Q. OUR 16-year-old BMW 523i estate needs replacing. We are a family of four with a budget of £25,000. Fuel consumption is not a priority, but reliability, comfort and build quality are. What car will stand the test of time as well as our 523i?
DM, Ealing, London
A. There is no way to predict the longevity of a car, although past performance is a factor. If you want to stay loyal to the 5-series estate, the latest Touring model went on sale three years ago, and a £25,000 budget will get you a 2010 60-registered 523i SE with about 30,000 miles on the clock. The engine is smooth and produces 201bhp — 30bhp more than your present car, yet should achieve significantly better fuel economy.
Next, try the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Similar in size to the 5-series, it has a cosseting interior that makes it feel special yet the cabin space is generous. It drives every bit as well as its saloon equivalent. On the downside, the model having been launched only last summer, used examples are in short supply, and the car is available only as a diesel. That said, the 2.2-litre SE automatic delivers lively performance and impressive economy of more than 55mpg. Your budget will buy a 2012 62-plate car with about 12,000 miles under the wheels, plus the remainder of its three-year warranty.
Neither the BMW nor the Jaguar comes close to the practicality of the Mercedes E-class estate. It offers 695 litres of boot capacity, compared with about 560 litres for each of its two rivals here, and benefits from the most rear-seat legroom. It’s also easy to drive, with good visibility and parking sensors. There is a wide range of engine and trim options, though for the best blend of comfort and equipment choose an E 250 BlueEfficiency automatic SE. Its 2.2-litre engine generates 201bhp, and your budget will get you a 2011 11-plate vehicle with about 20,000 miles on the clock.
Got a car problem?
Email your question to email@example.com, or write to Car Clinic, Driving, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST, with a daytime phone number, your address and as much detail about your car as possible. We can’t reply personally, so please don’t send original documents or SAEs. Advice is offered without legal responsibility.