A few weeks ago I sold my 2017 Fiesta ST to Carvana and bought a high mileage E90 BMW 328i. It has 244,000 miles on the odometer. You’re probably thinking I’m crazy. You’re probably right. The Fiesta ST was a fantastic car for somebody who needed something cheap, practical, fun, and reliable. When I was in college I was driving 25,000 miles a year between my job and school. Now that I’m no longer in college I can own something I want versus something that’s smart/practical for me to own. While I most definitely wanted the Fiesta and loved my time with it, my heart seems to lie with older German vehicles.
I had been shopping for the right E90 for a few months, when a friend of a friend mentioned selling his high mileage E90 2007 BMW 328i. I really wanted a lower mileage face-lifted car between the years 2009 and 2011 and was even prepared to travel across the country for it. So this car was clearly not my first choice. However, I learned that this friend was a European car mechanic by trade, whose family owns Premier Eurocars, a well regarded local Euro shop. Then, I found out it was bright red, a 6-speed manual, fully optioned, and everything still actually worked. So I had to at least go take a look… right?
The Quarter-Million-Mile Test Drive
It took but the first few gear changes to realize this high mileage E90 was probably better cared for than even my own Fiesta ST I was selling. With nearly 250,000 miles, the 328i drives better than the BMW 128i I’m building for autocross/track use. The shifter, clutch, steering, and body control all feel top-notch. And not just for a car with 242,000 miles on it… for any car!
I’ve said for a while that the E90 328i is like the German version of a Toyota Camry. They’ll go just as far (albeit with a few more maintenance items), and hold up to wear and tear almost as well. The N52 engine that powers this car is a truly solid piece. It’s lightweight, silky smooth, and when taken care of will treat you to hundreds of thousands of miles of fun and refinement.
This high mileage E90 had over 16 pages of maintenance records when I ran the Carfax. But this isn’t to say it was unreliable, just enthusiast owned and loved. The only items on that list I would call abnormal for any car are a few Logic 7 sound system issues while it was still under warranty as well as a cooling system overhaul at around 150,000 miles. Everything else was typical wear and tear items such as oil, brakes, spark plugs, and shocks/struts.
This 2007 328i is also better optioned than the 2017 Fiesta ST it is replacing. The car is almost fully optioned to include Comfort Access, Dynamic HID headlights, Active steering, power sun-shade, Park Distance Control, and more. The only thing my Fiesta ST had that the E90 is missing is Apple CarPlay… in fact this car doesn’t have any screen in it at all! Just the “BMW Professional” head unit paired to the upgraded Logic 7 sound system.
What Does the Quarter-Million-Mile E90 Need?
Generally, when manufacturers call something “lifetime” they mean somewhere in the ballpark of 100,000 miles. That is the amount of wear and tear a vehicle or a particular component has been engineered to withstand. At 242,000 miles this car has basically lived two and a half theoretical “lifetimes” for a given vehicle. As a result, a lot of the things that have been taken care of previously need yet another refreshing.
The front struts, strut mounts, bump stops, and control arms were all original and needed to be done if I wanted the car to be perfect. I bought those, and while I was browsing Facebook Marketplace after few “quarantinis” bought a used set of 335i wheels for an upgrade in looks. The run-flat tires those wheels came with were heavy, noisy, and littered with plugs. I purchased a set of new Hankook Ventus v12 Evo 2 summer tires to replace them. These tires have been available for quite a few years and have a great reputation for being an affordable summer tire with respectable road manners. To install all of these parts, we came full circle back to Premier Eurocars for the work!
With the world basically on-hold thanks to COVID-19, these local shops need our business now more than ever. Now that enthusiasts have the time to take care of our lingering projects, try to keep all of the independent shops like Premier Eurocars in mind to help ensure they’re still around to help us when the season actually does start-up again. I’ll be back shortly for them to corner-balance my 128i.
Initial Driving Impressions of this High Mileage E90
The drive home from the shop was the first time I got to feel how this car was supposed to drive. A lot of older well-maintained BMWs give you a sensation that the entire car is pivoting on an axis around the driver’s body. Any hint of understeer or oversteer can be immediately felt, and the sensation of balance is very distinct.
With the new Sachs front struts the car offers plenty of body roll, but it’s controlled and direct. Sharp impacts are soaked up nicely by the softer sidewall of the new Hankook tires, but overall grip is greatly improved. The optional active steering on this car makes the steering ratio amazingly fast for a 13 year old sedan at just under 2 turns lock-to-lock. When you’re moving at a higher rate of speed, it dials back the ratio for less twitchy reactions and more confidence inspiring control.
The way the drivetrain and chassis simultaneously mask speed, but still provide the driver with exceptional feedback is a quality few vehicles provide still to this day. Power is far from abundant, but it’s linear and perfectly adequate in the higher end of the rev range. In most cars this would be annoying, but the NVH (Noise, Vibrations, Harshness) is virtually unchanged from 2,000 rpm all the way to fuel cut around 7,000 rpm. In fact, this car is easier to shift smoothy at redline, than it is on a Monday morning tiredly making your way to the nearest drive-through for coffee. It rewards spirited driving unlike any other vehicle I’ve driven.
I’m beyond thrilled with my bight-red piece of Bavaria. While I will gladly sing its praises all day long, this is after all a quarter-million mile BMW. Just because everything works fine today, doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. The adventures with this car are only beginning!