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roninsoldier83
roninsoldier83 Reader
2/16/17 1:12 p.m.

In the $5k-$10k market, I would be looking very closely at an E46 330 ZHP. I might even try to find a nice, low-ish mileage, E36 M3 with some maintenance records. In that same vein of cars, an Infinity G35 would also fit the bill nicely.

If you don't mind rotary upkeep, the RX-8 is a blast to drive! I've driven the RX-8 a few times and found them more fun to drive than cars like the BRZ/FR-S. Very willing and balanced/capable chassis, combined with a motor that is fun to rev out. I've almost bought one a few times and probably will one day... but beware, gas mileage is horrific, they consume oil by design and the Renesis is known to be, let's say "less than reliable".

In the ~$25k category, I've driven all the main "new" contenders- WRX, Fiesta ST, Focus ST, GTI and BRZ/FR-S. I've even owned a few of them (WRX, Focus ST & GTI). My assessment:

-If you spend a lot of time in the snow, just buy the WRX. I know you have other cars, so I'm assuming that's not the case. Honestly though, the 2015+ WRX is actually pretty good at everything- peppy engine, fairly tight suspension, decent gas mileage, lots of AWD grip and nicer interior than previous versions. It's really a good jack of all trades car that makes a good daily. Before I bought my current daily (MK7 VW Golf R), I owned a 2015 WRX and my wife currently owns a 2016 WRX, if that tells you anything.

-The Focus ST and Fiesta ST are both about as fun as a FWD car can get! The Focus is faster, but the Fiesta is more fun to pitch around. I've owned a Focus ST, good car, fun to drive, great engine, but a bit of wheel hop/torque steer down low. I would recommend it, but I'll be honest- the Fiesta ST is more fun. The FiST is probably one of the most fun FWD cars ever made.

-The GTI is leagues ahead of the WRX/Focus/Fiesta in interior materials, comfort, refinement, etc and is still fun to drive. Me personally, if RWD isn't a priority, for a daily, I would likely be leaning towards a MK7 GTI w/Performance Pack. That's a lot of car for the money and a great drive.

-BRZ/FR-S: if you're on a great back road, or drive in the canyons a lot, these can be really fun cars; but for the daily grind/traffic, I didn't come away terribly impressed. At my elevation (5200 ft), the last BRZ I drove felt pretty anemic. The chassis has great balance and steering feedback is pretty good for a modern car with electric steering; but in order to exploit it, you're going to want some open, twisty roads. Light to light, I felt it was a bit on the boring side. For a daily that sees lots of traffic, I would prefer one of the above mentioned boost buggies.

Honestly, I think you should do 2 things:

  1. Assess your budget and decide how much you really want to spend. There's a big gap between $5k-$10k vs $25k. Do you want to take on a car payment? Do you mind performing deferred maintenance on an older car? Do you want a warranty? Will you have to depend on this car daily? Things I would get in order before I went shopping.

  2. Get out there and start driving cars. I might prefer apples and whereas you might prefer oranges. Only way to know if you like something is to drive it for yourself. So, get out there and start driving!

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) Reader
2/16/17 3:02 p.m.

One thing I'd say is that an e46 330i is like 90% of the performance of an e36 M3 in a quieter, more comfortable package. And that 10% delta is in the last margin of 10/10ths track performance. As a daily street driver that would never see the track, I would be hard pressed to say that the e36 is better than the 330i. Prices for clean e36M3s are pretty high.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
2/16/17 3:08 p.m.
The0retical wrote:
pointofdeparture wrote: I thought the new Mazda 3 with the 2.5 was more fun to drive than many performance models offered by competitors. The old Speed3 is an interesting car in its own right but I see 19MPG on premium as unacceptable from a hatchback in 2017. NC MX-5s with the power hardtop are creeping towards $10k if you can lose the rear seat requirement. That's an option that repeatedly tempts me...
19 mpg? Jeeze I see 23-25mpg in mixed driving conditions over a 20 mile a direction commute and mine has been worked over pretty heavily. Pre-turbo swap I'd see 33 mpg on the highway going from San Diego to Victorville and back and 27 in mixed conditions over a 35 mile a direction commute into the desert. The car entertains me to no end and I'm happy I ended up with it over the FRS I drove just before it. It's not light or RWD though so in this situation it probably doesn't apply. How big do the back seats need to be? The FRS/BRZ they're more of a suggestion for insurance than getting an adult in them. They're fun to drive, easy to work on and well supported by the aftermarket. The nicest RX-8 you can buy maybe?

19 mpg seems unreasonably low. I can eeek 13mpg out of my heavy, 4wd v8 powered Discovery in normal driving (not trying to hypermile nor flooring it from every stop) only 6 more MPG seems off. My old 318ti could touch 30 all day, doing 75 mph and flooring it from every light.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/16/17 3:22 p.m.
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) wrote: One thing I'd say is that an e46 330i is like 90% of the performance of an e36 M3 in a quieter, more comfortable package. And that 10% delta is in the last margin of 10/10ths track performance. As a daily street driver that would never see the track, I would be hard pressed to say that the e36 is better than the 330i. Prices for clean e36M3s are pretty high.

I've got to disagree with you there. While the E46 330i (especially in ZHP form) is a great car, and a fantastic all-arounder, it's not as direct as the E36 M3.

My brother owned a very, very nice ZHP 330i that I spent quite a bit of time in. I've also owned an E36 M3 for years. The ZHP was smoother, quieter and had a much, much nicer interior. However, the E36 M3 has a visceral feel and IMHO is much more fun to drive. The ZHP felt soft, and like it was dipped in molasses compared to the M3----everything is more immediate in the older car--- but it's also less refined.

Don't get me wrong--- the 330i may be the perfect car for the OP, but the E36 is more fun---even at non-track speeds. That said, if I was the OP, and buying used, I'd probably find the nicest ZHP 330i I could find. (or an E46 M3) The E36 cars are 20 years old at this point---- not ideal for a daily driver.

dyintorace
dyintorace PowerDork
2/16/17 3:37 p.m.

I'm on my 5th e46 BMW now. Two wagons, two ZHP sedans and an M3 (modded). I love them. Perfect size, gorgeous to look at and available for under $10k all day long (at least the non-M cars). Check out the classifieds at e46fanatics.com and the ZHP Mafia site. Really incredible cars that do everything well.

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) Reader
2/17/17 12:12 a.m.

Joe - I don't think we disagree at all. Unquestionably the e36M3 is a much more direct experience, and on a track/road rally/mountain drive thats certainly more fun. Like I said, the e46 is 90% of the performance. But it's a horses for courses kind of thing. The rattles, crumbly interior and busted pixels of all but the cleanest e36 would drive me nuts on my daily highway commute. 25 year old me wouldn't care, but 42 year old me likes his quiet comfort. And it's always all relative. A couple of years ago I was thinking about trading my regularly tracked mildly modded e46m3 in on a used lotus, thinking more fun, the lower consumable cost would be worth it, etc. I took the lotus home for the weekend, and after about 2 hours decided that as much fun as it was, there was no way on earth I would drive that noisy, rough, cramped, hot little monster to/from the Glen on a summer weekend. Or anywhere farther than 2 hours away for that matter. And that's compared to an M3 on coilovers, fat sways, poly bushings etc.

I'd still bet that stock v stock the e46 330i would get around most tracks very nearly as fast as an e36 M3, and that the difference would be even smaller with less talented drivers. If only there was some sort of magazine that settled that kind of question...

Joe Gearin wrote:
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) wrote: One thing I'd say is that an e46 330i is like 90% of the performance of an e36 M3 in a quieter, more comfortable package. And that 10% delta is in the last margin of 10/10ths track performance. As a daily street driver that would never see the track, I would be hard pressed to say that the e36 is better than the 330i. Prices for clean e36M3s are pretty high.
I've got to disagree with you there. While the E46 330i (especially in ZHP form) is a great car, and a fantastic all-arounder, it's not as direct as the E36 M3. My brother owned a very, very nice ZHP 330i that I spent quite a bit of time in. I've also owned an E36 M3 for years. The ZHP was smoother, quieter and had a much, much nicer interior. However, the E36 M3 has a visceral feel and IMHO is much more fun to drive. The ZHP felt soft, and like it was dipped in molasses compared to the M3----everything is more immediate in the older car--- but it's also less refined. Don't get me wrong--- the 330i may be the perfect car for the OP, but the E36 is more fun---even at non-track speeds. That said, if I was the OP, and buying used, I'd probably find the nicest ZHP 330i I could find. (or an E46 M3) The E36 cars are 20 years old at this point---- not ideal for a daily driver.
jr10cross
jr10cross Reader
2/17/17 6:50 a.m.

Both are amazing cars, I'm not a BMW guy but I know this by far. I lost all desires for the brand growing up with an over enthusiastic father with a short wheelbase 740iA. Every stop light there seemed to a challenger, everyone had to know, there was a DVD player that specifically only played "The Transporter".

But for a guy that grew up on Fiats, Lancia, and Lotus, I got to think why start being mediocre (probably not the best term) now? Go e36M3, add it to the already impressive list. It would seem to fit your lightweight taste just a little better than the e46 330i. I think it's awesome owning the best a car brand has to offer for a specific era, then dailying the sucker. It's like wearing limited edition Jordan's to hoop outside. Use it all and enjoy it as it was intended.

BTW can the E36 win on button count alone?

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/17/17 9:54 a.m.

ManhattanM----- yep, looks like we agree more than we disagree!

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) Reader
2/17/17 11:20 a.m.

OK, so when will the mag put a couple 70 year old retirees into e36M3 and e46330 to see how their lap times compare?

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/17/17 11:49 a.m.
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) wrote: OK, so when will the mag put a couple 70 year old retirees into e36M3 and e46330 to see how their lap times compare?

Wait a minute......has our office been bugged? How did you know that was coming in the next issue of GRM?

ekauppi7
ekauppi7 New Reader
5/6/17 7:05 p.m.

What do you guys think of a nice clean 2010 BMW 128i? With stick of course. It's a lot newer than any of the 330ci's. I drove a 330ci and it was a nice car but it did not really excite me. Amazing, the blue book private sale value on 2010 128i is $6500. I found a nice clean one right at that price. It drives very nicely and feels at least a whole generation newer compared to anything else I own. Very tempting....

Good? Bad? Anything to look out for?

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
5/6/17 7:35 p.m.
roninsoldier83 wrote: If you don't mind rotary upkeep, the RX-8 is a blast to drive! I've driven the RX-8 a few times and found them more fun to drive than cars like the BRZ/FR-S. Very willing and balanced/capable chassis, combined with a motor that is fun to rev out. I've almost bought one a few times and probably will one day... but beware, gas mileage is horrific, they consume oil by design and the Renesis is known to be, let's say "less than reliable".

I agree with the "blast to drive" part. I don't find the gas mileage to be particularly horrific (I get between 19mpg-25mpg in normal driving, 6.5mpg on the track) but one has to be willing to take care of the motor.

The reliability patchiness often seems to correlate to how it has been treated. If it's had regular oil changes and been driven hard, the engines seem to survive pretty well. It's often the ones that get babied and still have the original coil packs that suffer.

You have to be prepared to change the oil regulary, probably run premix and change the (expensive) spark plugs and the not-so-expensive coil packs regularly. Unfortunately a lot of owners go "berkeley this" when they find out how much four spark plugs cost.

Dr Ribs Revere
Dr Ribs Revere Reader
5/6/17 7:50 p.m.

May have missed it but if the car is to be a fun DD then what are your daily driving habits/ parameters? Number of miles, types of roads, traffic, stop lights, country vs city, weather etc...

What might be great on a rural winding backroad could be terrible for highways and tins of stoplights.

ekauppi7
ekauppi7 New Reader
5/7/17 12:20 a.m.

Dr Ribs, that's an insightful question. Thank you! I live in SE Michigan so my commute is not Deals Gap. Part suburban streets part expressway. Not terrible surfaces but it is Michigan so they are not great either. And I'm over 50 and have done enough track days so I don't feel like nut hammering on the street. The point is to have more enjoyment and more involvement in my otherwise boring daily activities. When I want to play and drive 50 miles of back roads to get lunch, I take one of the bikes, usually the Interceptor.

I did some thinking and some talking with my 17-yo son and my girlfriend, would a 2-seater work? If the 960 wagon becomes the kids car and the GF has her Prius, I could drive a Miata to work? They are both in favor of this, but I think it's mostly because they plan to borrow it... :-)

When I think of my daily year-round driving the Miata seems attractive but the next thing I think is "with the hard top" and the next after that is "really? Wouldn't the BMW be quieter/more comfortable/safer?"

I drove a red MR2 a lot, and I swear the damn thing was more dangerous than riding a bike. It was totally below the beltline of all the SUV's, they just did not see me. I like small and light a lot, and the closer to the racetrack I get the more l like it. But for my daily grind I'm thinking maybe a little taller and a little more protection is not all bad... OK, you can call me a wimp. But there it is.

Rambling here... but then there is the image thing. Cars say something about us, right? Somebody mentioned base Boxster and on the technical merits that's a great choice. But my boss is an ex-Porsche executive, drives a Cayman. I just can't buy a Boxster, it would be too much like kissing up. What I really want to do is park the Lotus Europa next to his pig-heavy Cayman, but the ugly truth is that he is paying me so well I'd rather work and get paid than work on the Lotus and not get paid.

Silver BMW's are a dime a dozen around here. Yuppie-mobiles. Can't tell them from Hondas. But I have this "who cares about fashion" streak, the same one that led me to like Volvo turbo wagons. Can I convince myself "so what if the yuppies buy them, they're great drivers cars" ??

I'm really tempted to pull the trigger on this 128i. Anybody got a good reason to talk me out of it? My thinking is: Mmm.. Straight six. Wow, 2010, newer than most of the fun cars I could pay cash for. This is a nice clean one, fairly priced. And it made me happy when I drove it.

ekauppi7
ekauppi7 New Reader
5/8/17 10:22 p.m.

OK, I bought the 2010 128i. I paid right close to book value for it -- $6500ish. So far I am happy with it, and so is the GF. It's really clean and shiny.

I am amazed that I could get a serious sports car this nice and this new for under $7000. Heck a 2010 Miata books at $10k. And the decent 330ci's were asking like $8k but they were six years older.

Now I just have to figure out all this crazy BMW stuff. No dipstick?! WTF? Run-flat tires?! I'm so old-school, I have no clue. Guess I better join a BMW forum. Anybody got a suggestion for which one is down to earth and sensible?

Bonus: The trusty Volvo sprang a head gasket leak yesterday. I guess it's time for my kid to learn how to do engine work if he wants to keep driving... :-)

dj06482
dj06482 SuperDork
5/9/17 9:26 a.m.

There have been a few good discussions about the 128i on here. The vibe I've gotten is that they're the successor to the E36 non-M3, and that the non-turbo six doesn't have the power of the 135i, but also is much more reliable. Sounds like a great value for $6500!

Duke
Duke MegaDork
5/9/17 10:27 a.m.

$6500? Wholly cow! Does it have a million miles on it?

ekauppi7
ekauppi7 New Reader
5/9/17 4:48 p.m.

It's got 122k miles on it. In a seven year old car that likely means a freeway commute. I'd far rather high miles in a well taken care of car than low miles in a neglected car. This one was owned by an older BMW enthusiast who took meticulous care of it. He bought it as a 2 year old CPO.

$6500 is KBB private party value for this car with this miles, but I do think it's surprisingly low.

Yeah, an NA straight six, that's one of the big appeals of this car to me. It's not a rocketship but it's enough for me, and reliability matters. I tend to keep cars a long time.

Dr Ribs Revere
Dr Ribs Revere Reader
5/9/17 10:21 p.m.

Congrats! 128i's always seems to make my short list. Seems like a perfectly fun easy to drive and live with commuter. Keep us posted with how ownership goes.

LuxInterior
LuxInterior HalfDork
5/9/17 11:34 p.m.

Like you OP, I'm a RWD guy. In December I bought a Focus ST. It's a great commuter car. It's pretty fun for a FWD car but honestly it's nowhere near as fun as the Toyota 86 I test drove on a twisty road last week. The 86 chassis is communicative and predictable. The Focus... Not so much.

As soon as we sell our house, I'm trading the ST in on a Toyota 86

Edit. Nevermind. Enjoy the 128i!

JtspellS
JtspellS SuperDork
5/9/17 11:44 p.m.

Congrats on the purchase, We need pics though!

dherr
dherr Reader
5/10/17 7:25 a.m.

This thread made me go look up the one series again.... yes the pricing on these covers all extremes.... the 135 M can be as expensive as 80-90K, yet you can find 128's with reasonable mileage and in great condition for 6-7K. Crazy! Autorader 128i Coupe for $6,999

ekauppi7
ekauppi7 New Reader
3/19/19 1:47 p.m.

Old thread now but just to close the loop... It's been nearly two years, the BMW 128i has over 150k miles on it now, and I still love it.  I ditched the run-flat tires and put new Koni struts and shocks in it, that's about all.  Very happy with the car.  Sometimes I lust for a 135i with the big power ... but it also is much more expensive to maintain.  The 128i keeps you involved with stirring the stick, rewards winding it up, drive a slow car fast, I like that.    It makes me smile every time I drive to work, and that was the whole point.

 

rustybuckets
rustybuckets Reader
3/19/19 2:08 p.m.

In reply to ekauppi7 :

Ha, glad you like it and I almost never see someone coming back to post their thoughts!

I was SO close to purchasing a 128i but couldn't get the seller to respond after a few texts of logistics. Real bummer now that I think of it. One day I'll have to check in on their prices again!

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