Piston Slap: I'm Gonna Fix Your Wagon! Or Not.

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap i m gonna fix your wagon or not

Matt writes:

I currently drive a 2001 BMW 525it (Touring) which has been a pleasure to drive. Unfortunately the repair costs are starting to drive me crazy and leading me to consider replacing it with something newer, warrantied, and more reliable. The budget allows for approximately $25K CDN total on either a new or gently-used car.

The requirements are that it must be a hatchback/wagon, must be a manual, and should be able to seat 6′ passengers in the back seat. I’ve racked my brain trying to think of a suitable replacement, the leading contender at the moment is a VW Rabbit, although I’m less than impressed by the 5-cylinder lump under the hood. I did have high hopes for the Mazda3 Sport but after trying it out I was less than impressed. So any suggestions, or should I just keep funding my mechanic’s kids’ university education?

Sajeev writes:

With those requirements and the absolute coolness of your current vehicle, you are in a pickle. If the replacement must have top notch reliability which (by default) is a good long term value, anything with a VW badge is a tough sell. It is more of the same thing, except less. Three years from now, you’ll be more upset because you’re driving a cheap (but costly) FWD hatchback that can’t hold a candle to the Ultimate Driving Wagon. Seriously.

Too bad you didn’t like the Mazda3, that’s a good choice. The last generation Mazda 6 (wagon or hatch) would work, which is quite hard to find in the US. A Subaru wagon is good, though I suspect the less cool Forester is better for your rear seat requirements. But it goes downhill from there: the Chrysler PT Cruiser/Dodge Caliber with the turbo motor, Chevy HHR, Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix, Scion xB, xD, and maybe the Kia Soul. Aside from the stealth factor of overboosting a Chrysler or corner carving in a Subie (sucking gas and breaking stuff left and right on either), I’d much rather run with what’cha brung. I mean, we’re talking about a E39 5-series wagon here.

Your car is an Executive Express, and I have a sneaking suspicion you quite like that. Every car is a money pit at certain time/mileage intervals. The question is, are you willing to learn more, read the forums and take a more active role in the diagnosis, parts acquisition and the ultimate repair of your vehicle? If you have an honest, BMW savvy mechanic who doesn’t mind inquisitive customers, stick with what you have. With the money you will save, maybe put some M5 wheels and front bumper on for a dash of flair.

If you just want a new car, the ones from my list should fit the bill. But they will all be a step down the food chain. And paying more to wind up with less is never a good call in my book.

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2 of 73 comments
  • Ddr7 Ddr7 on Apr 07, 2009

    I own a 2006 Mazda3 s hatch, it's a great car but I don't think it's a suitable replacement to a BMW. I don't know anything about BMW reliability except for what I hear from other people but I'm sure I'll manage if I had one, but to think Golf? or any compact after 5 series? the same way you did not like the Mazda3 you will not like any lesser car than the BMW

  • BEX325 BEX325 on May 10, 2009

    Sold the touring and replaced it with an '08 Impreza 5dr Sport 5MT with 29k kms on it. I managed to sell the BMW for a fair price, and the deal on the Impreza was too good to pass up.

  • Charles I had one and loved it . Seated 7 people . Easy to park , great van
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