1999 BMW 5 Series 528i Sport Package 2.8L inline 6 gas from North America

Summary:

Enjoying the ride, but not the costs or time spent in fixing it

Faults:

The radiator cracked, then blew at around 100,000 miles.

Power windows have had issues - first the front passenger window would stick, requiring dealership service, and now the rear window has broken from the motor (at least it's all the way up at the moment).

The left turn signal switch stuck in the "on" position. I bought a new part online and replaced it myself - having to take the steering wheel off and get into the column. Cheaper than a dealer.

Front bumper was replaced - it has low clearance and scraped one too many of those parking concrete slabs. Eventually, the outside temperature sensor (located under the front passenger side bumper) was knocked out. When that happened, the AC stopped working because it requires a minimum outside temperature to function.

Currently, the engine in idle seems as though something is rubbing. We'll see how that goes.

Dashboard console buttons are pretty cheap. Replaced several. You can buy these online and DIY.

I never had the master key from the time it was purchased (I'm the 3rd owner) so I couldn't use the keyless entry feature. The valet key that I had wore out. Replacement master key was $100 from dealer. At least now I'm good.

Cupholders are the worst ever created. Biggest flaw with the car.

Most other things are rather routine with cars - alignment, replacement of tie rods and such.

General Comments:

When this car is properly maintained, it is the most comfortable/sporty thing to be in. It's not a racing vehicle - you might find it sluggish since it is so heavy - but at least it doesn't say "retiree" like a Mercedes or Lexus.

Driving is precise and fun every time the weather is nice. I liked driving my Accord before having this car. I love driving the 528i in the summer.

Winter driving is another matter - it doesn't handle slick conditions very well. I haven't tried the xDrive versions that BMW has. I've slid quite a bit in this thing - maybe because I have driven FWD cars until now (my Accord seemed to handle icy or slick roads pretty well). I have feared for my life on two occasions in the 528i with RWD (including one time driving about 10 mph with chains on!)

Getting about 22 MPG with mostly city driving.

So far it seems that I've had to put an average of about $1200 per year of service into the car.

Too many replacements or repairs seem to require specialty service or dealer work. Headlights for instance - Xenon bulbs are ridiculous to replace. DIY for cheaper, but you gotta find the right place to buy them. Same thing with wiper blades. Dealer wanted $200 in parts for a change of spark plugs! DIY and tell them to stuff it.

Message boards are good online resources. So is Bavarian Autosport (online parts store). Purchased many parts from them.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 14th January, 2012

15th Jan 2012, 11:54

You should've kept that Honda. BMW's been pulling some shady stuff with their cars and dealers.

1999 BMW 5 Series 535i 3.5L V8 petrol from UK and Ireland

Summary:

When working, close to motoring perfection, but let me down too many times

Faults:

Three different failures of the cooling system, each one leaving me stuck at the side of the road.

Transmission required rebuilding when reverse failed.

Fuel pump failed, requiring replacement.

General Comments:

I have never owned a better car, yet I have never owned a worse car. To this day I remain conflicted about my 535.

On the plus side, the 225 bhp V8 petrol gave effortless performance. The handling was sublime, tricking you into thinking you were throwing a much smaller car into bends. Refinement was excellent, the 5-speed auto being so long geared that the engine was barely above tickover at motorway cruising speeds. When the 535 was behaving, it truly did feel like the ultimate driving machine.

Then the car would break down, and the illusion of precise German engineering would be shattered! The cooling systems of E39 5-series petrols seems to be designed to self-destruct - horrible cheap plastic everywhere that's just asking to fail. Of the five friends of mine who bought E39s, each one had some sort of cooling issue within the first six months of ownership.

I thought I was out of the woods after cooling system failure number three and a full transmission rebuild (€2,000, thank you very much!), but then the fuel pump died. I didn't dare go near a main dealer, but even a local mechanic didn't leave me with any change from €800. That was the straw that broke the donkey's back: I felt I had to get rid of the car after that.

Apart from all the breakdowns, running costs weren't what you'd call cheap. Nobody buys a 3.5-litre V8 for economy reasons, but driving in town, expect 18 mpg (UK) and plenty of visits to the petrol station. Motorway runs were better, returning 24 - 26 mpg, and one gentle run on back roads in the west of Ireland saw the on-board computer reading 32 mpg after the 90-minute trip.

If you're looking for a weekend car, or one that won't spend its life in traffic, and you can find one that's had its cooling system and transmission done already, then let your heart win out over your head and buy one. Just be prepared for the worst; that dreadful sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when the on-board computer goes "bong" and flashes up its latest tale of failure and woe on the matrix display.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 2nd November, 2010