I needed a car that was both economical for
commuting to work and practical for the family so I go this 11 year old BMW 525D Estate.
I picked it up cheap so naturally it needs a bit of work.
So, this time on Road and Race Everything wrong with my cheap 5-series Maybe it’s just me but when you get to a
certain age, but you start looking at Estate cars and thinking, “Hmmm, that’s one good
looking car.” NO? Just me then? Hold on, stay with me here, I got a 350Z so that gives me the driving
thrills when I need them but I’ve an hour’s drive to work each way everyday so I want
something that is cheap on fuel and isn’t giving me chronic back pain. I’ve a family so I need something that carries
more than just Kit Kat. My budget is £4000. So, what’s the best looking second hand
estate car on the market in my opinion, yes that’s right the SKODA Octavia Ambiente!
No, clearly not, but in all seriousness its probably the sensible option (you can pick
these up for under £1000). I just wanted something that looked a bit nicer and had
a better interior. I’ve never really liked the Mercedes styling,
that’s just me, the Subaru Legacy Outback is supposedly very good (Jeremy Clarkson
raved about it) but look at it! Not for me. Ford and Jaguar make an estate, but again
didn’t like how they look But the car I was drawn to was the BMW 5-Series. This is a 2008 BMW 525D in M-Sport spec which
gives you: • 18″ 135M style Double Spoke alloy wheels
• The M steering wheel with multifunction buttons
• M-Aerodynamic front bumper, rear bumper with diffuser and side skirts
• Sports Seats AND…
• Lots of M Badges Brand new this car cost over £45,000 and
I picked up this 10 year old one with 125,000 miles on the clock for £4000. So shall we start with what’s good about
this car? Yes, why not. First off, genuinely love how it looks. For
a supposedly “sensible” car it has a real style and presence. It’s a car that, if
you can’t afford to buy and run a M5, then this car with the M-Sport bits looks almost
the same. Since we’ve mentioned the mighty M5 probably
worth talking about how this thing drives. I’d say it’s a car with two personalities;
Leave the gearbox in auto , settle back in the leather sofa of an seat and it’s an
easy, relaxed drive. The suspension is really supple and nicely soaks up all the bumps.
It’s also got all the standard stuff to make the drudgery of commuting as bearable
as possible, crusie control, dimming rear view mirror, heated seats, climate control,
cupholders, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth phone, This is also the first car I’ve owned
with an adjustable head rest! But this is a car that if you wanna drive
it hard you can! Flip the 6 speed auto into Sport mode and it holds onto gears longer
which allows you to take advantage of the 3 litre turbo charged diesel lump up front.
This car only develops 200 hp but I was surprised how it really shifts! Probably due to the
400 NM of torque (295 ft-lb) this car gets from 0-60 is 7.2 seconds and really is plenty
fast for having a bit of a blast on a back road.
You can also put the gear box in full manual mode and flip up and down gears. Now This
isn’t a double clutch box but it is a surprising quick auto. I’ll show you, drop down a gear,
the up, it’s very good. ZF, who make the box, were particularly proud of it when it
came out, their press resale stating it changes within 200 milliseconds. They’re right.
Should mention that this is a 525D so you’d expect a 2.5 litre engine but as this is a
later model it get the 3 litre and thus more power as part of the range refresh or “lifecycle
impulse” as BMW call it. I picked the midrange 525D because a larger
engine would be less economical and I don’t really need the extra power.
The smaller engines in the 520D are one to avoid as can they, allegedly, suffer from
timing chain failures which causes your engine to blow up.
You can only replace the chain by takin the whole engine out so as that’s a costly exercise,
I decided to just avoid them. Plus if I later feel I need a bit more from
the oomph engine then a remap gets you about 260 hp and 500 nm (380 ft/lb) of torque.
So onto the handling, this is a fairly heavy car at 1.7 tonnes and it’s designed to be
comfortable so I was expecting this thing to handle like a barge. You know what, it
really doesn’t. This car has the optional M-Sport suspension,
which makes the car a bit stiffer and a sits a bit lower and it does a really good job.
It’s comfortable when cruising along but push the car into some corners and it surprises
you with how well it copes – there’s a small amount of initial roll but then it stiffens
up and allows you to push really quite hard. Couple that with the gearbox in sport and
this makes for a genuinely and unexpectedly fun car to drive enthusiastically.
As the expectation is this car will be carry heavy loads this Touring version get fancy
self levelling air suspension at the rear. And the rear is why you buy this car. Just
look at the boot space. Enormous. It’s also got this handy split opening window which
I’m sure is for quickly putting things in the back but I’ve found it handy for transporting
very very long pieces of wood. Now whilst I’m been very positive about
this car so far there’s clearly going to be a few things that like that’ll need sorting.
First up, the interior. It’s well made, there’s nice touches of leather, the plastics
are… fine and the sports steering wheel is chunky and padded and a joy to use. But
what’s going on with the fake wood? It’s a bit old man isn’t it? I guess that was
maybe the target audience for this car but it’s not a look I enjoy so I’ll be aiming
to change that. This is a 10 year old car and that’s a long
time when it comes to technology. The first example is here under the centre arm rest.
It’s a holder for what looks like an old Nokia phone, likely the trusty 6210. Not only
is that of precisely NO use in this day and age it takes up all the room in the arm rest
so I’ll be removing it. The second example is the stereo. No usb integration
for playing music from your smartphone or DAB digital radio.
You can at least plug in an analogue audio device but that has two downsides.
Number one, BMW decided to put it all the way back here. Maybe its for passengers only
to use? My fear is some one would knock it and break it getting in or out.
And number two the sound quality out of it is deliberately crippled by BMW. They fit
a little capacitor which reduces the bass and volume level. They’ve likely done this
to try to protect the speakers and the amp but the radio is now much louder, with more
bass so when you swap between them you get Ken Bruce blowing your ear drums out!
Outside the car there’s also few things to sort out. The front grille is fine but
I much prefer the optional black performance grill. I did this swap on my old M3 and I’d
like to do the same thing again. What seems a common problem is that the black
bumper insets fall out so I’ll need to source some of those and secure them in properly!
At the rear of the car there’s a large scratch in the bumper and also a smaller scratch on
the driver’s wing mirror. Also this mirror doesn’t dim or heat as it should. The boot struts are a bit damaged and don’t
lift that well. Onto the wheels and a couple of problems there.
Whilst they are the beautiful M-Sport 135 dual spokes they’ve not been taken care
of – there’s kerbing, the lacquer and paint is peeling off and the centre caps are in
a sorry state. Also they’re fitted with run flat tyres.
I don’t like run flats because not only are the more expensive you get less choice
and give a harder, crashier ride. We’ve also got different brands, it’s
goodyears at the back and bridgestones at the front. As they’re all nearly worn out
anyway I’ll be getting them all replaced with normal tyres.
Small niggle but the digital speedo isn’t available so that’ll need coding in.
Two options you could have got when the car was new which it doesn’t have are adaptive
cruise control and night vision. If they’re not too expensive to buy and not too difficult
to retro fit then I’ll may them installed. Lastly the brakes. This car got the larger
disks and calipers from the 530D so should stop well. It kinda doesn’t. There’s an
initial bite when you press the pedal, then nothing really happened when you press harder,
then all the force is right at the end. The car does stop but the pedal feel is terrible.
Not too bad when ploddling around town but the chassis and engine give you the option
for a bit of a blast down your favourite B road and it’s just the brakes hold you back
because they’re basically a bit rubbish. The last thing I want to talk about is maintenance
and repairs. The downside of buying a car with over 125,000 miles on it is that a lot
of items are broken or due to be replaced or need to be serviced. First up its reliability and economy. This
is the third BMW I’ve owned and the previous two both had their coolant thermostats fail
so I’m assuming this one will have too. A failed thermostat will stop the engine getting
up to operating temperature so the engine will burn more fuel to compensate. So if you’re
getting poor fuel economy this could be the reason. The way to check is to look at your
engine temperature. Problem is BMW in their infinite wisdom have
decided to remove the temperature gauge in favour of this fuel economy gauge. Stupid.
Luckily my Carly reader can check this. This car is fitted with a Exhaust Gas Recirculation
valve, or EGR for short. This takes a portion of the exhaust gases and puts them back in
the engine. Good for reducing emissions but because these gasses are dirty not so good
for your engine. Usually the valve and manifold get clogged
up with horrible black gunk and needs cleaning out.
Coolant needs changing every 3 to 5 years too so I’ll do these things together.
For safety reasons I like to refresh the braking systems on all older cars I buy and those
rubber hoses have been on the car for ages and I’ll get want to get the replaced. If
needed the pads and discs too. Another common problem with BMW diesel engines
is the use of swirlflaps. These flaps open and close on the engine at low speeds to increase
fuel economy but have one fatal problem. They’re made of plastic and if they break they fall
in to the cylinder and cause massive engine damage. Luckily the fix is to simply remove
them and fit blanking plates. Whilst I’m in there I’ll also change the glowplugs
and controller. Another component fitted to the car to reduce
emissions is the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). This basically catches soot in the
exhaust gasses and burns its away into ash. After about 125,000 miles BMW assume you DPF
will need replacing as it will be clogged up with ash and put a warning light on the
dash. Oh and it’s a £1000 part. Luckily you can remove the DPF and clean it which
is much cheaper so I’ll be doing that. The Differential fluid, transmission fluid
and fuel filter all need changing as well as cabin filers, air filters and auxiliary
drive belts. So that’s the list of things to do. Not too much to fix all things considered and
I’m hoping to spend less than £1000. Next time on Road and Race
I get stuck in with the first round of repairs starting with testing if the thermostats need
replacing, cleaning the filthy EGR and changing the coolant.