Incredibly fun to drive like a maniac, but you'd better be a mechanic to keep it on the road
The extremely complicated heater valve system failed pretty much immediately, and later attempted to catch fire, so I disconnected it. It costs $120 at the cheapest for the part so I haven't bothered getting one. It doesn't get very cold here anyway.
The center driveshaft support bearing was severely worn when I bought the car, as was the differential. I replaced both and got rid of deafening noises. One of the drive axles now appears to be going bad as well.
I snapped a timing belt at 219,000 miles and had to replace the head. Ironically replacing the head took less time than actually swapping in a new timing belt, as it's a relative nightmare to get at parts in front of the engine. Replacing the belts every 30,000-40,000 miles is a very good idea, as it saves the aggravation of sourcing a good cylinder head.
After replacing the head the car runs great. I was shocked at how little wear there was in the cylinder walls. The original crosshatch machining marks were still there.
When the suspension bushings and control arms start wearing out, everything wears out at the same time, and gets extremely expensive. Once done they'll go another 5-10 years though.
Other than that the car has been extremely solid considering its extremely advanced age.
This is the best handling car I've ever owned. I had a 325i (E30) and it was far twitchier than this. With the 18" E39 M5 wheels and 235/255 tires front and rear, it's very well balanced with incredibly high lateral g ability. I've cranked this car into a 45 degree drift on an on ramp cloverleaf in the rain and held it there easily the whole curve. That's how well balanced this car is. Only pure lunacy behind the wheel can exceed this car's threshold for cornering.
Acceleration is on the other hand bovine by comparison. The 168hp engine is entertaining from 4,000rpm onward, but absolutely gutless below that. You're not going anywhere unless you really beat on this car. With the 5 speed manual transmission, that's easy enough to accomplish. The shifting in this car is flawless and extremely fast. It always syncs up, and the gates are very easy to find.
The cheap leather in it is long since destroyed though, and the door skins are rotting away. I don't know of any car I've ever seen that happen in.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 27th December, 2008