Everything you want in a package without a monthly payment
2 sets of rear shock mounts (My sister gave our 350+ pound neighbour a ride...twice!)
Clutch around 210,000 miles.
Passenger side control arm at around 230,000.
New muffler at about 265,000.
Trim panel above pedals came undone around 260,000; this almost caused me to roll back into another car, because it prevented me from hitting the brake.
New front brake pads around 259,000.
New aux. thermostat hose, trans mounts (my fault) motor mounts, throw-out bearing, and cleaned rust off clutch; the car had been sitting for 6 months, and the coolant had leaked into the bell housing at 258,000 miles.
Replaced off-label spark plugs with Bosch silver plugs at around 270,000.
New tires at about 265,000 after an incident with a curb.
Someone cut the wire for the ABS sensor, so the ABS doesn't work unless water shorts it.
Needs inner ball joints, struts and tie rods. I should have noticed this earlier, because it ate a set of tires because of this.
Originally purchased in 2001 as a first car for my then 17 year old sister (purchased from a family that had bought it new). She didn't have any issues with it except for the clutch going out, and a brake fluid leak (no safety issue because the clutch uses the same hydraulic reservoir, so the car couldn't be moved) and the shock tower mounts that were her fault.
She also hit a curb late one night and took out a couple of wheels. She was driving on the freeway one day in stop and go traffic, and was traveling about 50mph, following too closely. The person in front of her slammed on their brakes, and she slammed on hers. She stopped, but the Hyundai driver behind her wasn't paying attention and hit her at 40-50 mph. She was 6 months pregnant, and was not injured at all, the car had two scratches in it, and the Hyundai was towed away. She drove it until having kids and getting a newer car (a Chevy Malibu, which she regretted). I was only 14 at the time, and so she gave it to a friend that needed a vehicle.
The friend of hers drove it weekly to Idaho (300-400 miles) to work, and didn't have any issues with it. They unfortunately never did any of the maintenance, and parked it after getting a newer vehicle. We went to get it back, since my first car died on me, and it would not move. You could start the car in Neutral, but it would not go into any gear. We managed to get it home (thankfully only a block away) by starting it in gear and using clutchless shifting.
It sat in the garage for a few months before we got to work on it. We took out the transmission and looked at the clutch plate, which was rusted. We found a small hose (which does not exist on the BMW dealers computer) that had leaked into the bell housing. The clutch had virtually no wear on it, so we opted to use some naval jelly to clear the rust off and remount it.
We replaced the hose (around 12 dollars) as well as the throw-out bearing while we had the transmission out. We ruined a small shield getting it off, so we bought and replaced that as well (around 10 dollars).
The transmission mounts weren't too bad, but we replaced them anyway. The motor mounts appeared to be the originals (the rubber was gone) and the fan was hitting the upper coolant hose. So we replaced the motor mounts.
We got everything put back together, only to discover a vibration, which was a U-joint in the driveline ($800 if you buy a new drive shaft, $100 if you want to pay to have it rebuilt). We put the driveshaft in and it was good to go.
Overall I would say that it wasn't bad if you consider that the vehicle is on its original transmission and engine, and had 258,000 at the time of those repairs. Keep in mind that the only typical repairs were the motor mounts and U-joints. The others were the fault of the car sitting for so long, and the off chance of it having an auxiliary thermostat.
I have driven the car from June 2007 until now, November 2008. A coolant hose failed around 260k because we failed to replace it when it showed wear, and I ran into a non-visible curb going about 10 MPH and took out a tire and wheel, so we replaced the tires at about 265,000. I had a belt start squeaking and figured I had a week or so, but it went that night and took out the other two belts with it. It needs about 200-300 dollars of work right now, but is completely worth it.
I have an Eiberspacher muffler on it as a replacement for the stock, rusty one. It sounds great, and scares the crap out of ricers if I rev my engine. Performance was very good in 1988 and is still acceptable (0-60 in about 7.9 seconds).
Fuel economy is AMAZING. I get about 25mpg overall, and almost never drive on the freeway. I get about 35 on the freeway, and I do not drive for mileage.
I often hit the rev limiter (which is only at 5500 RPM). The torque is amazing and is very handy for passing. I have raced turboed Civics, Preludes, Integras, Lancers, turboed Eclipses, and many other cars, and have only been smoked by the super tuned or brand new cars. I raced a Saleen Mustang on a windy road and lost sight of him in my rear-view mirror.
Whatever this car can't keep up with on the straights, it can in the corners. The brakes are the most amazing feature on this car, and stop faster than any other car I have driven except for the older Porsches. It will outstop ANY car on the road today at 100 feet from 60mph.
Yes, there are cheaper cars to fix, but this car needs fixing so infrequently that it's worth the extra few dollars. We've gotten almost 100,000 miles out of a car that we've put about 4000 dollars into.
I've since converted several of my friends to BMW. One of them bought a 1997 328is and wishes he bought one like mine. I ran it in a BMW Auto-cross at about 265k miles, and no one believed that it really had that many. It out performed a 1997 BMW 328is that I got to drive on the same course.
The interior doesn't look dated, and my only beef with the seats is that they don't have much side support. Wouldn't be a good car for anyone over 6.0 feet though.
SO I've ranted, but it's just such a good car. As long as you watch out for a few things, and you take care of it, you should be able to get at least 300,000 out of the motor. One tip though; DO NOT get an automatic. The whole reason I got this car was because my first car (535i) had a failing transmission, and had been repaired 5 times in its lifetime for the same thing (at about 220,000 miles). The manual is made by ZF and is bullet proof.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 23rd November, 2008