I have been in teh BMW family for a few years now and this car has been a lot of fun to drive even as an automatic. For a 17 year old car it can still handle well, even after years of New England weather.
My car has started every day in hot, cold, wet, dry and snow filled days with out issue and has never left me stranded, it is a higher maintenance 5 series due to it being the V8. Average extra cost a year would be estimated at around $2000.00, for a typical do it yourself er. I have had the car 11 months now and have bought new suspensions, mounts, brakes, exhaust, and typical other things.
heated seats, lumbar support, On board computer read outs (mpg, mph, temp, estimated mileage on fuel, etc.
Comfortable seats, great window views on blind spots, stylish BMW classic look with hand built qualities.
Front end suspension needs replacing every 60k or so, switches constantly stop working, temperamental electrical. Gas guzzler 12/20 mpg.
Sluggish take off with automatic.
I just got my first BMW A 1995 540i with the original engine block Nikasil. Never was replaced. Only has 80k on it. Runs JUST FINE!! I love this car it handles great, wish I could buy another. Great with turns, has POWER... Had the local BMW shop check the engine out and said its still strong and good. The whole Nikasil thing was blown out of the water, some were affected while others were not. I will never go back to a honda again thats for sure. Love this car will and go to the grave with it. SMOOTH SMOOTH SMOOTH...
Simply put the best car you can buy for a few grand. Build quality/ride/handling/braking rivals new cars. Steering is ok, loads up well, good feedback but poor on center and is not as quick as modern cars. V8 with a 6spd manual (proper) gear box is a dream. These things take a good deal of maintenance and repair, simple as that (find me a 16+ year old car that doesnt'!). Parts are reasonable, labor is pricey. Parts availability and technical info is outstanding (old bimmers have a great group of owners!) I like this car a lot but it just isn't the best fit for my needs. I would prefer to sacrifice some of the greatness of an old BMW for a less hassle newer car.
The new cars are sufficiently updated. Know what you're getting into, it's going to need maintenance and repair - $1-3k per year if you are handy with a wrench. Cost is fair, but takes too much of my time.
After reading all these stellar reviews I'm beginning to wonder if I need a new mechanic. I bought this car used, 6 years ago. It's pushing 200,000 miles, but I hear these cars can last forever. It shudders HARD when I drive between 45-55 mph, drivers side window regulator regularly craps out, belts fall off, has a severe oil leak that can't seem to be fixed, and a coolant light that beeps at me no matter what I do (so I either leave my lights on, because I've grown to ignore the beep, or run the risk of overheating because it cries wolf all the time). Interior display has dimmed to the point of invisibility, and the following parts melted off: hood ornament, side mirror, interior door frame.
Car came with ridiculous 80s looking car phone, adds to the Miami Vice feel. It's a good looking car inside and out, until things fall off. Lots of trunk space. It's a very heavy car, and feels very safe when it's running well.
Buy a cup holder, and some good glue to fix the crap that's going to fall off (that is, if you don't loose it on the freeway). Get used to the fact that your computer will one day fade away and you'll never know the temperature outside, or how many mpg you're getting. Assume it's very low.