Our choice car today is the 1997 BMW 323i Executive.... oh my, what a stellar pickup if you can find a nice one. The executive is the one to get; it's easy enough to recognise - all leather, knob style shift lever, dual zone climate control, executive radio system and most likely clear front and rear indicator clusters - if you're lucky, factory sunroof.
When fashioned right, this car oozed sex appeal and was so easily complimented with M3 style rims and the right colour. Not much to do here folks. Sporting an already modern 5speed auto box coupled to a 2.5 litre straight six, this lightweight smashed out 125kW @5500rpm with a peak torque of 245Nm @3950rpm. Fuel consumption around the doddle is about 10 ltr/100km but if you're out in the open, feel free to give it a little punch at 6.4 ltr/100km.
I gotta say, this car is easy to fall in love with. BMW pedigree is particularly stand out with this variant. At no point does it hesitate and if you've got one that's passed all the "I haven't been thrashed" tests, you'll enjoy a very healthy drive through the country when you give it the beans. The seats are the perfect amount of body hugging and the ride comfort leaves you in tune with the road whilst keeping you in the lap of luxury. Make no mistake, this car is old now, but a well oiled one doesn't feel like it in the slightest.
With the reality of it being old, as an avid buyer, you probably want to know a thing or two about BMWs - it aint no slap together idiot proof GM plodder - this thing has technobabble at it's core and in its guts. It is therefore sophisticated in its mechanics and needs regular disciplined maintenance. If you're handy with servicing yourself, you'll have to order some custom tools as they're not available off the shelf (like the big nut to access the oil filter canister - $70 size specific tool, just sayin). The executive cabin is a quality build, adorned with plenty of good leather trim and there is a real sense of luxury. The climate control is perfect but digital units have been known to fail and you'll pay heavily (circa $1100) to replace the head unit if you order one through BMW - go on ebay, you'll pay $100 for a certified working one. The stereo can stay as is, it sounds great and there's no need to butcher the dash.
Watch out for oil sludge and signs of head gasket issues. Unfortunately some of these models were prone to being picked up by cashed up boy racers who used the BMW's great handling to punch it a little too much but this may be more obvious to you as a buyer when you see the modified exhaust, oversized rims and 20million dollar stereo.
Inform yourself and let the $3500 to $5000 spend put you in a nice first car or for that matter, just a nice car anyway - keep your eye out and you'll have something special.