Product Type: BMW cars
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BMW 518i - Bavarian Bargain?
BMW 5-series (pre-1988)
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BMW 5-series (pre-1988)
Date: 29/03/01, updated on 29/03/01 (1977 review reads)
Advantages: Reliability, great drivers' cars, Bit o' Class on the cheap!
Disadvantages: Mid-range performance (518i), people don't let you out of side roads
I bought my 1987 D-reg 518i almost a year ago for £350.
Since then, I have covered 12,000 miles in it and its mileage is fast approaching 200,000...and still going strong. Its MOT last year cost about £100 and since then all I've needed is a service, a new starter motor (£15 from a scrapyard), a pair of front discs & pads (£175), and a windscreen (kindly paid for by my insurance company).
Fuel economy can touch 35mpg on a long journey if I behave myself, but an average of 25-30mpg should be expected.
Because I was only 21 when I bought the car, the insurance was pricey to say the least... about £700 3rd party fire & theft, though only slightly more for fully comp. (which paid off when the windscreen cracked). I have it insured with AXA Direct, who were A LOT cheaper than the several other companies I tried (Am I allowed to say that?!) But I comfort myself each month, when the 70 odd quid leaves my bank account, with the thought that many comparable cars (Fords, Sierras and Fords etc.) would be costing me that just to keep them going!
How does it compare with other 1.8 saloon cars?
Rust - None yet, I mean none...when did you last see a rusty BMW?
Reliability - Apart from the starter wearing out, absolutely no problems at all.
Performance - ah, yes... well, it's adequate, most of the time:
Round town its good, I do battle on the streets of London on a regular basis and apart from the fact that no one gives way to BMWs (a problem I never had when driving my beat-up old Volvo!) it keeps up with, and keeps ahead of most of the traffic.
On country roads, my preferred territory, it's rear-wheel drive and well-engineered suspension, chassis and steering justify the cars' reputation as Ultimate Driving Machines. But beware of oversteer on wet roads...
However, on A-roads and Motorways, the 1766cc engine shows its weakness - midrange pulling power. Overtaking manuvoures i
n a 518i should be carefully planned and skillfully executed with full use of the gearbox, which incidently is irritatingly highly geared. This car will stuggle to accelerate up even reletively slight inclines - dropping down to fourth at 60-70mph just to get it to do anything is not uncommon. (and those of you who think I'm just a boy racer are wrong!)
My advice to anyone contemplating a cheap 5 series...
- Check with your insurance company first.
- If you like automatics, and insurance quote permitting, get a 525e. Simple as that. Buy a 525e. They are as economical as a 518i but performance is comparable to midway between a 520i and a 525i. They are all automatics, tend to be well equipped, and that long-stroke 2.7 engine will last forever.
- If you prefer a manual gearbox, but are watching the pennies, go for a 520i.
- If you can afford the insurance and the petrol, find yerself a 528i. I have it on good authority that you will not be disappointed!...
- Don't bother paying more than a grand for an 80's 5-series. Be wary of, but don't rule out cars under £500.
So, Would I buy another 1980s 5-series?
Yes, definitely. But next time I'll find a good 525e, or maybe a 520i - though it depends what AXA Direct have to say cometh the dreaded insurance renewal date...