Look, I know cars. I have driven many many cars and trucks of all kinds. I have an SL500 in the garage which I thought was pretty much the perfect driving machine. Hah, !!! Short version is that if you want to arrive and be seen buy a Mercedes, if you actually care about the driving experience, and the trip is more important than the arrival, do yourself a favor and get the BMW.
I now understand why it's the ultimate driving machine, that's not an ad campaign, it's the real thing. After this wears out there is nowhere to go except into a newer BMW. If you have the means I highly recommend it.
I bought my 2001 BMW 530i with about 80,000 miles on it. It now has 140,000 on it. I have not had any MAJOR problem, but little ones here and there.. For a while, the car would just cut off at a stop light or in the drive way or anywhere when you hit the gas. It always started right back up, but it started getting worse and worse.. Nobody could tell me what was wrong with it because it didnt have any engine lights on... One day it cut off and the service engine soon light came on... It turned out to be the Camshaft posision sensor.. Now it runs like its brand new. Had a bad oil leak but only cost me $30 to get fixed. Cup holders are broke, and the wheels get break dust on them pretty bad...
I wanted a car with the power and handling ability of a sports car. Yet, I wanted the comfort and room of a four door sedan. When it came time for me the buy a new car, I decided on the BMW 540ia (with the sports package).
I know the 540ia is not the most powerful, the fastest or the best handling car. And, I know that it might not have the most comfortable ride. However, I do think this is the best car overall, in one complete package.
Bought this car new and have kept it 10 years. Have the manual transmission. Has been a dream to drive. Have had some maintenance issues, (blown radiator, fan, lights, replaced almost all suspension parts) and its really costly to get repaired. So, I went to the dealer to drive the new 2011 535, what a disappointment. The new one has more power, but has lost the great driving feel. It is just a completely different car than the old one. I guess I'll just drive my 2001 until the wheels fall off.
Only buy this if you can get a manual. If you can't drive a manual you might as well just get a Hyundai anyways.
The inline six is one of the best engines ever made anywhere, ever. Strong torque, good progression, bulletproof. Nicely matched 5 speed and sports suspension. This is the car that set the tone for a whole generation of sport sedans--none ever came close to matching its performance, comfort, safety and reliability. Still one of the highest rated BMW's ever made. A classic. Highly recommend it if you can find one.