Double Take 540i/6: E34 or E39? 1995 BMW 540i Sport v. 2003 BMW 540i M-Sport

My recent M5 v. Alpina B10 post took a look at two exotic versions of the E34. Of course, BMW offered their own alternative to the M5 late in the production cycle, as the introduction of the M60 V8-powered 540i produced nearly as much usable power as the more expensive M variant. Such was the success of the 540i that BMW initially judged the M5 dead in this market; it was removed from the U.S. in 1993 after slow sales and wouldn’t return until the new millennium.

As a result, the 540i flew the 5-series performance flag for two generations and still is very popular today. Especially in Sport versions, the E34 and E39 540is offered power, refinement and outstanding chassis dynamics in a package that was attainable for more people. So which is the better buy today – the first or second generation?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 BMW 540i M-Sport on eBay

2001 BMW M5

About halfway through production of the E39 M5, BMW released a series of films from notable directors highlighting their model range. They all starred Clive Owen as the ubiquitous Driver character as the wheelman of a particular model. Some were dark, some were mysterious, but my favorite – and, I believe the favorite of most people – was Guy Ritchie’s Star. For me, it was neither the famous director nor his power-couple wife Madonna that was the star of that particular film, but the Driver‘s M5. Indeed, rewatching the film I found myself comparing the character’s introduction monologue, which ostensibly was about the female character played by Madonna, to the car. The characteristics shared of the dual nature of the iconic singer somehow work juxtaposed onto the M5. That was brought into sharper focus as the film progressed and Blur’s Song 2 – a song that somehow perfectly summed up the M5’s character. A deep base line, rhythmic speed and shouts of “Woo Hooo!” seem to somehow follow the M5 wherever it goes. Over the top? Absolutely, but it seemed that the whole plot line of Star is how most M5 drivers think their daily commute goes.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW M5 on Hartford Craigslist

Tuner Tuesday: 1995 BMW 840Ci 6-speed Supercharged

For many, the top dog of the E31 lineup for BMW was the 850CSi. Others will contest that aftermarket tuner Alpina got it just right with their modification of the 850CSi, the B12 5.7 Coupe. Let’s be honest though – great condition examples of those cars are hardly affordable for most, and the exotic performance comes with some potentially costly maintenance on the big V12. But I think our reader John may have spotted the perfect alternative to those cars, and it’s a bit unusual. When BMW launched the 840Ci, I remember initially thinking it was a bit of a letdown. After all, the company was seemingly running away from the signature V12 and replacing it with a smaller and less powerful V8. That, in many ways, doesn’t seem like progress. But the M60 produced 9/10s of the power of the M70, yet was less expensive and got better fuel economy. Of course, unfortunately it was also only available in the U.S. with the 5-speed automatic – and it was a lot less powerful than the CSi model. At least most of them are…

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 840Ci 6-speed Supercharged on eBay