Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve featured cars more modern than my predilection for ’80s German metal typically allows. Two were cars I’ve dreamt about owning since they were released, both in gorgeous deep-blue hues: the E39 M5 and MkIV R32. The Le Mans Blue M5 was an excellent, 75k-mile example with the sumptuous Caramel leather but came at a steep price – over $32k. The Deep Blue Pearl R32 had about 100k miles and asked $15k – a far cry from its MSRP and seemingly a good value for the performance. Today’s M5 throws the viability of either of those cars into question, bringing the many impressive strengths of the E39 M5 but at the same price as the R32. BMW maintenance may run more than VW, but it’s not like the MkIV is known for being bulletproof. With Tubi exhaust you’ll even be able to drown out the R32’s VR6 grumble while you enjoy luxury the VW could never match. It’s not the most attractive combo – silver on black/grey pales in comparison to the rich blue/caramel – but it’s a truckload of performance for the money.
All posts tagged e39
Ah, the E39 M5: the humble king of supersedans. Plenty of followers have come out with more tech, more power, and more luxury, but none have found the perfect balance that made the E39 M5 astonishing when it came out and still eminently desirable today. Its 394hp shocked when released, but it was backed up a chassis and 6-speed transmission equally ready to brawl. It’s a holistic package that gets blown away on paper by today’s sedans bordering on or exceeding 600hp and yet still represents the platonic ideal for many enthusiasts.
This example in Texas has a lot going for it. 75k miles is right in the middle of the 50-100k wheelhouse for these cars, enough to protect it from cream-puff prices but not too many as to worry about big maintenance. Le Mans Blue over Caramel is a lovely combination, but my association of this BMW interior with a friend’s E36 M3 would make me long for that car’s Estoril exterior as well. It looks to be in just about perfect shape inside and out, but even then the price looks a bit high.
Click for details: 2002 BMW M5 on Fall Creek Motorcars
The E39 M5 is certainly the king of the hill when it comes to balanced and clean super sedans. It has enough power to blow the doors off of most sports cars, inherent chassis balance to make twisties fun, enough luxury to make you feel great, and styling that deftly melds classy and aggressive. While the M5 deservedly gets a hefty share of 5-series fandom, the E39 540i approaches many of those capabilities at a fraction of the cost – both up-front and in maintenance. The available 6-speed manual further bolsters its driver’s-car cred, creating a slick executive sedan that chooses subtlety and quiet capability over M-powered and -badged bragging rights.
This beautiful grey example came to our attention thanks to reader John. For sale in Orange County, it has just about every option and has been owned by a “super anal BMW enthusiast.” I’m sure there are plenty of jokes there for BMW haters but we’ll focus on the intent, which is corroborated by beautiful presentation inside and out and with a strong list of maintenance over the last couple of years. The sharp cross-haired, M5-aping M-tech front fascia wasn’t available until 2003, meaning this 540i gets the exceedingly simple narrow oval aperture shared with the lower 525i and 530i. All the better for flying under the radar while the 282hp V8 and 6-speed create plenty of smiles. Perfect Style 32 wheels complete a package that doesn’t stand out but does stand up to the test of time. With a diligent owner and just 107k miles, this can make an outstanding highway commuter for years to come.
Click for details: 2001 BMW 540i on eBay
I first came across the listing for this 2002 BMW 540i M-Sport nearly 6 months ago, and frankly I’m shocked to see it still for sale. It was a garage queen during the first owner’s stewardship and the current owner says he didn’t use it for daily commuting. The seller has done a great job photographing the usual problem areas associated with vehicles living in coastal areas, and included lots of important information. Additionally, there are numerous recent articles floating around the internet that heap praise upon this sleeper Bimmer, and we’ve done a fair amount of worshiping at the temple of the E39 ourselves. Still, the 540i M-Sport remains a cult classic, unlike its sibling, and mainstream media darling, the E39 M5.
When I was in the market for a new car, I often had moments where I’d be looking at a performance variant of a model, and wonder if spending the extra money was indeed worth it. There are many factors that effect the answer to that question, the majority of them vary person to person, but on thing remains true across the board. Nobody needs an M5, but everybody covets that badge. Nobody needs an 540i either, but between the two, it’s the more rational choice. The thing is, we’re irrational beings, even when we think we’ve got a solid handle on things, we let our emotions get the best of us. More and more we’re a society that deals in extremes, and the 540i M-Sport is hardly extreme. Is it reaching to say this car hasn’t sold because people are so obsessed with the prestige that comes with driving an M5? Maybe, but if it’s a stretch, it’s an easy one. The market for V8 powered Euro sedans with 3 pedals is shrinking given that the mainstream mindset is TURBO EVERYTHING! Growing general awareness of the quality of these cars, and an appreciation for them in the enthusiast community is great. However, I’d be willing to stake my internet reputation on the following statement. If given the choice between an E39 M5 and an E39 540i/6 M-Sport, people will choose the M5 9 times out of 10. That one person is most likely a GCFSB reader and they most likely already have one of these cars. To them I’d like to say, Congratulations! You have far more restraint than the rest of us.