German cars have a reputation for being reliable and long-lasting. Whether this is a myth or reality is a debate that has been going on for years, but we can all agree that there are certain German vehicles – even luxurious ones – which were just terribly designed and engineered and were about as reliable as anything that comes out of a politician’s mouth.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and VW are among the best automakers on the planet, but they have made some cars that were so incredibly terrible, that even they themselves tried to bury them. BMW – for example – built the absolutely amazing E38 7 Series, before replacing it with the ticking time bomb which was the E65 7 Series. The E65 quickly became one of the most ridiculed vehicles the company ever made – not only due to the styling but the ergonomics and engineering behind it. More-or-less the same situation occurred with the W220 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, VW Phaeton, and Audi A6 C5. As soon as the accountants took over, the cars’ quality dropped drastically.
While German luxury cars are currently at the top of the automotive food chain, there are some models which were simply terrible. Here are some German Luxury cars nobody wants to be associated with at all.
10/10 BMW 7 Series E65
The BMW E38 7 Series is one of the best-looking BMW models and one of the most perfect sedans ever created. What followed this greatness was a pile of controversially styled awfulness which BMW themselves rectified with the model’s LCI.
Not only was the E65 terrible to look at, but it also had a pretty horrible reliability rating thanks to the engines and electrics. All-in-all, the BMW E65 7 Series is by far the worst sedan the German automaker ever made.
9/10 Mercedes-Benz S-Class W220
Similar to the BMW E65, the W220 was the replacement for the fabulous W140 S-Class – a car that redefined what it meant to be luxurious and well-built. Unlike the E65, the W220’s fall wasn’t nearly as bad. The dodgy electric did prove an issue, but the rest was pretty solid – apart from when anything failed, which cost a fortune to replace.
The W220 was Mercedes’ way of reclaiming the go-to luxury car crown after Lexus swept it away with the LS400 but was still criticized for its annoyances. Today, the W220 is the cheapest S-Class on the used market – for good reason.
8/10 Audi A4 1.8T Multitronic
The B8 Audi A4 was a superb car to rival the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It had good engines and could even be ordered with the same powerplant and transmission as the VW Golf GTI – just with Quattro.
Unfortunately, it was not without its faults. The biggest being the base model 1.8T fitted with the Multitronic transmission. The gearbox was essentially a CVT but had the reliability of an early Rover V8. It would leak, grind, and fail constantly, with many owners exchanging the whole car for one with either a manual or a DSG. Audi removed the Multitronic when the A4 was updated.
7/10 BMW M5 E60
The BMW M5 is the absolute pinnacle of the fast sedan and, following the brilliance that was the E39, the E60 needed to be quite a feat. BMW pulled this off spectacularly with their amazing S85 5.0-liter V10, screaming all the way to 8,250 rpm.
It wasn’t until customers started living with the E60 M5 that issues started rising up. The biggest of which was that the engine would prematurely wear its rod bearings, resulting in a complete failure and totaling the car. The E60 M5 is then the best car BMW ever made – which nobody wants to own.
6/10 Early BMW M5 F10
Following the E60 M5 was the F10. It was the first turbocharged M5 and debuted with the S63 4.4-liter V8 rather than the screaming V10. It was widely reviewed and praised for its amazing performance, but criticized for its engine issues.
Like the S85, the S63 suffered from rod bearing wear, excessive oil consumption, and failing VANOS solenoids – the latter of which ruined the timing of the engine. BMW did fix these issues over the course of two major ‘Technical Updates’, resulting in the S63 becoming one of the most reliable German V8s on sale.
5/10 VW Phaeton
The VW Phaeton was a brilliant but poorly executed idea. To compete with the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and Audi A8, VW commissioned the Phaeton luxury sedan. It was a great idea until everyone realized it was styled like the Passat – not a very prestigious vehicle.
The other issue was the engines. VW offered the V10 TDI and the W12 in the Phaeton, both of which were expensive to maintain and ridiculously difficult to work on. The V10 was also extremely unreliable. Paying S-Class money for a sedan slightly larger than a Passat? As expected, it didn’t work out very well.
4/10 Mercedes-Benz CLC-Class
The Mercedes-Benz CLC-Class – also known as the C-Class Coupe or C-Class Compact – was a premium hatchback-type vehicle to compete with the BMW 3 Series Compact of the same era. Unlike the BMW, the CLC wasn’t particularly sporty or good to drive.
Mercedes stuck a big V6 in the front, but this didn’t really appeal to anyone. The model was discontinued and regained steam when the W204 C-Class gained a Coupe body style – which became immensely popular.
3/10 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer was BMW’s attempt at getting in on the compact MPV market. Unlike the 1 Series below it or the 2 Series Coupe sold alongside, the Active Tourer was a Mini Cooper-based hatchback – making it a front-wheel-drive car with a BMW badge.
The Active Tourer remained in production for two generations until BMW pulled the plug due to low sales. It has since been replaced with the X2, an equally front-wheel-drive BMW crossover. Luckily it features xDrive on higher trims.
2/10 Audi A6 C5
The Audi A6 C5 was basically a VW product with an Audi badge on the front. As a result, it had typical electrical issues associated with the VWs of the era. Other issues included excessive oil usage and suspension problems.
The A6 Allroad fitted with the 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 was a special kind of terrible as it was named one of the least reliable vehicles ever made. The V6 liked to blow its turbo and working it was a pain – as there was little space in the engine bay.
1/10 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class W163
Objectively speaking, there wasn’t much wrong with the first gen Mercedes-Benz ML-Class. It was big, luxurious, and comfortable enough to give the BMW X5 a run for its money. It even had an AMG version with a big V8 when the X5 had to wait until the second generation for an M-model.
The issue was that many surveys concluded that the ML was one of the most difficult cars to live with. Its turning circle wasn’t very good, and it was heavy on fuel. Its electrics would also sometimes refuse to work, resulting in the car simply not starting. Pretty terrible for a German luxury car.