The perfect argument for converting those still enamored with North American automobiles
Idle refuses to settle (likely due to the ICV, hasn't been fixed yet)
Rough when started in cold. Once warm, silky smooth.
Paint peel on roof, trunk.
Soft clunk heard in rear end when gas pedal engages/disengages. This could be rear end wear, or just the limited-slip engaging/disengaging.
You cannot drive this car and not know it's a BMW. We'll start with that statement. Everything in this car is solid and direct, with no play or slack, with the possible exception of the rear end. The gas pedal and brakes are completely linear. The steering is immediate and precise at all speeds (maybe a little heavy in parking lots) and the suspension holds no matter what road is underneath it.
Performance wise, once it's warmed up, she goes. You've got D and 3 for drive modes. D is your four speed, economical (though still quite quick) driving mode, where you'll do about 85% of your driving. 3 is Sport mode. Nail the throttle from a dead stop in 3 mode and the car surges forward as if it were shunted by a freight train. No wheel slip on dry tarmac, thanks to the limited slip. She pulls to 80km/h in 1st gear before changing down for 2nd (at about 4500rpm). The ETA models, the 325e and 528e, only had 4700rpm redlines. The gearing is designed so this is more than adequate, however.
In terms of reliability, I don't think there's much that could take this car out of commission. The ICV valve on these engines is notorious for dirty deposits screwing with the idle speed (resulting in an up-down-up-down idle) but this is very easily fixed. Clean the valve, switch to Chevron gas (Techron DOES help!) or just replace the valve. Costs are where BMWs can nip you in the bud. The tuneup performed on the car before I received it (new ignition system components, oil, filter, coolant) ran $700 for the parts alone. Insurance with collision is 185 per month. So I took out the collision, to bring it down to 121.
The interior, and comfort, are top notch. I have the cloth seats, a new CD deck, and the original Alpine speakers, and everything works as it should. Even the Cruise still works. The only thing that sucks is the digital clock. You can't read it, no matter how dark it is. At night it doesn't seem to light up at all. So the CD deck keeps track of time.
You get a lot of looks and compliments on the car. Even with the peeling paint. I had one guy in a '98 540i pull up next to me at a light and give me the thumbs up. You can't beat that.
You can't beat the car, either.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 25th March, 2005