Fun, classy ride for the dedicated driver
Repairs needed when I rescued it from its former owners:
Frozen drive-shaft ($600)
Worn shifter bushing ($200)
Rotted windshield seal ($180)
Worn rear suspension bushings ($280)
Worn front suspension ball joints ($550)
Worn drive belts, oil switching valve ($300)
Expended catalytic converter ($300)
Heater valve ($35)
Slow oil leak (add a qt a month)
Rough engine idle (probably worn vacuum hoses, too many to worry about)
Repairs after I bought it:
Slow coolant leak (clamp tightened)
Finicky sunroof and rear window motors
I've had most of the major repairs listed done by now, save for the front and rear suspension items and the cat converter.
At this point it is a pure joy to drive 35 miles each way to work. The thing about these cars is that they can be had for so little money, even dropping $2k in initial repairs ends up a bargain in the long run.
The engine uses a timing chain, so with regular oil changes and tune-ups it's fairly bulletproof. Same for the shocks. All the things that do go wrong with this car are *extensively* documented on the internet so you know if you can fix something yourself or how much it should cost to fix. This also makes it a good car for the used buyer to shop for, because making a checklist to bring to a showing is a piece of cake, as is looking the car over yourself. Just do your homework!! (Note: make sure the weird original metric-sized rims have been replaced or expect to pay out the nose for new tires.)
Another reviewer lamented the poor acceleration for a 3.5l gas hog. What he doesn't mention is that this engine pulls from 1200rpm without the need to downshift. It takes on the hills of San Francisco at 1500rpm without a shudder. I've never wieFicnicklded such torque before in a car, and it's a different kind of appreciation than that for pure horsepower.
Not to say it isn't quick. Hang out in the power band above 3000rpm and it's a rocket. Then comes my favorite part... nothing sounds sweeter to my eats than this engine near redline, where it's just a pure, raw snarl.
Too bad your mileage drops to single digits when you do that, though. In the mostly highway commute life I give this car I get about 22 mpg. Drive around with some spirit and say hello to about 15 or 16 mpg. I would like another 80 hp for that sacrifice... but it's still worth it.
This car handles better than any other 4-door I've driven, especially with non-TRX 215 Dunlops all around. The balance is so perfect, so much better than any FWD is going to give you. Exit ramps just beg to be navigated with the throttle instead of the steering wheel.
I fully recommend the 1985-88 535i/535is to anyone looking for a relative bargain with lots of life left and a great time offered behind the wheel. This is definitely for people who like cars and <u>who have access to a good German specialty wrench</u>. If you want slightly more reasonable, but still fun point A-to-B transport, maybe a used 3-series is more up your alley.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 18th December, 2002