There's a story associated with this car. I've never earned much money, really, always having done dull office jobs, and been supporting a hefty volume of wives, kids, mortgages, and all that drudgery. But I'm a keen driver and I'd always liked my Nissan cars. I'm not looking for sympathy - my mistakes are my own.
Now a mate I was in college with 20 years ago bought this BMW in 97. It was a year old, one of the then new types - the late eighties/early nineties 5 was boxy where this is, well, gloopier. Meltier, maybe. Softer. You get my drift. It's the model that ran until, I think 02, to be replaced by the current, controversially styled 5.
This mate - let's call him Mark - went into business and made proper dosh. He earns more in a day that I earn in 4 months. Really. When we got together now and again for a pint, he'd invite me to drive the 5 and I loved it.
Beemers are everything they're cracked up to be from a driver point of view. Smooth, responsive, involving.
The balance feels different because... because the balance is different. There's as much weight behind you as there is in front of you. This gives a taut, poised feel. The in line 6 cylinder engine - big by UK standards - has all the right sounds engineered in - muffly and smooth for low speeds, tearing fabric at high ones.
They make other cars feel rather pedestrian, somehow. When I acquired the 5 I kept my likeable Primera, but it does feel odd when I get into it after driving the BMW. It feels thrashy and squirted along on understeery front wheels, and as if there's an obese mammal relaxing somehere under the bonnet.
The BMW's steering is perfectly - and I mean perfectly - weighted. And for a 96 car, it was specced up - cruise, rain sensitive wipers, decent CD player. These days much of that kit and more can be found on Mondeos now of course, but then it was standout stuff.
So Mark acquires the car in 07 with 10,000 miles on the clock. He adds 206,000 to these, spent mostly sailing up and down Britain's motorways. The 5's a great choice for this. It's thirsty around the cities, but get it on a motorway and it ticks over nicely and economically at 70. The long platform, the clever suspension, the tyres (that are not just the thin wide strips of rubber you see on more or less everything these days, grump, grump) make it the best motorway mile eater you can dream of. That and the leather seats. Slot the Darkness into the CD changer in the boot at the start of your journey, and your worries are way behind you.
Fast forward to late 04. Mark calls me. `Listen mate, the beemer? I'm getting rid. D'you want it? Yours for free.'
It was a kind offer. Even with big miles on the 5's still worth - I dunno - 4, 5 thou. Maybe more - this one's been maintained on a money no object basis by a main dealer. And the paperwork's there, neatly archived.
I need another car. When the Mrs is at work, I'm on the buses with the kids. No fun. Mark's 5 is literally like new.
I said no.
Yes I did.
It felt like scrounging.
I couldn't afford to run it, could I.
A little later I went for a pint with a different mate, let's call him Dave. I told him the story.
Before I knew it Dave had me by the lapels, was shaking me and yelling incoherently. Something about me having all the judgment of an amoeba and needing to get me to a telephone right now.
But Mark rang me before I reached a phone. He seemed unable to trade the BM in. Liked it too much. Kept having to go back to the dealer and reclaim it.
One last offer. `Come and get this car. I've bought a new Cayenne...'
Reader, I acquired it. Took the train down south and drove the car back up the A1 - a fine driving road - one beautiful evening in May 05. My 10 year old bought me a most excellent CD to delight us as we sped smoothly home - one `teenage kicks' (featuring the undertones, squeeze, splodgenessabounds and many other gifted exponents of that genre that brings a tear to the eye of Dads of a certain age.)
Ownership? Expensive. I was right, it's cripplingly dear. Work on the basis of shelling out 5 times the cost of `normal' garage bills, even though not much seems to go wrong.
At Mark's suggestion I extended the standard BM warranty, at about a grand a year. That means they'll fix most of the problems and give you a three series while they do it. This said, they can't make certain dashboard lights go out. The car's convinced that rear light bulbs are inoperative when in reality they're in rude health.
And the 5 seemingly has a design fault. The front bumper/spoiler is low. Even look at a kerb - like the one you normally `nose over' at the tesco? With no trouble?
You've got trouble and expensive trouble at that. Removing the low spoiler strip helps, but not much. Reverse out of your supermarket space and the front of the car decides it likes staying just where it is, thank you very much.
So. Overall - costly to run, but when you're looking at an enmpty road with something decent on the stereo, you'll forgive it anything.
At some point I'll updat this report as I haven't done enough miles to comment sensible, really. But by then I'll probably have had to flog the computer. And the house.
I'll advise on whether the 5 makes good living quarters...