We needed a third car because we were adding a teen-aged driver; our daughter received an internship through her high school and needed transportation to/from the program off-campus. I called my insurance agent about adding a third car with full coverage and received sticker-shock over the cost of insurance. Talking with our agent, she suggested putting one of the cars on liability only, which would only be $25 more per month (than $200 per month for full coverage!) and so I shifted gears and started looking at "cash cars" and evaluating how much money I would be okay parting with in the event of an accident that was my fault (the cash-car was going to be driven by me, so I could keep my daughter in full coverage on the newer, 5-star safety rated car as a new driver). My wife and I visited a dealership to look at a well-known, believed-to-be-highly-reliable brand vehicle only to learn that at my height (around 6'1") that I did not fit in a lot of smaller cars, since there was little to no height-adjustment on the seats. The dealer recommends a BMW X3. I'm initially hesitant because (a) I don't want an SUV and (b) I knew nothing about BMW aside from rumor and innuendo. We drove the X3 - I fit perfectly and it was very comfortable and rode brilliantly for a 14-year old car (2004, this is 2018). I have nothing against SUVs - I just don't like large vehicles. For most of my life I've driven smaller coupes and sedans and enjoyed the spirited handling of smaller cars (and they're way easier to park, avoid door-dings, etc.). However, this BMW won me over, but there were some defects that I did not care for (former owner's dog chewed a bit of the interior) so we passed on that vehicle, but began looking at BMWs in earnest. Fast forward a week or two and I find a 2006 525i 6 speed manual transmission being sold by a guy that works only on BMWs and buys and sells BMWs through his small dealership. I met with him, drove the car and after about 10 minutes in the vehicle, I knew this was the car for me. The car is impressive for its age. It handles beautifully; acceleration is fast and smooth; the 6-speed manual transmission is like buttah... quiet, smooth, quick... I'm smitten. The clutch is not too stiff / not too loose. Body roll is minimal, and I can get the car up to 50 mph in 2nd gear and only 5,500 RPM (red line is 7,000), so this car can move and keep up with / outpace traffic (which is a first for me - all my prior cars were tiny little 4-bangers that went 0 - 60 "sometime"). With all that power, I was surprised to find that when I shift at about 2,500 RPM, the car will get about 22 MPG in town, and up to 32 MPG on the highway (the key is consistent speed, little shifting, and not being stuck in stop and go traffic). The car has a few things here and there that aren't perfect, and I didn't expect them to be, however I also did not expect to like this car as much as I do. I actually look forward to driving; before, it was alright, but a bit of a chore... and I still like the car I surrendered to my daughter to drive, but I don't like it as much as I like this older cash-car. The BMW looks stately and a friend dubbed it my first "big boy car" since it's the first full-sized sedan I've ever owned. The Bluetooth works ONLY for the phone - does not stream music - however that was remedied with a Bluetooth device that broadcasts on the FM frequency, and I picked a "dead" station, and this works as well as my former "newer" car's Bluetooth connectivity, which also fixed the lack of USB charging ports. The stock stereo system is unbelievably good - for 12 years old, the speakers are outstanding - almost no distortion at higher volume, and crystal-clear sound... I can only imagine how amazing it was when it was new. The first generation iDrive system is a bit limited, but for 2006, it's still pretty good. While I was disappointed that it's not easy to upgrade, I really can't complain with the Bluetooth power adapter. No navigation, but that's not an issue because my smartphone is what I've always used, so I don't really notice it's not there. The car is a base model so no back-up sensors - but that's cool because I grew up driving in an era when one had to learn to actually drive, estimate, and sense one's surroundings, so it's not a big deal to me. Parts are readily available. The trunk is HUGE. The back seat has loads of leg- and head-room. It's a good vehicle - if you have the opportunity to pick one up, I highly recommend it.
2006 BMW 5 Series 530xi 4dr Wagon AWD (3.0L 6cyl 6M)
I absolutely loved my 530 xi wagon and put over 175,000 miles on it before things started to go bad. It still rode like a car only a year old and looked new after 12 years. Great visibility and flexibility while keeping the handling of a performance car (without the higher center of gravity of an SUV and low enough for my dog to jump in). I held off getting a new car, hoping against hope, to get a new one - the difference between the 5 wagon and the 3 wagon was night and day. And now they aren't going to make either. I initially thought the turning headlights wasn't so important but now that I've had them, they are a "must" for future cars for me. Most cars have heated seats, some heated steering wheels but I found the quality of the heat was different/better on this 5 - instead of feeling like electric coils, it enveloped me in a gel-like warmth. unbelievable difference. And my mpg was only 1 mpg under my son's subaru!
2006 BMW 5 Series 530xi 4dr Sedan AWD (3.0L 6cyl 6M)
Yup, here it is November of 2017 and I just went out and bought a pristine twelve year old 530xi. It only has 71k miles, was a one-owner ('older gentleman', like me) who obviously pampered and maintained his car meticulously. The car has such an impeccable maintenance history, and was in such awesome condition, that the BMW dealership who serviced the car for the last seven years decided to offer it for sale themselves after taking it in trade, instead of wholesaling it or taking it to auction. THAT says something!! And truly, I can't imagine how, or even if, the car could have operated any better when it was first delivered. I searched for six months hoping for this specific model to appear, and hoped that if one did it would be in this kind of condition. I eschew force inducted engines and, other than M-engines, this is the most powerful inline non-turbo’d 6 BMW ever sold in North America. I am positively thrilled with it. It’s truly the unmatched chassis dynamics, the unique combination of ride quality and superb handling dynamics that sets even this older BMW apart from other, newer cars , even BMW’s newer cars. I test drove a 2011 535 6-spd manual and was not at all impressed, which matches an earlier impression made a while back by a 2013 335xdrive. IMHO ‘BMW’ today might as well stand for ‘Buicks, Munichs Way’, (but I’m sure that company shareholders are happy). In contrast, the E60 5-series is the epitome of their ‘ultimate driving machine’ credo and their voodoo-like art of passive suspension tuning. The same vintage Infiniti M35x and Mercedes E500 AWD cars I also drove paled in comparison. But it took no more than moving 50 feet in the dealership parking lot in this 530xi to instantly realize that this was the car I wanted to drive every day. It’s almost magical. Sure, it’s been only a couple of weeks with this car but I’m in love again. The car epitomizes what is meant by ‘planted’ and secure handling. I feel much more confident running this car along curvy roads, even at faster speeds than I did my former smaller, more ‘sporting’ 2008 335xi. It’s got that classic ‘how-do-they-do-it’ unique blend of handling AND ride quality that only BMW knew how to provide for so many decades. My car has the iDrive NAV system and yes, they overdid it with this thing. Almost everything must be done through the controller; there aren’t even any simple radio buttons one can use to change stations! It takes some getting used to and a commitment to studying the manual. Apparently designed to mimic the operating logic Blackberry and Treo cellphone users were accustomed to back then, it winds up being needlessly complicated and clumsy to use for everyone else; clearly inferior to the system I had in my 2007 Infiniti G35x. But not impossible; I’ve fairly quickly become accustomed to it and it’s not all that bad once you get over the learning curve. I also have Park Distance Control which is a Godsend. I’d probably prefer a rearview camera (again, like my Infiniti had) but this is the next best thing. The Logic 7 sound system still holds its own today, and the Heads-Up display is a cool option that I now don’t ever want to live without again. All around heated seats and steering wheel are awesome, and the ‘Comfort Access’ system means I never have to pull the keyfob out of my pocket or plunk it into the ignition slot. Here’s the killer part of this whole thing: according to MSN Auto, this car, with its complement of specific options, had an original MSRP of just under $61,000 back in 2006. I just bought it from an authentic BMW dealer, with new tires, all maintenance updated, including essentially new brakes, for just over $10,000. Granted, twelve year old E60 Bimmers in this kind of condition and with these low miles aren’t just growing on trees, but with persistence they do pop up now and again. If you can find one, it will not only be among the least amount of money you could spend for a car of its capability and quality, but the best money you would probably spend by far compared to anything else in this price range. I couldn’t possibly have spent $10,000 on a better, more satisfying used car! Even if a few expensive things 'pop' in the near future, the money I saved buying this car over less satisfying alternatives will easily cover it. If you value how a car feels running along the road, even on a simple errand to the convenience store, and you’re like the cheap old ex-New Englander I am who prizes ‘VALUE’, ‘beating the system’, and being far ahead in the car owning game, start hunting down a well-optioned, well cared for E60 5-series BMWs; the last of the real ‘ultimate driving machines’.
UPDATE; Seven Months Later.... No change in my opinion. This remains the best car I’ve ever owned. I used to say that my 2004 (first gen) Cadillac CTS-V (aka; ‘four door Corvette’) was the most satisfying car I had ever owned but now this car has that crown too. Awesome!!