chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/25/23 7:12 p.m.

Unfortunately I totalled my 2011 328xi sedan last week and I'm looking for a fun sedan to replace it. My budget is very small, currently looking at cars around $16k. I prefer the smaller 3 series BMWs but will admit I've never driven the 5's. While I thoroughly enjoyed the 328 I did find the power output a little lacking... I WANT a 340ix or a 2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport in BRG with a black interior but I can't afford that (https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?listingId=692420322&clickType=myATCsavedcar) so I'm shopping. I've noticed a few 535xi's pop up around me on CL and Autotrader for short money so I'm curious. What should I know about these before seriously considering them? 

Requirements for my replacement car are 2011 or newer, under 75k miles, awd and hopefully more power than the 328 had. Thanks everybody!

(p.s. I DID do a search but not finding much info)

chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/26/23 8:07 a.m.
02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
9/26/23 8:24 a.m.

The 535xi is going to have either the N54 or N55 turbo version of the N52 you had in your 328xi. Either turbo engine is going to be more problematic and costly to maintain than the NA one was. Unless you have a high tolerance for regular maintenance and potentially costly repairs, I would suggest finding an alternative. The N52 is an excellent engine, and the N54/55 can be too, but much more demanding to keep running well.

chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/26/23 9:33 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

What specifically are the problem points? This may be difficult to answer quantitatively but how much more maintenance are we talking about here?

Also will I notice the size of the 5 as compared to a 3?

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
9/26/23 9:44 a.m.

In reply to chknhwk :

Direct injection/carboning the intake valves and turbo issues (wastegate, IIRC), plus the usual stuff like electric waterpumps and oil leaks. Lots of heat in a tight engine bay, so the plastics get brittle sooner than on the NA cars. Not a fun engine to work on.

Can't really comment on the size thing - most BMWs of that era drive closer to their true size, whereas earlier cars tended to feel smaller than they were.

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
9/26/23 9:52 a.m.

In reply to chknhwk :

Also will I notice the size of the 5 as compared to a 3?

Yes, you will notice the size. I only have first hand experience with 550i and 535d F10s. Even though they feel bigger than e9x, those cars shrink in size once you push them. But at the end of the day its a bigger car. 

I have zero knowledge of the N54/N55 motors though. The diesel one was a torque monster, but probably difficult to find nowadays. 

docwyte
docwyte UltimaDork
9/26/23 9:56 a.m.

Wildly unreliable engines.  Extremely expensive to maintain outside of warranty.  Hard pass!

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/26/23 10:29 a.m.

The only one I'd be interested in would be a 535xi Touring (wagon) with a 6 spd manual.  IIRC, only offered for one year (2009?) and pretty rare these days.  Right now, none for sale on Autotrader that I can find.  I might be willing to deal with the joys of BMW ownership for one of those. Might... 

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 HalfDork
9/26/23 10:58 a.m.

I don't feel like typing it again forgive the copy and paste: 

 

They're old BMWs who appeal much more to the sideways hat crowd than members of the BMWCCA they're pretty well confined to low resale value. Thankfully this means you can have a truly incredible car for next to nothing. They're also not nearly as crummy as people suggest and there is no reasonable service that requires drivetrain removal. 

Common failures and solutions:

Early car (07-08) ecu failure: Injector drivers can be replaced by any electronics repair place. Alternatively the later MSD81 ECU is an easy retrofit with the right software. 

Injectors: Common and expensive fault, if your car has never had a FULL SET replaced under warranty/recall action BMW will install and program a set at no charge. If you have to pay for 'em FCP Euro is the go to, not the cheapest but close and lifetime replacement. 

High Pressure Fuel Pump: The later revision and aftermarket pumps seem pretty stout this honestly isn't a big problem anymore. The sub $200 aftermarket pumps are surprisingly okay. 

Water pump: Again the early pump was kinda junky but the aftermarket seems better. Currently over 100k on a VDO pump on my personal car. 

Carbon build up: It's a DI engine walnut blast every 30k if stock, 50k with a good catch-can setup, or never with reworked PCV and/or port/methanol injection 

Leaks: Yeah they leak from everywhere. Valve cover is very common but it's not a gasket failure, replacement plastic covers are out there for $100 and work for awhile, the BMW plastic cover is the best but close to $500, M18 and VTT both now make cast aluminum valve covers expensive at $600ish but no more issues. Those covers also allow you to rework the PCV system helping to prevent blowing other gaskets out. Oil filter housing gasket is common and important as it pukes oil onto the belt drive, if the belt fails on one of these it will almost certainly be sucked into the timing chain assembly. Oil pan gasket is another very common one. It's hot under the hood of these things gaskets fail. Replace neglected gaskets with good replacements and ignore for a long time. 

Misfires: Stock ignition system is garbage N55 Eldor coils are the drop in and go upgrade, I prefer for the money the Precisions Raceworks coil kit 

Turbos: This again is largely over with, the wastegate arm bushings in the BMW turbos aren't great and you end up with rattling wastegates and boost control problems. Lots of non BMW turbos out there fairly inexpensive that cure this. 

The new one seems to be mysterious low compression on a cylinder or two, the fact is these things are cheap and make big power easily they routinely get the tar beaten out of them without mercy. 

Rod bearings: I simply disagree with the rod bearing fault...  I cant say I recall an N54 having rod bearing failure without cause. That said given the age and mileage of most of these cars many have worn (note I didn't say failed) bearings it's reasonable to replace them if you're in there 

 

If a stock stock N54 car came into the shop (few are) with an enthusiast owner asking for it to be bulletproofed" my recommendation would likely be as follows

M18 Valve cover

Atmosphere vented crankcase

Precision Raceworks Coils

Front main seal retainer/guard plate

New tensionser and idiler pullies, Gates Racing belt

VDO water pump and thermostat housing

Mahle upgraded oil filter housing gaskets, Burger motorsport oil cooler valve. Factory oil cooler at an absolute minimum 

Index 12 fuel injectors

Carbon cleaning

Redline fluids in differential(s) and transmission. Liquimoly 5w40 in the crankcase. 

Aluminum cylinder head water fitting 

Replace as much under hood rubber as budget will allow. 

Metal charge pipe and cone intakes 

MHD tune (necessary for the coil upgrade) 

This is an easy 350hp car you could drive to the moon. Intercooler, charge pipes, and downpipes make a nearly 500hp car you could drive to the moon. 

 

 My car is close to 200k early last year it was driven from PA to NH without so much as opening the hood, in the fall I drove from PA to The Dragon and then straight across NC to a wedding (yes my best friend from college is a dolt who got married during COVID) the only thing I didn't feel uneasy about all weekend was the car. In the six years I've owned mine it has done three years back to back as a sales repmobile driving all over the state everyday, took a break to be my toy and spent a couple years being railed on every weekend (drag racing, half mile, autox, track day you name it) then my ex used it as her repmobile for the better part of a year. They  are fantastic everything cars a little heavy and the open diff is a bummer but you can fix everything wrong with them relatively easily. 

 

 

chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/26/23 11:02 a.m.

Thanks guys!  Great input all around.

How would the collective feel about an A4 or A6 (3.0t) awd as compared to a 328xi or even a 535xi?  They are all around the same price tag (sub $16k under 75kish miles).

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
9/26/23 11:08 a.m.

We need Javelin here for Audi input. 

Maybe you can have a mod update the title to include Audi and drive more views to the thread. 

I believe there was an A4 that had piston ring issues. I know my aunt had to get the engine swapped in her 2.0 Allroad. That's all I can contribute. 

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/26/23 1:13 p.m.

my trusted independent german repair guy says post-E46 he would choose Audi over BMW,

"and not like I before E, either.  always."

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
9/26/23 1:23 p.m.
chknhwk said:

Thanks guys!  Great input all around.

How would the collective feel about an A4 or A6 (3.0t) awd as compared to a 328xi or even a 535xi?  They are all around the same price tag (sub $16k under 75kish miles).

Stay far away from 2.0T A4's in the B8 generation, they have low tension oil control rings and absolutely suck down oil. Only fix is a whole engine rebuild.

B9 A4's are better engines, but having electronics issues. I honestly wouldn't recommend any A4 newer than a B7.

A6's with the 3.0T only are good (avoid 2.0T's, same issues as the A4's, and the 3.2's are meh). The C7 chassis is the same supercharged 3.0 that's in my S4. It's a really reliable and bulletproof motor. There's a few little things that will age out, like the intercooler bricks, but the age at which they do is 100% dictated by how well maintained the car is. We're at 133K miles now and have done the water pump, thermostat, valve cover gaskets, and rear timing cover gaskets. We change the oil every 5K and the coolant annually. It's the extended service intervals that cause issues.

The C8 generation A6 is the new hot-V 3.0 Turbo and it's an even better engine honestly. They are having injector issues but ONLYb with the crazies running E40-E85 on huge tunes. Do a pump gas tune only and you'll be fine. 

The A6 is a great size, not too big, and has a lovely interior. Alternatively if it feels too big for you, get the B8 or B9 S4. If you're going auto note that the DSG B8 S4's all explode, so get a B8.5. The B9's have ZFs that are wonderful. Manual is B8/8.5 only and are starting to command a premium. 

In all cases, most Audi options are ala cart, so it's not unusual for a "Premium Plus" to be way more loaded than a "Prestige" trim.  Those options can make a huge difference in how the car drives (for example our S4 has a variable steering rack with multiple settings, a Sport Diff with multiple settings, and an integrated NAV module).

chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/26/23 1:33 p.m.

In reply to Javelin :

Thanks for the info! Very detailed. Now I just have to figure out the generation years, LOL. 

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
9/26/23 1:35 p.m.

Aren't some (most?) of the AWD BMW x-Drive systems trouble prone and expensive to fix?

Slippery
Slippery PowerDork
9/26/23 1:41 p.m.
chknhwk said:

In reply to Javelin :

Thanks for the info! Very detailed. Now I just have to figure out the generation years, LOL. 

wink

chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/26/23 1:47 p.m.

In reply to Slippery :

Thanks!!

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/26/23 2:06 p.m.
1988RedT2 said:

Aren't some (most?) of the AWD BMW x-Drive systems trouble prone and expensive to fix?

i had zero AWD problems with my E60 525xi, bought at 136k with zero records, drove it to 225k.  Changed transfer case fluid once.  Changed ATF a couple times.  Never got around to changing diff lubes.

angrycorvair's life with an E60 525xi

i remember reading something about an AWD actuator gear failure, IIRC it was an easy enough DIY fix that involved removing that gear and rotating it to an unused section of teeth, as it only moved +/- 45 degrees in normal operation.

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
9/26/23 2:49 p.m.

I just bought an '09 535i Xdrive for no other reason than my buddy bought it for his kid (against my advice,) and got scared out of it with a $4k shop quote.  It has a few needs, but is really a pretty nice car.  $2k buy-in.

Advice above is spot-on.  I'm going to change the fluids, fix the horrendous OFH oil leak, and replace the waterpump and hoses as PM.  It's a lot of car for $2k plus some deferred maintenance (about $1000 in parts and fluids.)

A lot of stuff fails, but it fails predictably and fixes are well-documented, if pricey.  

I'll follow up on my experiences after a few months.  Old 5'ers have been good first cars for my kids since I can do the work.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
9/26/23 7:02 p.m.

In case you're curious, this popped up a couple days ago.

 

chknhwk
chknhwk Dork
9/26/23 7:45 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

Nice, thank you. I'll check that out when I have time. 

However I may have found my car... 

yupididit
yupididit UltimaDork
9/26/23 7:59 p.m.

I used to want a manual f10 550i so bad. But a BMW mechanic said I'd be better off with a e60 m5 lol

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
9/27/23 9:49 a.m.
yupididit said:

I used to want a manual f10 550i so bad. But a BMW mechanic said I'd be better off with a e60 m5 lol

Yikes!  A good mechanic can find something to hate about every car.

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