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BMW 2002 Turbo - BMW 323i

ER Classics Desktop 2022

A real BMW has six cylinders. Or not?

Downsizing is all from now. Even with BMW, which has been continuously building six-cylinder six-cylinder models for more than 80 years, the six-in-line models are being replaced by smaller four-cylinder turbochargers. To see how bad that is, we put a legendary four-cylinder next to an equally unforgettable six-cylinder. Will the 2002 Turbo beat the 323i?

Text: Perry Snijders - Photography: Jacco van de Kuilen



The times are tough for BMW enthusiasts. The brand excelled for decades in making sedans, coupes and a single roadster where driving pleasure was paramount. Freude am Fahren suited BMW as Peppi did Kokki, but now the brand is changing considerably. That transformation started fifteen years ago, when the brand introduced the first generation X5. After that follow models like the X6 and 5 Series GT. You can discuss the necessity and beauty of those models, but you could still get them with the six-in-line characteristic of BMW. However, there are also models that make lovers of the brand feel personally attacked: the variants of the 2, 3, 4 and 5 Series where the silky smooth six-cylinder have been replaced by a four-cylinder.
It seems to be forgotten that the first 5 Series in 1972 was not even available with six cylinders, which also applied to the first 3 Series (1975). And if you think that's a coincidence, then consider that BMW had a new four-cylinder headquarters built in Munich between 1968 and 1972 in Munich. That is not something car enthusiasts have invented, architect Karl Schwanzer had intended it that way. The adjacent BMW Museum presents the corresponding cylinder head. In 1975, therefore, autovisie was certainly not hesitant about the engines in the brand new 3 Series. “The very nice round loop is remarkable, there are few (if not any) factories that can produce so beautifully rotating four-cylinders. The Germans like to use the word seidenweich for this - if you translate that with silky softness, it immediately sounds a bit cheeky, but it is perhaps the best articulation of the typical BMW engine character. ”


Carless Sunday

Rob Slotemaker sabbed the 3 Series in the same issue of the magazine. “The 2002 is still the nicest car of all time. I understand that the 320 of that car is the successor, but they have done that badly. ”Slotemaker mainly talked about the car's handling, which was internally called E21. However, other enthusiasts were not immediately enthusiastic about the new model, because it was heavier and slower than the outgoing model.
That outgoing model was therefore quite spectacular. Although the entry-level model, the 1502, was still very modest, the 2002 was already a completely different story. The 2002 tii was the superlative, while the 2002 Turbo was the pinnacle. However, it came at a totally wrong moment, because just when BMW had decided that it was time for a showy top model with expanded fenders, spoilers and a striking (optional) striping, the oil crisis broke out. In the time of car-free Sunday, BMW tried to sell a car that radiated that it was more so than André Hazes in his heyday. No wonder the brand sold no more than 1.672 copies, of which only 18 in the Netherlands.



Frolicking car

BMW itself seemed a bit shocked, because only in 1978 - three years after the introduction of the E21 - did a fast version follow. The recipe was totally different this time than with the 2002. This time not a four-cylinder turbo, but a beautifully running six-in-line. With less power and a higher weight, he was no match for the fast 2002 Turbo, but it was enough to make Rob Slotemaker turn like a leaf on a tree. "To my taste, this BMW 323i is the most delightful and more or less affordable frolicking car of the moment," he noted, again in Autovisie. “The car has an exemplary road holding and is extremely stable. Braking, shifting and steering he does fine. And you can drive it incredibly fast. "
The fact that the 323i was intended to be less sporty than the 2002 Turbo was evident in the absence of the lavish spoilers and stickers. The nameplates and two outlets (one on each side) were meant to make a difference compared to the tamer variants of the 3 Series. With the help of the (traditionally long BMW) option lists you could bring the 323i to taste, with for example a sports steering wheel, sports seats, an 5 box (if desired even a dogleg) or a limited slip differential.


Turbo hole

Marcel Winkelman, the owner of the 323i, has withheld. His car is equipped with a rare five-speed gearbox and the equally rare sports seats, but he has not supplemented that with a sports steering wheel or a few 15 inch rims. “Sometimes I think I should do it, but I have more classics and I divide the budget between my cars. Of course, 15 inch Alpina's are very cool on an 323i, but they have since become really outrageously expensive. But I agree with you that in addition to the 2002 it does look a bit less thick. ”On the other hand, the 323i lets you enjoy its fantastic soundtrack, because the sound of its six-in-line is unsurpassed.
However, don't underestimate the 2002. His four-cylinder also sounds great, and the colossal turbo hole disturbs less than you would think based on the (countless) horror stories. Yes, the turbo only comes into action around 4000 rpm. But under that speed it is not a lifeless coffee grinder that is simmering under the hood; you actually drive up to that speed with a normal 2002 engine. Owner Piet Molenaar (from the well-known BMW specialist in Heerhugowaard) says: “Many owners of an 2002 Turbo actually hardly drive it anymore. We do, a few years ago I drove it to Portugal for a holiday trip. Then you actually do not use the potential of the turbo, but if you know that it is possible, it is also nice. ”You don't have to explain to him that Piet will not win a competition with his 2002. “This is used, with everything that goes with it. Stone chips, traces of use, a rust spot here and there. Of course we are careful, but it is inevitable. "



Both owners hand over the keys to us so that we can experience the differences ourselves. Photographer Van de Kuilen doesn't have to think about it for three seconds. "Of course I think the 2002 is better, you have to see how thick it looks!" The flexibility and soundtrack of the 323i are also very appealing features, while with the current value you quickly buy a shed full of 323is for the price of a 2002 Turbo. However, one thing is clear: it does not have to be a disaster if BMW replaces a pair of six-cylinder engines with four-cylinder turbo engines. As long as they don't throw that great six-in-line overboard!



BMW 2002 Turbo (1974)
Engine four-cylinder in-line engine with turbo
Engine capacity 1990 cm3
Power 125 kW (170 pk) at 5800 rpm
Transmission manual 4 container
Drive rear wheels
L xbxh 422 x 162 x 141
Weight kg 1.080
Top speed 211 km / h
0-100 km / h s 7,2



BMW 323i (1982)
Engine six-cylinder in-line engine
Engine capacity 2315 cm3
Power 105 kW (143 pk) at 5800 rpm
Transmission manual 4 container (5 container optional)
Drive rear wheels
L xbxh 436 x 161 x 138
Weight kg 1.135
Top speed 190 km / h
0-100 km / h s 7,6

Clubs abound

Do you have a classic BMW and want to become a member of a club? They are abundant.
A part of the BMW clubs is united in the Federation of Dutch BMW Clubs, which is subdivided into a part for car clubs ( and a part for motorcycle clubs. However, there are no clubs that you can use with your 2002 or 3 Series. However, there are also clubs that are not affiliated with the umbrella federation. An example is the BMW 02 Club ( There is no association for the 3 Series, but there is a very active forum for the E21, which can be found via
We have both found the cars that shine on these pages through the BMW Classic Car Club ( That club was founded in 1988 and is intended for every BMW of 25 years and older. In addition, owners of a Bristol, EMW, Frazer Nash or Veritas are welcome there.

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