I knew that I wanted something decently powerful (while being within P-plate power-to-weight constraints) and fun to drive, while still being fairly practical. And preferably a manual, with RWD. So, naturally, as soon as I found that an old BMW was within reach, I pursued it.
However, I did an awful lot of research before I took the plunge, finding out all that I could about common problems, and maintenance issues, and how to deal with them. As well as deciding which model series to go with and which engine. I ended up with a this E46 325i with the 2.5 M52B25 motor. I paid $8000 for it in July, 2015.
Personally, I think the E46 has the best blend of modern and classic BMW looks and is my favourite style-wise. My particular car is painted in Steel Blue, which I'm a big fan of.
The interior has fake wood trim, with leather seats and steering wheel. All are showing signs of some wear, but have held up well, and are still in pretty good condition for a car of this age, particularly since it has spent most of it's time outside. The front seats are very comfortable, making longer journeys no trouble at all.
The back seats are a bit less so, as they are more firm than the front ones. The seat leather is a sort of blueish/greenish-grey in colour (I don't know the proper colour name). This is probably something I would have chosen differently had I bought it new, I much prefer the creamy coloured interior. The plastics feel quite good, and it still feels solid and we'll put-together. It was worth $74,000 when new in 2001, and even after 15 years, it still feels premium.
The radio is simple as most were at the time. With AM/FM with presets to save your favourite stations. It does have a cassette player, which dates the car more than anything else. It also has a CD stacker in the boot (remember when car companies thought that was a good idea?)
It doesn't have a sat nav system unfortunately. I believe they were an option, and may have been standard later on in the E46 model run, but not in mine unfortunately.
It has what BMW calls 'ACS' which means ABS + stability control. It'll brake a spinning drive wheel for instance, and works quite well. It has saved me a couple of times when I've been a bit too heavy with my right foot in the wet!
It also has cruise control, which seems a little basic these days given how common radar guided systems are now, but it's still a very welcome addition.
It has an automatic climate control system, that works very well, when it works (the dash blower fan is currently out of action).
Most of my driving is to and from uni, but I offer to give people lifts, and take different routes when I can. I've been meaning to take it up through the mountains, which should be fun!
Overall though it pretty much perfectly meets what I originally wanted. It's powerful, it's fun to drive, it's comfy, and it's practical enough. So, yeah it suits my needs :)
It is very rewarding to drive and always feels planted and stable. The balance is really nice, when you turn in, it feels as though the car is pivoting around you. Typical BMW really, which is a good thing!
One particular time in wet conditions soon after I got the car, these characteristics came in very handy. Traveling at about 60km/h around a bend, the road fell away after a mid-corner bump more than I had expected. I lost the rear end and through sheer determination and the car's handling, and while watching the rock wall on the side of the road. I corrected, then over-corrected, then corrected the over-correction and managed to regain control unscathed. While checking to make sure I didn't need a change of underwear, I was very thankful for my choice of car. I doubt I would have been able to catch it otherwise.
Under standard driving conditions, I average about 9L/100km, but I can get it down to about 8.7L/100km if I drive a little less... enthusiastically, and I can get about 7.8 to 8L/100km on the highway. I always opt for 98 RON unleaded.
I am very happy with the car and am constantly recommending it to other people. If I was to lose it tomorrow, I'd be shopping for another one the next day.