The Search for a Used BMW Wagon

I need room. Two kids under three means at least one of my cars has to now be able to do some serious family hauling every so often. So my wonderful 2004 330i ZHP has to go. But the problem is, what to replace it with?

Given my need for performance, a hint of efficiency and the desire to feel like I ‘m driving a sports sedan, the only choice is to go with a wagon.

Since BMWNA axed the 5 Series wagon anyone looking for utility within the BMW range was either forced in the 3 Series wagon or up into the SAV range. The problem is that there are many people that don ‘t want a crossover and need something a bit larger than the current 3er wagon. And with the larger F31 3 Series wagon at least a year off, the only choice is either a used 5 series wagon or to look at other brands.

The latter is not an option for me. So that leaves an exhaustive search across the country for a decent wagon. Naturally it has to be a 535ix right? 300 hp is hard to argue with (as long as all N54 issues were either dealt with by the owner or BMW. But the big problem in this is the search. Finding a 5er wagon with the combination of the navigation and the sport package has been almost impossible. And trying to find it all with a manual is almost impossible. So I ‘ve given up on the manual and just resigned myself that my next family car will be an automatic. Perhaps not the worst decision given the kind of car the 535ix is and the ki d of service it ‘ll be formed into.

Then there are the myriad of options and color choices that give the whole thing a very wild card feel. But being a car guy there in lies the fun. The hunt for something interesting is what we live for. And finding something interesting in the sea of sameness that is the see wagon market should be an interesting challenge.

Look for updates over the next month as I zero in.

Side note: if you ‘re interested in a loaded 68,000 mile 2004 330i ZHP (aka the performance package) drop me a line via the contact link above or the comment section below. Loaded with Nav, it ‘s the best all around car I ‘ve ever owned and it deserves a good home. I ‘m ready to move it at a very reasonable price to make way for what is coming.

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  • wadc

    We were in largely the same circumstances as you and lived happily with a 328xi wagon.  However, when our kids got older (now two five year olds) we ran into the issue of fitting them plus their friends in the car.  Two booster seats fit fine, but there’s no way to fit a third (or fourth) kid for play dates.

    We had largely the same priorities as you also.  We considered other brands, but there really isn’t anything worth switching.  Audi doesn’t bring in interesting wagons either, and while Mercedes has a wagon with a third row it drives like a tractor.

    What we settled on was an X5 diesel with the third row and the adaptive sport suspension.  It’s obviously automatic, but as you see you have to live with that even on a 5-series wagon.  Also, automatic on a diesel isn’t really an issue like it would be on a gasoline engine.

    Beyond that it’s a pretty amazing product.  We can fit five kids and two adults with ease (the 2nd row flips forward even with booster seats in place.  Straight line performance is excellent, and handling isn’t so bad with the adaptive suspension (this is an extra cost option over and above the sport package).  It also gets 21mpg in purely city driving which is better than the 328xi did.

    So you have a 5,000 pound vehicle that seats seven, accelerates as well as you could like and handles pretty well all while getting 21 mpg city.

    I greatly prefer wagons too, but even a 5 wagon couldn’t seat that many people.  Getting something for the excess bulk of the X5 (more seating) makes it more palatable to me, and the diesel made living with the automatic easier.  You might want to think about it, as when your three year olds are a little older they will start wanting to have friends over.  At best you could squeeze one between the two booster seats, but you’ll never do better than that in a wagon.

  • BJ CPO search is useful in these cases… If you are willing to go to NY, there is this one:

    • Love it! The only issue is the time to go out and buy it without seeing it. 

      • Playpendr

        Tried to post a reply, something happened.  I have a 2010 535xi wagon with stick, M-package, navigation, cold weather, etc CPO with full BMW service contract through 8/31/2015, 26 k miles, have original build sheet plus more.  White/black leather.  Looking for 55k.  Am out of country but rtc 1/7, more info after that.

  • m8o

    Re: “Since BMWNA axed the 5 Series wagon anyone looking for utility within the BMW range was either forced in the 3 Series wagon or up into the SAV range. “

    Does anyone think that the latter was not premeditated and exactly what they were hoping for given the SUV is made in the US?

  • PrimoAvant aka Primo135

    I was in the same position, Gabe, and while I hated looking outside of BMW, it was the only choice for me. Had they brought the 3er wagon over in 335 guise I’d be driving that, but alas I moved to Audi. I picked up a CPO Audi S4 Avant and absolutely love it. Great power, impressive handling, adequate room, excellent interior (Recaros, carbon trim), and the best looking wagon available in the U.S. in my opinion. The car feels very German, too, in contrast to a lot of the cars coming out now.

    I know you said you can’t look to other brands, but I think you should consider it. You’ve got the 1M for fun, right? You can still be a brand ambassador for Munich and have the best wagon in our market. It’s an incredibly rewarding car to drive and is so flat and grippy in the corners.

    2008 S4 Avant

    • Playpendr

      I agree with primo about the S4 Avant, unfortunately no longer available here.  We have an 01 S4 Avant 6-speed along with the 535xi referred to above.  I hope to keep it in tip top shape for years to come.  Other than the noise isolation not being as good as the 5-er and it’s not having the latest toys (hard drive, big screen navi, bluetooth, heated steering wheel etc) it is a much more pleasant car to be in all around.  The whole interior is much more elegant and reminds me of Apple v. PC with the Audi being the Apple to the BMWs PC. I have to say the 5-er wagon is the most neutral handling car I’ve ever had, but the interior is like an afterthought.  It’s as if they designed the ‘ultimate driving machine’ and then remembered that they needed to include an interior.  When I got the 535, the dealer friend who I got it from (his used car manager special ordered it for himself), he told me of going to Munich for the last intro of the new 5s and 6s.  He noticed all the technicians who were sent to demonstrate the cars showed up in wagons and he asked why.  The answer: the wagons are simply the best balanced, best handling cars BMW makes.  The SUVs will never replace them.  That said, I’m still more comfortable with the old Audi.

  • Porthos

    Why did you have to do this now. I just bought an E34 525i Touring. Actually just got it back together and running after fixing some stuff. Just a great car.

    • Porthos

      I meant to put a ? after that question.

  • Digli

    Same situation here (two kids, needed more room, wanted some semblance of performance, yada yada).  My wife and I quickly realized that there was no choice other than the 535 if we didn’t want to compromise on the transmission — we both wanted a manual.  Not one other manufacturer of a comparably sized performance wagon (E350, V70, A6) offered a manual transmission (at least not in Canada).  We were also looking for all-wheel drive (it’s snowy up here in Canada and my taxes apparently aren’t high enough for the city to plow my street).  

    Similar to your situation, after months of searching for a used 5er wagon with a manual transmission, we gave up.  I think we found 2 in all of North America during that time and both had high mileage and no NAV.  So we ended up buying new.  Pricey, no doubt.  However since it was essentially the last production run for the model (we took delivery in Dec 2009), every conceivable option (other than M package) was thrown in at no cost — convenience package, comfort seats, NAV, Individual Audio, cold weather, etc..  I have a history of keeping vehicles for a long time so I wasn’t too concerned about depreciation (I’ve purchased two other vehicles brand new and each made it to at least 14 years with a lot of life remaining; still driving my ’97 A4 on a daily basis).

    Couldn’t be happier with the purchase.  As stated by others, the handling is fantastically neutral and there is more than enough power (although not super quick from a dead stop I have to admit). The seats are more comfortable than my couch yet incredibly supportive (the power adjustable side bolsters are like a warm hug).  The other nice perk I discovered is that car will fit into a regular garage door opening (approx. 7 ft) with a Yakima box on the roof.  Try doing that with your SUV.

    If anyone is still looking for a car like this in about 15 years, let me know.  I may consider selling it.  Maybe.

  • Dr Obnxs

    My wife and I were looking to replace an aged MDX and my first thought was the X5 diesel. Finding one used, with a third row, proved to be too expensive a proposition for us, as sad as I am to admit it.I was hoping to find one a year or two old for $40k or less, but they were all $50k+! Good luck on the hunt….

  • Playpendr

    Let’s see if this is all just gab or if anyone is serious about buying.  2010 535xiT, stick, white black leather, M-package, navigation, cold weather, CPO with full service package through 8/29/2015, 28,000 miles.  Have original build sheet, rubber mats as well as carpeted ones.  Snows on additional rims.  $50,000.  Email, located in Newton MA.

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