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Classic BMWs Still Worth Driving Today (And Five That Just Burn Money)

Cameron EittreimNovember 10, 2021

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG - BMW
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18: E30 M3

The BMW M3 is one of the most popular enthusiast cars on the road. With a notable exterior design and a lightweight body, there’s little surprise why. The E30 M3 is perhaps the most notable of the M3 lineage. The car was lightweight, had a lot of luxury features, and came at a reasonable price (via BMW-M).

BMW M3 - Bayerische Motoren Werke AG
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The 3-Series is oftentimes a car buyer’s first glimpse into the BMW legacy. With the captivating design of the E30 M3, consumers were blown away. As far as a classic car goes, the E30 M3 is about as captivating as you can get. With a growing market for vintage BMW models, the E30 M3 is definitely worth driving today.

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17: E28 M5

The BMW M5 has been around since 1984 and the car is still a massive success. The combination of a larger body and more power made the M5 a smashing success. Compared to the M3, the M5 models have their own unique personalities. There is nothing cookie-cutter about this car, and the E28 is one of the best (via Classic Trader).

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The unique thing about the E28 M5 is that there’s a massive enthusiast network behind it. This means finding parts and repairs is never more than a click away. On top of that, the E28 itself is a notoriously reliable platform. This low-level maintenance is the key to the beauty and engineering of the E28 M5.

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16: E12 M35i

Dating back to 1972, the E12 is perhaps the most storied BMW line. The car was one of the most luxurious and stylish at a time when BMWs were still evolving. Everything about the E12 was a groundbreaking car, but the M35i was unusual. The car broke the mold when it comes to design (via Motor Authority).

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Boasting a 3.5-liter M90 straight-six engine, the E12 M35i was exciting and fun to drive. The styling of this car was reminiscent of a new generation of beamers. With split headlights and a luxurious interior, there was nothing else like it. Genuinely speaking, the M35i is a blast to drive, even today.

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15: E24 635CSi

The 6-Series BMW has always been a sticking point for the brand as sort of a go-between in the 5-Series and 7-Series lines. The original 635CSi was an excellent car in every aspect. Styling was a focal point of the 6-Series and something BMW wanted to showcase. Building on the reputation of being the ultimate driving machine wasn’t an easy task (via Bring a Trailer).

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Somehow BMW managed to attract buyers with this exceptional design. The 635CSi was an excellent car in every sense of the word. The M30B34 engine produced heart-pounding performance and acceleration. You wouldn’t imagine a car as old as the E24 635CSi would drive.

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14: BMW E32 750i

The BMW E32 750i was the birth of the modern 7-Series car we have today. A full-sized luxury sedan was always in the cards for BMW and the E32 cemented that idea. The E32 750i was a better luxury sedan in every way possible. This sedan was also the launch of the V12 engine and the executive qualities that came with these large sedans (via Petrolicious).

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Everything about the E32 750i was impressive, all-in-all the sedan delivered in just about every way. To this day, the E32 is still one of the most desirable BMW models, from its styling to the way the sedan was built. There is simply an air of quality when it comes to the E32 750i that you don’t see anymore.

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13: BMW E34 M5

The M5 series has evolved tremendously over the years. The car had everything you’d expect. But the E34, in particular, was an evolution of the brand in many ways that are still being followed today. The car was far better looking and had many features that you didn’t see before (via Jalopnik).

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Likewise, the E34 M5 also gave birth to the M5 wagon, which was immensely popular among enthusiasts. There is such a diverse community within the E34 model that it’s a blast to own one. The car was among one of the best vehicles to ever sport a BMW badge, and there are good reasons for that.

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12: BMW E38 750i

In the 1990s, if you wanted a timeless luxury sedan with all the bells and whistles, you got the E38 750i. This was the pinnacle of lavish luxury sedans, with everything you could imagine. The E38 was also synonymous as the last car legendary rapper Tupac Shakur was observed in. Literally, the E38 750i is a piece of pop culture and history in ways that other luxury sedans aren’t (via Drive Tribe).

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The performance of the V12 engine was nothing to sneeze at either.. And if you had to communicate, there was a built-in phone. Truly BMW did everything right with this generation of the 750i, which is why it lasted all the way until 2002. There are few cars that can rival the immense quality of the E38.

BMW 850CSi
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11: BMW E31 850CSi

If there’s one BMW model that’s nearing legendary status, it’s the 850CSi. You’ll barely find one on the road today, and if you do, it’ll cost a pretty penny. The E31 was an evolution of the BMW sports car. Featuring more technology than any other BMW on the road, the car was a marvel of design (via Bring a Trailer).

BMW 850 CI
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The V12 engine boasted a massive 375 horsepower, and the interior was far more luxurious. In every imaginable way, the 850CSi was a better car. The design and styling were also far better than anything you could get on the road. In many ways, the 850CSi might just be one of the best grand tourers ever made.

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10: E39 540i Touring

The E39 platform was the birth of the modern 5-Series that we witness today. There were many advancements that went into that car. The styling was some of the best ever seen on a BMW. You couldn’t go wrong, and the 540i Touring is still one of the best BMWs you can get for the money (via Bring a Trailer).

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In the wagon trim, you’ll get all the luxury you’d need, coupled with a lot of interior space. BMW has always been a talented company when it comes to wagons, and the quality shines on the E39. The 540i Touring model is still worth driving today as drivers simply can’t go wrong with it.

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9: E36/8 Z3M Coupe

There are few cars as mysterious and iconic as the E36/8 Z3M Coupe. The styling was unlike anything else on the road at the time. It was also a departure from the usual BMW philosophy of building cars. The Z3M had a hatchback design and a low to the ground driving characteristic (via ECS Tuning).

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This created a feeling of speed very few cars can match. Even though the BMW Z3M was not the most powerful sports car on the road, it sure delivered driving exhilaration. To this day, the E36/8 Z3M Coupe is among the rarest cars on the road. If you can find one, this car is definitely worth driving.

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8: BMW E52 Z8

Take one look at this car, and you’ll know that it’s something special. Like a few other BMWs on our list, the E52 Z8 was unlike anything else on the road. The car was also unusual, which is why you’ll seldom see one around today. The roadster styling has always been a strong suit for BMW, and the few BMW roadsters have been a blast to drive (via BMW Blog).

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The beauty of the E52 Z8 is what makes it stand out well. Few cars have had this type of styling even to this day. The rarity and mystique of the car make it a treat to drive and enjoy. There’s no denying that the E52 Z8 is definitely a car worth driving today.

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7: BMW E39 M5

The E39 M5 was a winning combination of style and substance as another reveled chapter in the long heritage of the M5. The styling was iconic with early 2000s BMW and proved ubiquitous overall. Performance was also top-notch, with power coming from an optional V8 engine (via Road & Track).

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There are few sedans in this size and segment that can match the performance of the E39 M5. The E39 has proved to be an icon in the BMW community time and time again. From the timeless design to the standard amount of luxury features, this car is still an excellent driving vehicle today.

Photo Credit: BMW Life

6: BMW X5 4.6is

BMW doesn’t get enough credit when it comes to pioneering the luxury SUV segment. Particularly, the crossover SUV segment has become extremely popular today. That crown goes to the original BMW X5. The SUV doesn’t have an enormous following these days, but for the price and performance, you can’t go wrong (via Car & Driver).

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The 4.6is was an especially powerful model, and there is also a specialized M version of the X5. The BMW X5 shouldn’t be downplayed in terms of its contribution to the automotive industry. You can still find a clean X5 that will provide plenty of driving pleasure for the price. We’ve covered several classic BMWs that are absolutely still worth driving today. Now, however, we’ll move on to five BMWs that simply burn money, and not a small amount of it…

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5: BMW E65

The BMW E65 is considered one of the worst BMWs ever made. It’s not because of a lack of power, as the car drives well when it’s still on the road. But the problem with the E65 is that you could rarely if ever keep it on the road. Dubbed one of the most repair-intensive vehicles of all time, the E65 was a mechanical nightmare (via BMW Blog).

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Many of these problems had to do with the electrical components in the car. This generation of the 7-Series was groundbreaking in technology and design. However, the model also fell short in many aspects. Driving a used E65 is almost certainly a costly nightmare and one drivers should avoid.

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4: 2011 BMW X3

The BMW X5 was a groundbreaking success for the company as the first SUV model. When it came time to introduce a smaller offering, the result was not as pleasant. The X3 is by far one of the most unreliable BMW models ever made. The proportions of the SUV were a lot smaller than the X5, but the price was right up there next to it (via Auto Week).

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Consumers who were in the market for a luxury SUV had a lot of competition to choose from. The X3 didn’t exactly cut the mustard when it comes to a suitable SUV model. With all the electrical shortcomings and reliability issues, it fell short. When it comes to a confusing SUV model, the X3 was right up there with the worst.

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3: BMW M1

The M1, BMW’s original BMW Supercar, was a startling mix of high-tech design combined with a lack of engineering. The M1 was perhaps one of the most unreliable BMW models ever made. Considering how high the initial price tag was, that isn’t necessarily a good thing either.

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BMW was going for a groundbreaking sports car, but the end result was anything but (via Car & Driver). There are many notable sports cars in the history of BMW, but the M1 might possibly have been the worst. With the lack of reliability and the high price tag, the car was everything you don’t want to get stuck with.

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2: BMW Z4 Roadster

Another product of the 2000s, the Z4 roadster, was the next generation of the Z3. The problem is that, like most BMWs from this era, the Z4 had several electrical problems. These electrical issues can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Most consumers weren’t willing to go that far in their ownership of the Z4, and thus the car has lackluster resale value (via BMW).

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The performance of the Z4 roadster was also not that impressive, especially with all the competition. Another drawback to the Z4 was the bland styling the car had, which was true for most BMWs from this era. All in all, the Z4 was a black mark in the lineage of otherwise solid BMW roadsters.

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1: BMW E46

The dawn of the new millennium was an important time for BMW. The automaker was moving into the future and its new car models obviously had to follow suit. The new E46 3-Series was a strange car in almost every way. The styling was new and modern, and there were many new luxuries to be had (via Road & Track).

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Sadly, like most BMWs from this era, its reliability was questionable at best. The car didn’t hold up to the test of time. This is probably the most overrated and underpriced generation of the E46, and the cost of repairs will definitely cost an arm and a leg. BMW has since improved the quality of the 3-Series models.

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