Piston Slap: Self Worth Vs. The $8000 Flagship

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap self worth vs the 8000 flagship

TTAC commentator zamoti writes:


I have successfully nursed along my aging Maxima without replacing the transmission, but now sans muffler, balding tires and growing rust, I feel it may finally be time to part ways. Though it is fun to offer my fellow motorists a dose of the sound and the fury of the delightful 3.0 VQ, I have decided that it is time to grow up and select a more dignified form of transportation. Plus my wife calls me a hillbilly.

In the quest for dignified wheels, I am a bit hamstrung by the fact that I’ve just purchased a (second) house and probably not looking very good on paper. As such, my task is to seek a gentleman’s car on a cash basis maybe even at a BHPH lot. I have about $9k to spend and the Maxima to sell. Long ago when Murilee was seeking out a 1st gen Q45, I though that a hyper-depreciated luxury barge would be a great idea if I ever needed something of the sort. Well, that time is now; I occasionally need room for five, three of those are car seats. I have been nosing around and narrowed the choices to a 2001 BMW 740il and maybe a 2003 Infiniti Q45. I don’t think it’s going to be much of a choice since there aren’t many Q45s available, so I’m leaning toward the ample supply of e38s.

I’m willing to spin my own wrenches on whatever I get, but this does need to be my sole DD so it can’t be a flatbed queen. Is this a horrible idea to seek out an $8000 used luxury flagship? A sampling of BMW forums state that the later variants of e38 were fairly reliable, but that’s a fairly narrow band of people to expect an unbiased opinion from. I’m aware that any premium brand is going to require a bit of money socked away for maintenance and willing to live with that as the downside. I’ve looked at the common issues and feel that I can handle most of them on my own.

I am not against other choices, but I do like the idea of that 7-series. It has room for all, looks good, and above all else, it is a gentleman’s car.

Your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:


Murilee drives a Honda Civic on a daily basis, and he bought a Lexus LS for a luxurious play toy! You, however, completely lost your mind!

Wise up and get something better than an $8000 flagship.

BMW E38s–while unbelievably pleasant to drive with styling that gets better with age–are fragile and expensive “flatbed queens” as you so eloquently put it. Take it from someone who worked on his father’s 750iL, which had more problems from the E38 underpinnings than the unique bits associated with the V-12 engine.

But I still miss that eggplant-hued, unquestioned “King of the Road” from 1996…yet I still want to burn it to the ground!

zamoti replies:

So the lesson is that you cannot buy dignity for $8000. Q45?

Sajeev answers:

A little (lot?) better, ditto a Lexus LS a la Murilee. But not good enough, since you have a wife, kids and no spare vehicle! Find dignity and self-worth elsewhere…force your kids into sports even if they hate it, and absolutely do not buy an $8000 flagship!

Drive a normal, boring or even shitty car and get motivated to become the next self-made bazillionaire who ignores the folly of wealth and drives a Ford truck. Or some hyper-motivated, soul sucking Gordon Gekko type.

Either way, whatever works for you.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.
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5 of 139 comments
  • Kyngfish Kyngfish on Sep 04, 2013

    I've owned an 04 Mercedes SLK32 AMG for 3 years - and so far - it's been great. But there's a difference between reliable and durable. So far I've replaced the engine mounts, the drive-shaft rubber thingy, the crankshaft position sensor, a battery and terminal cable (in a 100 degree parking lot on a Sunday) and the connector between the transmission and the TCU which was causing a leak. I DIY as much as I can, and I've done the filters, oil changes, battery work, brake replacements, CPS sensor on my own. On deck is replacing the tail-lights (the bulb panel is warped - but some nice LED replacements can be had or 250) and the dome light housing (MB wants 260!!! dollars for it). If i needed to do a 30+ mile commute daily, I wouldn't use it, but in a pinch, I can bike to my office - so I prefer having a car I love. I've always loved that 7-series, but if I couldn't spend close to 20k on a car for myself, I'd worry that I am getting something that is a bit older with a lot of baggage from previous owners that may not be as crazy about maintenance as me.

    • See 2 previous
    • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Sep 04, 2013

      @kyngfish "Also, with 360ish horses and about the same amount of torques, it hauls some serious ass." I'm not much of a roadster guy, or an M-B guy, but that's the part that appeals to me.

  • Hihosilver Hihosilver on Sep 08, 2013

    Swallow your pride and for the sake of your children and bank account buy a large family vehicle that can handle what you have to carry with minimal repair and maintenance/luxury. I.e. a large wagon, Honda Pilot, or something similar. Once your kids are out of the house, you can get the car of your dreams.....

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. https://insideevs.com/news/598046/toyota-global-leader-solid-state-batery-patents/Of course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.