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BMW 5-Series Saloon (1996 - 2003) 520i SE 4d Auto (00) Owner Review

520i SE 4d Auto (00)
BMW 1996 5-Series Saloon

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In their own words

Important to do a lot of homework before buying one of these cars. They can be great if you find one in good condition, can be a nightmare if neglected. Car handles and steers very directly for such a large car, the fact it is RWD does not come into the equation in the dry/damp especially if it has decent tyres (don't skimp on tyres), it feels very neutral and is very safe as a result. Suspension as good as it is, is complex with many arms and links coupled with the fact that it is a heavy car means suspension rubbers can wear out fast depending on roads and part quality- only use OEM parts with drivetrain, electrics and suspension avoid Chinese at all costs. Ensure the cooling system has been overhauled, waterpump, thermostat, rad, expansion tank, hoses- these realistically all last around 100k miles and when one lets go, its a domino effect as other related parts will follow. Rust, this can be particularly bad- it is important to check the sills for rot around the jacking points, particularly the left side for UK/ROI cars. Diesels may be cheaper to run fuel wise- but when things go wrong, they can be difficult to fix- the money spent on fuel in a petrol, goes into maintenance on diesels. They have issues with vacuum and boost leaks that can be very difficult to spot- Once again, may I remind anyone lacking knowledge in cars to buy this model range with caution. I would recommend any model bar 520i, 523i and 525 td/tds-the engines mentioned are too weak for this car- lack torque and its somewhat noticeable with an auto box, the box is sometimes a bit dim-witted and will be in the wrong gear around town. Motorways are were the auto box finds it sweet spot, as all the power and acceleration is mid-range centric. V8's are good, but I don't feel they are worth it unless you want V8 noise- watch out for timing chain guide failure. This car is best suited either with the 28i, 30i and maybe 30d. Plus, buy the highest spec model you can find/afford. These cars are open to contemporary interior 'plug n play' upgrades, Apple CarPlay, Android head units, and many interior parts are interchangeable with the larger E38- So you can personalise the car to how you want. To summarise, buy on condition not mileage, do not skimp on maintenance and parts such as tyres, and due to its age be vigilant of fluids. This is an exceptional car for the money if sought out thoroughly.

How reliable do you find the car?

Weak spots are few and far between- cooling system overhaul is recommended, auto box service pre 120k miles, all suspension rubbers replaced, fuel line rust- can be a heavy car on fluids if not monitored every couple of weeks, or driven hard regularly. Car has been very reliable though on the whole.

Does the car do everything you expected it to do?

Very practical, comfortable, sporty (even on standard suspension), gearbox pretty smooth, quiet, has road presence.
  • How they rated it

  • Reliability: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Meets Expectations: 5 out of 5 5.0
  • Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Jamie W recommends this car

About their car

  • Fuel type Petrol
  • When purchased December 2016
  • Condition when bought Used
  • Current Mileage 113,000 miles
  • Average MPG 31 mpg