I drooled over that car. The owner admitted she was on very familiar terms with her German mechanic. BMW’s overheating tendencies were still not tamed, among other issues. The Germans probably had a hard time replicating sitting in traffic for hours in LA’s heat wit the air conditioning on. Not exactly how these cars were designed to be used.