I gave you a picture of what I drive. Except mine is Anthracite in color. E39 M5. Woooha! It's starting to get a mite beat up, tho'.
Part of the problem is that one has to thrash the car for at least one 20 minute period per week. This means a no mercy thrashing for 20 continuous minutes. If not, the motor clogs up. Which is tough to do, as it is really hard on you, your license, the rest of the public, and the car.
Was a purchase made? I need closure.
If you're still looking, and still looking at MINIs, I think I'd go with the Cooper S rather than the JCW, the latter is a bit stiff for a daily driver in my opinion, more of a track/autocross/weekend fun car.
VW and Audi reliability have improved a whole lot from about 2006 on. New ones are a pretty safe bet now. I got a GTI in 2007 and have had no problems. The Audi A3 is a sleeper, Audi can't get rid of 'em so the deals should be good but depreciation is murder, but it's a sweetheart that really grows on you in the long term.
Honda ownership is painless, of course, but there's nothing even vaguely interesting in their entire product lineup now except for maybe the Civic Si. Fit's a nice city car, and I still like the Elephant, uh, I mean Element as a funky shopping car, best of the rolling cubes to actually own. Wouldn't want to take either one on a long trip though. Acura TL and TSX are decent cars, if you can stand being seen in one.
Toyota/Lexus -- more sleep inducing than Ambien.
Mazda - the 3 is a good cheap car, if it lacks quite the refinement and quality of a Civic. The Speed3 is a demon, tons of fun, if you can live with its dark depressing tomb of an interior.
GM's got nothing. Ford won't have anything 'til they start importing the Euro Focus and Fiesta next year. And don't say "Taurus SHO" to me, that beast is friggin' huge. It's as tall as an SUV. Good lord what were they thinking? Fusion? It's a Mazda6 with a grille that looks like a Lady Schick. Chrysler won't have anything 'til they start selling Fiat 500s and Alfa MiTos in a couple of years, good lord how MOPAR sucks hind teat. The crap merchants at the Big 3 should have all been taken out and shot for crimes against the motoring public.
Here's a fun alternative -- go find a 2004-2005 VW Phaeton on eBaymotors, a car that cost almost 100 grand new, has more gadgets and luxury than an S-class, and they're going for $21K-$25K now. Absolutely shocking depreciation, seriously underrated car. The little radiator in the dashboard that prevents the windows from fogging is amazing.
I had alot of travel going on the past few weeks, and stalled in my shoppinh. My favorite so far is the Mini JCW Clubman, but I wanna chceck out that Mazada 3 "MazdaSpeed" car.
Next year's Fiesta looks like it will be a fun car - tempting to wait.
I'm gonna go right now and learn more about that Phaeton! Thanks for that tip.