BMWs are amazing machines that deliver substantial performance, and they depreciate like mad so you can get a relatively new one for not a lot of money. Somehow with most if not all of their vehicles, BMW has magical suspension tuning abilities that make the cars handle incredibly. Enthusiasts in particular appreciate BMWs because all of the cars are either RWD or AWD, which contributes to their exceptional handling characteristics. No matter what BMW focus their cars on, whether it be for commuting or performance, the comfort and ride quality always seems to come first.
Unfortunately, however, BMWs are synonymous with catastrophic failures. For instance, on E36 cars the thermostat housing, which is made of plastic, cracks and the engine will overheat. Engine problems hog most of the failures of a 3-Series. That said most BMWs suffer some kind of horrific failure, but the N52 engine which was used from 2005-2015 is thought of by some as the most reliable BMW engine ever made. If you’re going to get a BMW and don’t have an unlimited amount of money sitting in your bank account, you’ll probably want to get one with an N52 engine.
In 2008 the 128i equipped with the 3.0-liter N52 made 230 horsepower. The 125i, no matter which engine chosen, was nimble from its BMW tuned suspension and shifted smoothly, with an optional six-speed manual transmission. The automatic wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. Thanks to the aforementioned depreciation, you can find a 128i from 2008 for as little as $9,000.
A big complaint of the 1-Series BMW is that it’s a bit cramped on the inside, but that can easily be solved by choosing a 3-Series sedan. It’ll have the same feeling as the 1-Series, where the suspension is tuned just right to provide nimble handling, and the engine delivers smooth acceleration, the transmission seamless shifting. You can find a 2008 BMW 328i sedan for as little as $7,400.
For the 2004 BMW 330Ci, the N52 had 250 horsepower so just a little bit more than the 1 or 3-Series. Granted the 330Ci is an older vehicle, so it’ll probably have more than 100,000 miles, which for a BMW can be somewhat dangerous territory. Since it’s got the N52 the engine should be ok for a while, but just to be on the safe side if you’re going to buy one have the engine meticulously checked. A 2004 330Ci should go for around $5,000.
For the roadster, the Z4 3.0si, the N52 produced more than 260 horsepower. Aside from being a bit on the small side for taller drivers, the Z4 provided great traction and is proven to be more reliable than the average car. Because of its small size the Z4 is going to handle better than the sedans, and its shorter wheelbase means it’ll be easier to toss around the corners. The best part is that the Z4 can be yours for a cool $9,800.
If you’re looking for a reliable BMW SUV, the 2006-2010 X3 is probably your best bet. It’s comfortable, rides very high and feels a lot quicker than it actually is, and the suspension absorbs most of what the road has to throw at you. You’re even looking at more than 23 mpg on average, which isn’t bad for a BMW SUV. Thanks to the infamous BMW depreciation you can find a 2006 X3 for $6,000.
No car is completely reliable to the point where nothing ever goes wrong or breaks, it’s simply not possible. However you can do research and find a car that has less likelihood of breaking like others will. Thankfully the N52 has been around for a long time now, so a lot is known about it, and there won’t be many mysteries left. Which is always a good thing when it comes to repairing engines.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.