CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Car choice challenge - what car do I want?!

I’m looking for a new (to me) used car.



Current car is a '95 530i (yup, I like to drive 'em until they drop). I’m quite spoiled by the refinement and ride of my 530i w/its excellent V8, but the mileage is awful, and there are so many things going wrong with it now that it really is getting time to move on…



What I’m looking for:



- Relatively quiet cabin w/out a lot of engine/road/tire noise

- MPG low to mid 20’s to >30 highway

- Ride more on the sporty side, but not jarring/jittery

- 4 doors

- Reliable

- <$20K, $18K would be ideal

- <40K miles

- 1994 or newer



I’ve been thinking about 4 cyl Accords, Acura TLs (but appears they won’t make the mileage goals), Acura TSX (but ride may be an issue according to Consumer Reports review), Nissan Altima, and Prius (though may be too expensive).



I’ve driven a couple 3-series BMWs and was unfortuntely underwhelmed by the amount of cabin noise from engine/road/tires…



Any suggestions for cars to look at that fit in my criteria?

Test drive a 2005 Infiniti G35 and a 2006 Cadillac CTS and see if you like them. Either the 2.8L or 3.6L CTS will hit the low end of the mileage you seek, as will the G35.

Ignore the man behind the curtain… Why would you just take CR at their word concerning TSX handling? Go drive one. It won’t cost you anything but your time, and it will be fun. I’m sure that you can find a 2005 or 2006 on a dealer’s lot to toodle around town one afternoon.

I have an '06 Accord (V6) and it certainly meets your mileage goals. I have to figure the 4 cylinder version would do as well, and they started out around $18K new in '06.

Thanks very much - yes I intend to drive everything myself, and am not going to let review comments get in the way of me experiencing the cars first-hand. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your reply. Would you mind posting the mileage you get from around town, mixed town and freeway, and freeway only (e.g., long trips) on your V6. I’d appreciate seeing some real-world MPG results…Thanks!

Taking into account what you currently have, a 2002 or 2003 BMW 525i and 530i would fit your bill. Those were the last 2 years that the previous 5-series were built and they have Toyota-like reliability according to Consumer Reports. They are also one of the best cars that CR ever road tested in terms of refinement etc. They go for well under 20K right now. Stay away from:

  • Any BMW 8-Cylinder (540i). They have all kinds of problems (as you are experiencing yourself)
  • Anything before the 2001 facelift

I own a 525i wagon and get 30+ MPG on long freeway drives. Mixed driving yields around 21 MPG, with lots of highway around 25. City only yields under 20 MPG.

You can answer all your mileage questions here:

http://fueleconomy.gov/

Drivers even post their own results.

Be still my beating heart… :slight_smile:

I wasn’t thinking about BMWs, but I think you have something here…

I forgot to add: The new model of the 5 (2004 and later) is also not as reliable. Your budget is below Certified Pre-Owned territory so you should stick with the exceptionally reliable 2002/2003 years. Still there is of course no question that an Accord or so is a more “reasonable” choice.

Hey - if I wanted “reasonable” advice I’d ask my wife, not you guys! :wink:

Thanks - I was very surprised - I found a CPO 2003 525i at a local dealer…going to test drive it tomorrow AM. I’m very interested to hear what is still covered under the CPO, I didn’t think CPO was available for models that old either. Talk about a motivated seller - they are driving it to me at work to test drive.

I don’t like the 2004 and later models anyway…can’t stand the body, and have heard too many complaints about iDrive.

Thanks very much for all the info/advice. Feeling much better about potentially staying in the BMW family…drove an Acura TL and TSX today (TL-underwhelmed, TSX-more fun, but noisy inside), as well as a Nissan Altima, which I didn’t care for.

If you can get a CPO 2003 525i with reasonable miles for under 20K (ideally more like 17-18K, depending if it has the premium package or the like) it’s a no-brainer. A word of caution: Being used to the 8-Cyl the 525i may lack some punch you may be used to but it is still very agile and a dream with its handling (hey, in Germany they drive 520 diesels with 130 MPH on the Autobahn). Also verify if it has the sports package or not. Sports package is very desirable for some. I deliberately did not want it because of the harsher ride.

Please let us know how it turns out.

Thanks…the good news is they have the car and it’s listed at under 18K. The bad news is it’s vinyl interior…maybe bad news anyway. I’ve never had a car w/vinyl, only leather or fabric, so I’ve no idea how bad it is, or if it isn’t bad at all…I do know my leather has been falling apart in it’s old age, so nothing’s perfect.

No sport package (which I don’t want either.) I am worried about the loss of punch from the V8 to the 6, and I’m really going to miss the sound as well…the m60 V8 makes a really sweet noise that I’ll have to learn to live without.

I drove an e39 528 years ago, I don’t know how it compares to the 525, but I found it punchy enough to be reasonable…

Oh - it does have high mileage…60K. However, I have a 3 mile commute, and we tend to use my wife’s Sienna if we go on longer trips and need more room (two teenage kids) so I don’t put very many miles on my car each year.

Vinyl (aka “Leatherette” or “fake leather”) is not a problem at all. Even the pros have trouble telling the difference to the real leather. I bet if they wouldn’t have told you, you would not even notice.

If you’re a V8 fan you’re going to notice a substantial change but you’ll also enjoy better fuel economy. I just checked www.fueleconomy.gov and the result for mixed driving was:

  • 525i: 21 MPG
  • 530i: 20 MPG
  • 540i (the V8): 18 MPG

As I mentioned you will also enjoy far superior reliability (V8s have cooling and engine problems). In addition the 6-Cyl have better steering (the 540i has a different steering because of space issues). If you will, the 525i is the ideal mix between “reasonable” in terms of reliability, fuel economy and yet being fun to drive.

Especially now that you have test driven a few alternatives. I just checked consumerreports.org and they say about the 2001: “It’s the highest scoring vehicle we’ve EVER tested.” (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/past-road-test/luxury-sedans-1101/bmw-530i/index.htm).

As I said: ideal mix between wife approvability and driving fun.

Wow…high WAF is key in my life, that’s good to know. :slight_smile:

I’m feeling a bit torn now - they have a 530i (non-CPO) for about $1000 less (just under $17) w/the same mileage…that would get me back some punch, and from what I’m seeing on another forum not cost me much at all in terms of mileage…owners are claiming >30 on long trips, very similar mileage to 525i in city/mixed.

So I’d lose about 1 year of CPO warranty that the 525i has, but save $1000 or more, get more punch, and I believe keep the better steering, since it’s still the 6 cylinder…

My wife just rolls her eyes at me. :wink:

What do you think? I’m leaning towards the 530i, but am also thinking that I should try the 525i first and see if that’s “enough.” They are bringing the car to me tomorrow to drive, so there’s no easy way to drive both tomorrow, which is really what I’d like to do. They are about 1 1/4 hours away round trip. Frustrating to have to behave like an adult and be patient…

So - 530i or 525i tomorrow!?

Oh - and how do I tell if it has “Premium Package.” Neither have Nav, both have AM/FM/CD (doesn’t say anything about a changer) and all power everything.

In that case it’s all down to personal preference. I think the engine in this scenario may just play an as important role as interior/exterior color or things like premium/sports package, leather steering wheel and stuff like that. Imagine the 525i has all colors and features you want and the 530i would miss something - what would you do?

Now the time for academic discussion is over and we’re getting down to driving and feeling the car and the alternative back to back.

The steering is the same indeed. Which other forum are you using? Link?

A car with better fuel economy and a CPO warranty may have the higher WAF :wink:

Edit: I personally did not have the engine choice when getting mine because I wanted a wagon (kid + dog + WAF = Wagon). They only sold 525i and 540i wagons in the US.

There is a sports package with stiffer suspension, different tims etc.

There is a winter package with heated seats and the like.

The premium package encompasses to my knowledge things like real leather seats, some special wood trim, a leather steering wheel and the like. Premium also has things like fancier stereo, the passenger side mirror tilts down when you shift into reverse to see the ground, odd little “premium” luxuries.

Thanks…no premium on these cars, then. The 525i is the exterior color (German racing silver!) and a year newer, so that’s probably the “right” choice. :slight_smile: Drop me a line at screen name and google mail and I’ll get you the link to the forum. Now if the other was also silver or metallic blue or something like that I’d really have an impossible choice…

Well, around town I get about 22 MPG, on a long trip I get about 30 or 31. I really don’t do “mixed.” I’m either going 4 miles or 400, but almost nothing in between, and usually I ride my motorcycle for around town stuff anyway. Note the figures I get almost exactly match the EPA estimates for the model and year I own. They changed the rating system since then, so I don’t know how well it would match on newer versions.

Thanks…I appreciate your reply. I’m sort of torn…leaning towards the fun/Bimmer side, but still hesitating slightly. I can get more engine w/the Accord (V6, more HP, 7.6 0-60 vs. 8.0 for the 525i)…but the overall driving experience w/the BMW is not matched by the Accord.