1991 BMW 5 Series 525iA M50B25 from North America
Fantastic automobile... but not for the weak of mind/spirit/wallet..
To consider the abused state of my Bimmer when purchased... not too much (attesting to the reliability and forgiving nature BMW engineered into the E34).
First order of business: Tune-Up with Oil and Filters Change (Oil, Air and Cabin Air)
Rebuilt Front-End: Thrust Arms, Control Arms, Center Link, Tie-Rods, Sway-Bar Links, Idler Arm, Struts.
Intake Boot (between MAF and Throttle Body) : Cracked when purchased causing VERY rough idle.
Several Interior pieces.
Ground down rust and re-primed bottom of sunroof (and replaced seal.
Replaced Driver's door window motor.
...there are still MANY smaller repairs to perform...95% are cosmetic.
I originally bought this vehicle as a weekend project. I like Bimmers and I couldn't beat the price. That said, anyone purchasing a vehicle used (particularly one well out of warranty) should expect repairs. The older and higher mileage the vehicle the more expensive and numerous they are likely to be.
I've read many of the reviews here with pithy complaints about older cars and the repairs needed. A BMW is not just a vehicle; it is a commitment to quality, and as such when things go wrong it's likely to be more expensive a repair than your typical Toyota or Chevrolet. Likewise, it is also very likely to still be running strong when most cars are rusting to nothingness in a scrap-yard somewhere.
Overall, I can honestly say I'm impressed with my E34. It runs very well (especially at license losing speeds), it is the only vehicle I've owned which gets better mileage above 80mph than at 55. Handles very nimbly for a car weighing just shy of two tons loaded. Finally, with a few minor performance modifications (chip, headers, cams and ported-and-polished heads) it truly screams (think M5 style power) without too many compromises in economy and none in reliability.
Now, for the perspective owner of an E34. Owning a BMW is a commitment. It is a much more maintenance intensive car than a Honda. If you wish to have a reliable and safe vehicle, follow a few basic rules:
Use ONLY Full Synthetic Oils and Genuine BMW or Mann Filters every 6 months or 7500 miles.
Use BMW Coolants or Non-Water alternatives (such as Evans NPG+) with annual flush (except the Evans product every 5 years).
And, although you are driving a vehicle which gets relatively good mileage (considering size/weight/power) ; it is not a commuter car. You really need to get out an drive. Let it breathe. Floor it. It was built for the Autobahn (not rush-hour boredom). Drive it hard occasionally or you may end up with reliability issues as well.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th August, 2007