I'd never had to buy a car in a short space of time to suit a unique purpose before, until I bought my 2010 BMW 320d Lifestyle with M Sport Innovations package.
I was working in a BMW dealership and had been driving brand-new BMWs every day as company cars. Some weeks I would have the same car, while other weeks I would have up to four different cars. One day I could be in a new X5, and the next a 340i. While it seemed like such an amazing life working almost six days a week, with two young kids at home I wanted a better home life. If I was going to do this, I needed to make some changes and sacrifices. I found the new job. No company car, five days a week, two weeks off at Xmas, and 9–5.
I needed a car. I live too far from public transport for it to be viable for the change I'm making to get back my life. I love cars too much to give that up too. Quickly, I hit the used-car list at our dealership and found this gem.
It was a one-owner 2010 BMW 320d Lifestyle M Sport Innovations in Space Gray. At the time when the car was new, this was copy, paste and repeat. The most popular spec. It had full service history with the dealer I worked with, 125,000km, and a lady owner who traded it to upgrade to an X5. I never saw it when I bought it. I just told my manager to roadworthy the car and I'll sort payment out.
Two days later, I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised by what I got into. The familiar iDrive was the first item to get acquainted with and hook up the Bluetooth. To my surprise, in this version (iDrive2) there was no Bluetooth audio streaming, which disappointed me a bit as I had gotten used to this in the new cars with iDrive 5 and 6. However, I knew that this had a multimedia plug available to which I can plug my iPhone into and still use the functionality of iDrive.
Again, I was pleasantly surprised to have navigation, which had been updated by the previous owner (thankfully!). One thing that has always confused me about this era of BMWs was that I have remote locking, no key and push-button start, but I still have to push the key fob into the slot to allow the push-button to start. Again, not a huge issue, but I was surprised considering all new BMWs are keyless start and the technology was available to them then.
I started my new, hasty purchase and there were no issues. I left the dealership on my way and settled into my new life. The drive was good. I gave it a little push here and there and found the 135kW 2.0-litre diesel to have a surprising amount of poke given the age and mileage of the car. This got me a bit excited, and when I got home I needed to find out more.
I looked up the torque and was surprised to find it has 380Nm. A quick search of Redbook tells me a brand-new Mercedes-Benz C220d with a 2.1-litre turbo diesel has 125kW and 400Nm. My car had more power and almost as much torque, and with a slightly smaller engine, eight years ago! I was impressed.
Since I've had the car, I've learned a lot about servicing an older BMW. Here's what I learnt. The BMW dealership closest to me is $50 cheaper than the 'independent BMW servicing' that claimed to be cheaper than the dealers. I made a decision that I was probably going to keep this car for some time and that I would do my own servicing for the majority of my car's work.
I invested $35 in a Haynes online service manual. I did my research on the oil my car currently had, what's available on the market, and what the cost would be. Again, to my surprise, buying six litres of the genuine BMW Longlife-04 was $15 cheaper and was available. I rang three Autobarns, four Supercheaps and two Bursons to find only four litres total of the equivalent oil manufacturer rated as Longlife-04. Why was this so important to me? Because some might be surprised to know that even back in 2010, the service intervals were 26,000km between oil changes.
I also bought the genuine oil filter from BMW, and $10 cheaper than non-genuine from the three big retailers. Now before you say "But Tony, you used to work at BMW and would have got mates' rates from someone you know!", I still shopped it because the dealership l left changed owners and 90 per cent of the staff left. I found another BMW dealer closer to home that was able to assist.
What I also found was how surprisingly easy it is to service. I have serviced a few cars in my time, and this was by far the easiest car I have ever serviced. I was quoted $440 for oil change, filter change, vehicle inspection and resetting the service reminders. I did this all myself for a grand total of $184.65 and two hours' time (70 per cent of this time was trying to raise the car because the BMWs are notoriously low as standard).
When it came time to doing my rear brakes, I went through my whole process. This time I found the dealer in parts alone to be $400 more than what I could source elsewhere with OEM parts not branded BMW. I did rear discs, pads and sensors on my own for $385 grand total, which also included the hire of a hoist (Self Service Automotive in Dandenong VIC for those interested in working on your own car and want to hire a hoist for an hour or two). Very different from the $650 I was quoted by various places.
Servicing the car myself has not hampered the way it drives. In fact, one interesting thing I noted was that after the oil change, my average fuel economy improved by one litre per 100km. I now average 6.9L/100km in heavy traffic most days and I don't worry about trying to conserve fuel. I am really impressed with this. I do notice on the odd occasion I do a highway drive, I average about 4.5L/100km. For a car that now has 141,000km to be achieving these numbers, I am extremely impressed.
The handling is typical BMW: solid, dependable, point and shoot steering, and very readable. Even with stability control turned off, the car is predictable and well balanced. Being a 3 Series, it has BMW's hallmark 50/50 weight distribution.
The only negatives that I could say are that interior space is a little limited in the rear seats and no heated seats. I can live without these.
In finishing up, I think this is the best impulse/necessity purchase I have ever made. It certainly made the transition from new BMWs to owning my own much easier than if I had bought a vanilla dependable Corolla or Camry.
I think I have a few more years left with this car. I definitely look back at it after I park it every day, still thinking how modern and how good it looks for an eight-year-old car.