The lease on my Clubman JCW is up in September so a while ago I started looking for a replacement in earnest (since I'm always "looking"). I was a bit all over the place. Before the Clubman I had a MkVII GTI and loved it so I thought about getting one of those, either a used '18 or waiting for the '21s to hit the lot (counting on VW Canada offering a special end of model run Wolfsburg edition as they often do). Then I was on a Benz S212 kick for a bit, looking for a '15-'16 E400 (not offered in the U.S. btw). But those are big and automatic only. Also a top contender was an F30 335i or 340i, which is what I had planned to get before I leased the Clubman.
I was reluctant to spend a bunch of money on a newer car though. We moved from outside of the city to right outside of downtown in January and went from two cars to one. Both of our commutes are super short so it didn't make sense to me to have another big car payment.
On a whim I did an AutoTrader search for manual BMW wagons. There's always a handful for sale across Canada but rarely do you find a good one with the sport package. This time a 2011 328i came up. The ad was super detailed but these were the highlights:
- one owner, custom ordered
- 175k km (just under 110k miles)
- had been optioned with all five option packages available that year in Canada, most importantly the sport package (also premium, executive, navigation, and premium sound)
- came with staggered 18" BBS RG-Rs along with the stock 17" sport package wheels with brand new winter tires. The BBS wheels had been purchased when the car was new and had been professionally refinished a couple years ago
- only mods aside from the wheels were tinted windows and black kidney grilles - exactly what I would have done anyways
- front end was covered in PPF when the car was new
- meticulously maintained with all service records
- black sapphire on black leather
- priced reasonably at $13k CAD (under $10k USD)
I immediately messaged the owner and went back and forth with him a bit. The car was near Ottawa, about 1000 km away. Normally not a big deal to fly there and drive a car home but due to COVID I would have to self isolate for two weeks once home. I had someone from another car forum look at the car for me the next day. He basically said, "If you don't buy this car I'm tempted to." Before I could ask, the owner suggested getting a PPI done and he arranged it at his local BMW dealership.
A few days later, while we were waiting for the PPI appointment, I lost my job due to COVID. Crap. For a second I thought about canceling the deal, but then realized we would need a car in a few months anyways. In the end it was a moot point since I was out of work for less than two weeks and got a generous severance package.
PPI gets done and the only two major things that come up are the fact that it needs new summer tires and that there's an oil leak. The owner immediately books the car in with his indy mechanic to replace the oil pan gasket and we agree I'll take care of the tires myself. Meanwhile I arrange to have the car shipped. The owner was great to work with in all of this. Super professional and forthcoming about everything, and had no problem at all with dropping the car off at a shipping terminal 45 min from his house.
The car came more quickly than expected which was a nice surprise. I got it last Thursday and got it registered and plated yesterday (had to make an appointment at the DMV for COVID reasons). It's in amazing shape considering it's almost 10 years old. A couple of minor scratches on the exterior but that's it. I think the car looks great with the BBS wheels, tinted windows, and blacked out grilles. Black wouldn't have been my first colour choice but it's near the top (especially since the 2011 model year had very few colour options in Canada).
The summer tires on it now are very worn Bridgestone RE-71s which are loud AF but I ordered a set of Potenza S-004s which should be here next week. Other than that the car drives very well. The steering is nice and heavy, although I'm having a hard time getting used to the steering because it's quicker yet lighter in the Clubman. I've taken some ramps quite aggressively and it handles them very nicely. It feels very analog which is exactly what I wanted. The N52 is so smooth and linear. It's interesting that on paper it's about as quick as the Clubman but the two engines couldn't feel more different.
The interior in all black is a bit drab, especially compared to the Mini which has the two tone red and black JCW seats, ambient lighting, chrome, etc. But the layout is simple and usable and the sport seats are super comfortable – I'd say on par with the Mini's. The Logic7 stereo sounds better than the H/K one in the Clubman and the Bluetooth audio connectivity is more reliable too. The older iDrive is definitely a step back but it works fine; I might look into an aftermarket Apple CarPlay solution though.
Since it was only plated yesterday I've only driven it around town so far but I'm really happy with it. For $13k I can't think of a better car to own that is reasonably quick and fun while at the same time being comfortable and practical.
Here's some quick pics I took last night after washing it. Notice the plate the DMV gave me too.