2002-2004 3-Series Owners; Need some Advice

I am ready to upgrade to a new car (new for me at least). As of the current moment in time, my ideal choice would be 2002-2004 3-Series ci 2-door coupe with Auto Transmission, Premium Package, and Sport
Package. Obviously I want to find one with low miles that still has a little warranty left on it.
Any information regarding cars of these years is more than appreciated. For instance, is there something about the 2004 model that is better or more reliable than the same thing on the same model in 2002? Is there something that may have been included in some certain package that I should keep an eye out for? Basically, is there anything critical that is different between models of these years?
I am also considering the Audi A4 and A6 (same years) as well as the Infiniti G35 (also same years). Anyone who has any experience with any of these cars, especially someone that knows and can compare any of these cars to the BMW is encouraged to share any information that could help me with my decision.
Also, I have heard mixed reviews regarding maintenance/repair costs. What does a typical service on a 2002-2004 3-series cost? Also, how often are you taking your car in for service? Are you having to do more repairs than you think you should or did you go X amount of miles before your first repair? (I am used to repairs, I currently drive a domestic SUV). I have already looked into pricing on these cars and have a family friend that has a dealer license so he is able to go to dealer auctions and get fresh-off-lease cars for extremely good prices (thats where I got my current car almost 4 years ago and it has treated me very well). So cost wise, I am not worried about whatever the price of the car is going to be, but I do want to get a sense for what maintenance and repairs could potentially cost me in the future.
Thank you all in advance for any information you can provide!
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Our first BMW was a 2001 325 convertible with the premium and sport packages. We loved the car but had some regrets about passing on the navigation system so when the lease was up in 2004 we got a 330 convertible with the premium, sport and cold weather packages plus navigation, plus Xenon's. We love this car too but frankly the navigation system is more of an ego booster than a real useful option for us, it's an expensive option that we rarely use....the 325 with 185 horses was also plenty fast so a 330 with 225 horses is overkill but there again ego speaks more loudly than common sense. After 36,000 miles on the 325 and 25,000 or so on the 330 we've had zero repair or maintenance issues.....all normal required maintenance is free of charge for the first 3 or 4 years on new cars. The only other thing I might offer up for you to re-consider is the sport package.....on the plus side is the great handling it affords but my wife and I are in our late 50's and too old to be driving like we are being chased....the sport package rims and tires are "ultra high performance" and those tires are in the $200 per tire range......and they don't last very long , maybe 20K miles if you are lucky and the noise they start making well before 20k can drive you nuts long before the tread wears out.......so, you might want to re-think the sport package for that reason...unless you drive like a maniac on a regular basis or are in your 20's then of course get the sport package....:).

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That was a great last line! "Unless you drive like a maniac or are in your 20's." I am 24, but I would say that my days of driving like a maniac are just about over. I am a fan of the sport package for the wheels and for the suspension, and although $200 a tire is outrageous, I have already experienced that headache when I had a 96 Camaro Z28 (heavily modified). I guess if I can find a car with some warranty left on it (so I wouldnt have to worry about maintenance or repair costs) I wouldn't be too upset on spending $800 for a set of tires (also considering I really only drive 10,000-12,000 miles per year).
I want to ask you more about the navigation system. It isnt really something that I have to have, but if I find a car with it, that would be a great bonus. I am currently working as a commercial real estate appraiser, so a navigation system would be an excellent little item to have for my work. I want to know how the navigation system performed (when you did use it) and how accurate it was, etc.
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Consider a TomTom instead of factory installed. Great, portable unit.
Eisboch
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Eisboch wrote:

car when you travel. I have the C330 and it's almost as good as the factory GPS in the Acura TL I owned.
Dan
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A navigation system of some sort would be ideal for someone in your line of work. I don't know this for an absolute fact but I'm inclined to think the BMW nav system is more complicated than your average Japanese product or off the shelf units like TomTom, Garmin, etc. I have no reason to think BMW is less accurate or has less detailed coverage but I strongly suspect the learning curve is greater than most units out there.....however your line of work would probably work in your favor because you would have a regular compelling need to use the system daily and therefore would quickly learn and remember the steps necessary to get to the parts of the system you need.....I'd say there are too many bells and whistles rather than not enough....we use ours so rarely that sometimes we need to get the manual out to refresh our fading memories.....I don't think you would have that problem.....the system may be a bit frustrating to learn in the beginning but once you know it then you'll fly through the system and I think it could be a great tool for you. It's still a treat just to see our location at any given moment on the nav map and we are still amazed at it's accuracy(maybe when you are our age you won't think this is so silly as it probably seems now) . Of course the more established the areas are that you work in the greater the odds are that the nav system will have the addresses you are looking for. We live out in the country in an area where our neighborhood didn't exist 5 years ago but even though our street name isn't on the nav DVD the map shows our street and our position on it and virtually all major roads in the area. So, you may encounter coverage problems sometimes, all nav systems do but I think more up to date DVD's are available from BMW from time to time.....systems like Garmin, etc. have the advantage of being portable from car to car and you can get map updates more often and probably cheaper and easier(via download) compared to fairly pricey updated nav DVD's.
About this time last year we needed to go to Washington DC for an 8th Air Force reunion and the nav system was a life saver there, especially when you consider the numerous streets that are often closed there without fore warning due to so many events and dignitaries visiting at any given time. It's pretty nifty to hear the female nav voice tell you to, "prepare to turn right in 120 feet" and then to tell you to "turn here" and even if you screw it up she patiently gets you turned around for another shot at it.

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On 30 Aug 2006 10:40:09 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Hmm, I've had no problem with my 325i sedan. This model had a recall on the ignition coils, but other than that I've done nothing outside of scheduled maintenance aside from changing a couple of bulbs. BMW offered to do those as well, but I'm not sure I want to live in a world where people schedule and dealer appointment to change a light bulb.
All of these years are post-facelift, meaning that the E46 model was winding down and BMW made few, if any, incremental changes to the car. The addition of the ZHP option is the most significant I can think of.
I like the performance and handling, and though I sometimes wonder about the 330i, I have to admit that neither of my 2.5i-powered cars have left me wanting.
epbrown -- "Everybody wants a normal life and a cool car; most people will settle for the car." Chris Titus 2003 BMW 325i Black/Black, 2003 BMW Z4 Black/Black
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happen:
The window regulator motor gives out. He asked me if I had mine replaced. I said no, and he said I was lucky.
The moon roof capsule breaks on occasion. This the system which retracts the entire roof inside the car. He said that if it ever happens to me to leave it alone (don't try to force it back shut). They can sometimes fix the mechanism in that condition. Otherwise, you are looking at a $1200 part to replace. This mechanism is not the one which merely lifts up the back of the moon roof.
My car is a 2003 sedan with about 34000 miles. Jim
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