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Discussion Starter #1
OK, so I sold my ford today. decided I'm definitely getting a used BMW, however need to find one for less than 15g's. I can't decide between either a 2001 740, a E46 3 series with a stick shift if I can find one they're proving rare, or now considering an E39 5 series. What would you experts recommend based on value, reliability and most of all fun to drive factor. my other question is, is the 540 the only way to go on the 5 series or is the 6 cylinder sufficient enough to have a good time if so which one? how hard is it to find a stick shift 5? and then my final question is a similar engine question for the 3 series, is the 3.0 the only way to go? or are the smaller engines just as fun? which is better to find? 2.8? or 2.5?
 

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OEM and Performance Parts
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personally i like the quality and body styling of the e39. but you should be able to find a e46 2001-2004 for less than 15k depending on the mileage. The 330i in stick i would say is more fun to drive than the 5.
 

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Driving Enthusiast
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It is more difficult to find a manual in a fiver. I found it hard to shop for a new one for the past couple of years. I think you have a far better chance of finding a manual trans with a 3. The decision is really based on what you want out of a car. I am certain all will tell you their Bimmers are great fun to drive but there are differences. I personally waited to get a new fiver, specifically 535, with the 300hp since I felt all the BMWs I drove with less than that felt sluggish (BMWs are heavy even with all the aluminum). Though I purchased a fiver, I test drove multiple 3 series and 5 series vehicles - with and without sport packages, with automatic and manual transmissions. The best overall pure driving fun I had was with a 300-hp manual trans sport 3 series. Nimble as all heck and perfect handling. I "settled" on the 5 with sport and manual for the same reasons but I needed the rear passenger space. Ask yourself what your top 3 requirements are in order of priority and folks can give you more focused advice. Above all, test drive, test drive, test drive :D not just for the fun but because I think it quickly helps you narrow in on what you like.
 

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No more M
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OK, so I sold my ford today. decided I'm definitely getting a used BMW, however need to find one for less than 15g's. I can't decide between either a 2001 740, a E46 3 series with a stick shift if I can find one they're proving rare, or now considering an E39 5 series. What would you experts recommend based on value, reliability and most of all fun to drive factor. my other question is, is the 540 the only way to go on the 5 series or is the 6 cylinder sufficient enough to have a good time if so which one? how hard is it to find a stick shift 5? and then my final question is a similar engine question for the 3 series, is the 3.0 the only way to go? or are the smaller engines just as fun? which is better to find? 2.8? or 2.5?
You are all over the place, what exactly do you want in a car? A 3, 5, and 7 are completely different, you gotta narrow it down to a series first then decide on engine, options, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I know I'm all over the place thats why I'm here on this Board asking for advice from you people who know BMW's, I figured enthusiasts like you would know the minute details. I want to know what engine options are acceptable, which car and engine combos have the best aftermarket, coupe vs sedan, should I settle for an automatic 540i at a good price or is a stick shift 3 series that much more fun? I'm just lookin for opinions I know what I'm leaning towards, trying to see what others have to say. I just test drove a couple of 328i's, only one with a stick, and a 540i. I was surprised by how much fun the 540i was aith an auto, but I'm still pretty split between either a stick 3 or an automatic 540i. I also test drove a 2001 7 series today and realize that I probably don't want one anymore. so its either a 5 series or 3 series
 

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I'm a Mac
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17,699 Posts
my current car is an '03 540iA M-sport. My previous two cars were an '07 Boxster S and an '01 330i 5-speed sport. I've really enjoyed all 3, but I think the 540iA (my first ever auto tranny) is the best all around vehicle I've ever owned. I plan to keep it for several more years before moving on to an F10 (or maybe a '10 Range Rover Sport).

:bigpimp:
 

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Freedom isn't free!!
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Freedom isn't free!!
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Keeping it surreal
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The 330 ZHP (in Coupe or sedan form) will put the biggest smile on your face out of all the choices mentioned....it is by far the finest (non-M) example of the 3-series that was ever produced (and that`s saying *a lot*)....quick, nimble, great interior ergonomics, and nice looks....also, you get a certain measure of exclusivity....they`re fairly rare, so you won`t see one at every intersection.
There are 18 specific changes which comprise the Performance Package. If you go to the E46 Forum and click on the E46 Wiki, you`ll find the list there.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
what if I could find a 98 M3? there seem to be more on the market, how much better is the e46 compared to th E36? should I consider it?
 

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Coconut Pete's paella!
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You are considering a 7 series and a 3 series w/ a manual transmission? You are at COMPLETELY opposite ends of the spectrum here..... you are comparing a large luxury sedan to a small sportier car. There really isn't any advice that will help you unless you decide on what type of car you want.
 

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resU deretsigeR
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6,259 Posts
what if I could find a 98 M3? there seem to be more on the market, how much better is the e46 compared to th E36? should I consider it?
Better depends on what you are looking for in a car. The e36 is an entirely different car than the e46.

Lets see if I can help you decide between an e36 M3, an e46 of some sort, a 5 or a 7.

What do you want the car for?
Does fuel economy matter? If it does, what are you looking for?
Do you plan to use the back seat for people?
Is a manual transmission a must have option?
Do you have any other must have options?
What sort of things might you want to put in the trunk?
Do you want a car for autocross? Driving School? Track Days?
Do you drive in snow / ice much?
How important is a luxury interior?
All BMWs are a good balance between comfort and handling. But if you had to choose between ride comfort and handling, which would you pick?
How much money a year are you willing to put into repairs, maintenance? Do you like to do your own repairs?
When you buy tires, what do you get?
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
after test driving a couple of different BMw's I know I don't really want a 7 series any more. The car will be mostly for getting to and from work I guess as well as a hobbie for the weekends. my last vehicle was a ford expedition so, so long as it gets better gas mileage than that I'm happy. My long time friends and family live across country, so a back seat would be nice for when they come to visit. A manual is a must have in a small car like the 3 but I'm willing to compromise for a bigger engine. No other must haves, I can think of at the moment. the trunk? I am a Marine and have to transport my gear to and from work, kind of a lot of stuff, flack jacket, kevlar, packs, PT gear, etc, but my other buddies with small car fit in into thier back seats, and we don't need to bring all of our gear every day. I'm not officially into autocross or anything like that yet, have never had a car capable, but looking to maybe get into it, nothing hardcore off the bat though. this will be a southern california driven car, it hasn't even rained here in the 11 months I've been out here. luxury interior isn't that big of a deal, but I'd like to impress passengers. I'd pick handling. can spend up to a thousand a year in repairs, maybe? I can do maintenance myself, and some repairs to a limited extent, but don't have the facilities to completely tear down an engine, or wield anything. I like to do my own repairs, just like having supervision/backup by someone whose done it before. the last CAR that I bought tires for was a 2006 mazda 3, and I put on Goodyear Eagle F1's.

Better depends on what you are looking for in a car. The e36 is an entirely different car than the e46.

Lets see if I can help you decide between an e36 M3, an e46 of some sort, a 5 or a 7.

What do you want the car for?
Does fuel economy matter? If it does, what are you looking for?
Do you plan to use the back seat for people?
Is a manual transmission a must have option?
Do you have any other must have options?
What sort of things might you want to put in the trunk?
Do you want a car for autocross? Driving School? Track Days?
Do you drive in snow / ice much?
How important is a luxury interior?
All BMWs are a good balance between comfort and handling. But if you had to choose between ride comfort and handling, which would you pick?
How much money a year are you willing to put into repairs, maintenance? Do you like to do your own repairs?
When you buy tires, what do you get?
 

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resU deretsigeR
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6,259 Posts
I'd say an e46 330i coupe then. Manual transmissions are more common in the coupes than in the sedans. The coupes have folding rear seat backs as standard. Folding rear seats are a rare option on the sedans. With the seats down you should be able to carry what you need.

325i Coupe is just as nice if it has the same options, but won't be as fast off the line. A 325i with a manual transmission is about as fast 0-60 as a 330i with an automatic.


540i sedan with the M-sport package is one my personal favorites. It is a great autobahn cruiser. Lots of room. Very comfortable for road trips. Much more comfortable in the back seat than a 330i coupe. Not as good on Fuel as a 330i but still better than your Ford. 525i will be too slow for you.

The e36 M3 isn't as refined and you will go out of budget keeping it running.


For 3 or 4 year old BMWs you can get a CPO warranty from a dealer. For cars older than that, I'd go private seller.


Next I'd go to over to the e46 forum and find out what to look for/watch out for in a used one.
 

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Freedom isn't free!!
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