Everyone has a car story, so here’s mine. I’ll be as truthful as possible because there's a large chance I’ll get into some serious trouble… ahem.
It’s 2011 and a lovely autumn day in Melbourne. I’m in my mum’s 1998 red Nissan Pulsar (because my Saab had recently died of clutch abuse) ferrying my wife and what was then my 2 year old daughter back from an extremely boring (for me) trip to the aquarium. I’m doing this because I’m a good Dad and because I want wifey to be okay that I’ll be spending the night playing poker with the boys later that evening.
There we were, stuck in peak hour traffic on the Princes Highway. I remember it like it was almost 8 years ago, when in the rear view mirror I spot a ute approaching a bit too quickly... BOOM!
The ute smashed us from the rear and pushed us into the car in front, a 3-car collision involving a burly ute driver who upon lowering his ute’s sun visor, had a spider fall into his lap, freaked out and forgot to brake, writing off my mum’s car, with me, my wife and my now hysterical 2 year old inside. Oh and let’s not forget the elderly Greek gentleman in the car to my front who still hadn’t grasped what had happened. All this, in Friday evening peak hour traffic; awesome.
Luckily, everyone was fine except for a few scratches and a couple of bruises on my 2 year old from where her baby seat’s belts had caught her.
Needless to say I was devastated. Not only because I had recently paid good money to replace the windscreen which had been smashed due to a crazy cyclist’s face (that’s a whole other story), but I would totally be missing out on poker, and this made me sad.
But let’s look at the silver lining here; this meant I had to start car shopping, like real car shopping, not just trolling through car websites, ACTUAL shopping, and this made me happy. I’m a simple guy.
I made a list of requirements; electric windows, electric mirrors, sunroof & MORE POWER! My wife had one too; airbags in the rear. So I set off online and started to look around. I had a budget of $15,000 thanks to some ‘creative insurancing’. I started looking for European cars, BMW, Mercedes Benz & Audi, but quickly narrowed things down to BMW, with MB being too expensive and Audi being too boring for what I wanted in my price range. FYI, I’m totally a wanker; at the time I had the latest iPhone, a Louis Vuitton wallet & was very particular about my latte preferences. Naturally I gravitated to the BMW, as it ticked all the boxes, plus I wanted a legitimate excuse for not using my indicator.
I narrowed my choices down further by deciding to go with what BMW do best; inline 6-cylinder sedans. The 530i & 330i were out of my price range and with the 525i being too slow, what was left? Enter the E46 325i, quite possibly the most reliable chassis with the most reliable iteration of their inline 6 - all this unbeknownst to me, as I just wanted to go fast with the sunroof open.
The first one I test drove from a small dealership left me wondering what all the fuss was about, this car was not impressing me. It became obvious why when I took it to my mechanic who told me to drive it straight back and run away. The second car I tested, and eventually bought, was from a family man who purchased it from the BMW dealership. When I asked him why he’s selling he replied with, “I bought another BMW”. Good answer.
Apart from general upkeep, the only things to fail on me (in the almost 8 years I’ve had it) were the radiator, the water pump and the rear driver’s side light cluster where one of the lights has a wire that’s double the thickness it’s supposed to be and sends too much current to the plastic housing, eventually melting the part. This is a recall item in the U.S. but not here in Oz.
I’ve put 80000kms on it so far, and it still rides well with the odometer currently at 223,000kms. A great balance of comfort and handling, I can cruise down the freeway or chuck it round a corner without having to change my undies. The automatic Steptronic transmission shifts so very smoothly, but it’s so very slow compared to modern cars. There are no squeaks or rattles of any kind and every button still works. The boot is small but big enough to fit a TANDEM pram, and the car can fit two baby seats in the back, so no need for an SUV. Though, folding rear seats would have been nice, which apparently was an option on this model. Geez.
My most favourite feature of this car is the first aid kit under the front passenger seat. Probably the last thing you’ll ever need but it’s cool as.
Fuel consumption at 14L/100km for me is quite high as I’m a lead-foot, plus I make lots of short trips. Though on longer journeys it averages out to around 10L/100km, which isn’t great but it’s expected.
The exhaust note is very nice. It’s no V8 but it has a nice low pitched burble which is enjoyable all the way to the 6500rpm redline.
There’s no sat-nav, no MP3 or Bluetooth, but it’s from 2001, so it has a cassette and 6 stack CD in the boot. Anyway, I have a phone that does all that stuff, and even though it lacks the tech of today’s cars, from the outside it still looks cool; this is something I care about deeply. This E46 generation still looks great. It has a purposeful, almost nonchalantly aggressive stance whilst being subtle.
I have casually thought about replacing it from time to time but can’t find another car that will tick all the boxes AND look this good for my price range.
I doubt I’d ever sell it anyway, I’m the second owner and between me and the previous guy, I have every single receipt for every piece of work that’s been done on the car. So I’ll end with this; maybe you can get away with buying a Korean or Japanese car that has not been well cared for (like a red Nissan Pulsar), but don’t ever do that with a Euro, especially with older models & especially still for Bimmers. However, find one that has been looked after well and you will most likely enjoy it far more than any poker night or aquarium.