Currently reading: James Ruppert: the used cars that can be upgraded with a phone app
Apps aren't just for monitoring your used buy's vital signs - they can help your car realise its full potential as well

In case you hadn’t noticed, the world has turned into one big app.

Websites are so last century: it’s all about apps that do things and that means you can do exciting things to your car’s brain. Up until recently, you needed to visit a garage for that; unless you had mates in the trade, you paid for that digital access. Now, though, you can get all sorts of clever boxes of tricks. You can interrogate, fault find and, I noticed recently, even reprogramme and unlock extra performance using your mobile.

I wouldn’t recommend mucking about with vehicles under warranty, but once the cover has expired, all bets are off. It isn’t just performance: you should be able to mess with the fuel economy and make it better.

That makes me think that I should be looking at those BMW oil-burners (2003-2009) in the classifieds that no one else wants and then start apping.

I’ll start at the bottom with a 1 Series and, with £2800 to spend, I’ll get a 2007 2.0 118d SE with 100,000 miles and a full service history. Never mind that it’s silver. Hold on, I’ve also stumbled across a blue one with more miles that is £50 cheaper, so everything is out there. Indeed, why buy a sensible four-door hatch when my favourite 3 Series from 2005 is available as a 320Cd Sport at £3000 and forgivably metallic grey? It looked rather BMW M3 to me too.

Find a used BMW 1 Series on PistonHeads

Next up would be an BMW M5-alike. I’ll raise my stupidly low budget, of course: a more solid £3500 would bag me a 2006 530 M Sport with 147,000 miles. It would certainly be fun making that go even faster.

The next size up is a Seven, and a 2008 730d Sport with 90,000 miles is just £6999. I don’t think we need a long-wheelbase version, unless we spend any quality time in the rear.

Bmw x5 mk1 2003840

Perhaps we need to go off-road. In that case, a 2005 X5 3.0d Sport is £5000 with 100,000 miles and wears a set of 19in M Sport alloys too. There are some nasty-looking ‘murder’ spec ones, but this one just seemed fully loaded and quite classy. It is just another BMW waiting to be chipped, without actually needing open- bonnet surgery.

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You read it here first: the future of used car care is an app. Just wait for the warranty to expire first.

What we almost bought this week: 

Volvo V90 - The last of the old brick-style Volvo estates really does look the part, with an updated nose, clear indicators and smart metallic paint colours. Under the bonnet, you’ll find a creamy-smooth multi-valve six-pot engine, while inside is a remarkably lavish interior that’s the match of any other 1990s luxobarge’s. A tidy one can be yours for just £2000.

V90 new picv3

Tales from Ruppert’s garage: 

BMW 320, mileage: 81,054: I’ve had a set of locking wheel nuts for these Alpina beauties for months now but haven’t had the time to fit them. Seriously, I barely have enough minutes to undo one old nut and then replace it with one of these fancy, thief-proof ones. The thing is, I have written this before I have actually carried out the nutty procedure. I did it on the basis that I’ll just have to get on with the job. That reminds me: I still haven’t told you about the unsatisfactory in-car entertainment and the fact that actually getting the engine to start is a test of endurance.

I need to stop writing and start doing.

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A-Z bangerpedia: 

Rover 25 Streetwise: The 25 was outclassed and outdated even when new but, as the years passed, it became okay to drive and was well finished with a good choice of engines. Most of all, though, we adored the Streetwise variant that now seems remarkably prescient in its SUV pretensions. It is the model that might have saved Rover. You can now buy a post-Rover-registered 2006 2.0 TD SE with 140,000 miles for £995. Bargain.

132734 34773 A rov

Readers’ questions: 

Q. I have been thinking about buying a used automatic due to arthritis but was told they’re less fuel efficient. Is that true? Anne Davies, Solihull

A. Yes and no. It varies from model to model, but there are many modern autos that are as good as – if not better than – their manual equivalents on fuel. Try looking at the dual-clutch automatics from Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda, or more traditional torque-converter autos from BMW, among others. AR

Q. I’ve got £10k to spend on a used soft-top. Should I choose an Audi TT, BMW 1 Series convertible or Mazda MX-5? George Avery, via email

A.  Unless you need four seats, I’d take the TT. But have a go in an MX-5 first, just to check you don't prefer it. AR

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Outback 5872

Q. Should we replace our old Subaru Legacy Subaru Outback with a more modern version or try something else? Jonathan Stock, Peterborough

A. If you need to go off-road regularly, a more modern Outback is probably the best bet. However, if you don’t, the Skoda Octavia Scout is better value and more comfortable. The Seat Leon X-Perience is surprisingly good too. AR

Read more

BMW 1 Series review

Mazda MX-5 review

Used car buying guide: Jaguar XJS

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Sonic 25 September 2018

Which Apps?

This is one of the most useless, misinformed articles I have read on Autocar. Is James Ruppert now competing against Rachel Burgess for the wooden spoon award this year?

paulmartinabbott 25 September 2018


The title and tag line have no relation to the body of the article.I read this as I thought you were going to explain how apps can be used to upgrade you car. 

Nothing wrong with the article it just doesn’t live up to the promise in the title. 3/10

Editor please have a word. 

TSV 25 September 2018


As a recent purchaser of a BMW 1 series, imagine my excitement when I read the headline , and then the article, to discover that there were old BMW's that looked like other old BMW's. 

Clear some space on your mantle piece, I suspect a Pullitzer is on its way to you.