• That generation's got the 54-degree British V6 whose cam drive so routinely blew up in Saabs and Cateras.

    I suppose the later ones had to be improved, but I still don't trust it.

    • Agreed, not a bad choice, probably the best overall would be a late 530i.

      540i good choice too if you don't mind operating cost, needs cam chain guides at 150K. Just rebuilt automatic in ours at 195K, it's actually neither particularly hard (if you have transmission jack) nor particularly expensive ($800 in parts including replacing stuff that broke that doesn't break in post-2000 5HP24s, another $150 in a couple tools I made.)

    • I would note that in my experience the M5, somewhat more bucks to be sure, is no less reliable and in some areas (maybe I'll regret saying this, but cooling system) MORE reliable than the lesser E39s. It has two unique points of failure – the rear sway bar brackets (because bigger bar) and the secondary air injection passages seem to be more a problem on the S62 than the M62TU. The former is dealt with via TC Design CNC clamps, the latter with an aftermarket engine calibration that disables the MIL condition.

    • E39 is indeed the correct answer here.

      Matt, I'm not sure where you live, but if it's in SoCal I may soon be selling my 2002 BMW 525i Touring. Yes it's a manual. Yes it has the sport package. Yes it has completed maintenance records and a spotless CarFax. Yes it is unmodified, except for the E60 short shifter and CDV delete. Yes it would be slightly above you budget, but not by much.

  • I sure think this 1991 Audi 200 20V Avant is perfect, especially for $5900! I would sell both of my Audi 5K's if I could get this car.
    [img] germancarsforsaleblog.com/wp-content/uploads/awpcp/images/005-0f415bd9-large.jpg[/img]

  • Two or four doors?
    FWD or RWD?
    Year limit (not older than)?
    Maintenance budget (time & dollars)?
    Mileage limit (not more than)?

    I like this 1997 Prelude SH for $5K, but it does have 160k on the clock.

    [img] images.craigslist.org/00u0u_gyfy3iN4an8_600x450.jpg[/img]

  • There's a few other options if you're talking about a usably-sized sedan with three pedals, but not too many.

    Acura TL Type-S circa mid-'00s. Nice car, front-drive but with the helical LSD it won't matter much, nice seats, best build quality of pretty much any US-manufactured product at the time, and Brembo brakes for the bling.

    Some flavor of the Subaru in the previous post, sedan or wagon, drives great, just make sure you've got a head-gasket fund.

    If you're gonna buy an early CTS just raise the middle finger to the V6 and buy a CTS-V. Best bang-for-buck powertrain of the past couple decades, crappy seats but great sticky upholstery, perfect steering and balance and feels a thousand pounds lighter than it is, switchable stability control light-years ahead of comparable BMWs, who cares if it gets 15mpg?

    Pontiac G8s with manual transmissions (notably GXPs) seem to be priced in the unobtanium territory, lovely hardware (see note about CTS-V powertrain but wrap an even better body around it) but not practical at this price point.

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