Although the letter “M” attached to a BMW has generally represented the pinnacle of performance for the brand, the reality is the term “M-Sport” has not always denoted the same characteristics. Take the E82 135i, for example. The M-Sport package for that car consisted of slightly different 18″ wheels than the standard 18″ wheels and a black headliner. That’s it.
But zoom back in time to the beginnings of the title “M-Sport” and it meant a bit more. If you wanted a fast, executive super saloon in 1995, your options were dwindling. 1995 was the last year of the Audi S6, and one year after both the V8 Quattro and 500E were taken away. 1995 would also be the last year of the iconic M5, and hints were that it might be a long time before we’d see another. Why? Well, the reality was that with the 6 speed 540i the performance gap between the “super” M5 and the “normal” V8 engined 540 was so close it just didn’t make a lot of sense to have the premium model anymore. The S38 was by now a quite old motor and was getting harder to pass increasingly strict emissions standards; indeed, shrinking sales and high price had resulted in the M5 being pulled from the U.S. in 1993.
As a result, BMW offered a hint at what it could do with the V8 in the form of the M540i in Canada and the 540i M-Sport in the U.S. market. The Canadian model was quite close in spec to the European M5, except that in place of the venerable S38 it ran the M60 V8 out of the normal 540i. If that sounds like a letdown, it wasn’t – mated to the Getrag 6-speed transmission it was a great driver, and with the M5 adjustable suspension, brakes and cosmetic details it was 95% plus of the M5 for most drivers. The 540i M-Sport that the U.S. received differed a bit in not having the trick floating rotors of the M540i, but with nearly everything else out of the M bag of tricks these are cool cars, great drivers, and even more rare than the M5:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 540i M-Sport on eBay
Model: 540i M-Sport
Engine: 4.0 liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 75,000 mi
Price: $21,500 Buy It Now
1995 BMW 540i M Sport 1 of 135, quite rare in this condition, 75k miles. Recently purchased but the car rides too firm for my tastes. The EDC struts appear to be working perfectly in both modes (komfort and sport) and I don’t see any leaks. This car does not have an LSD, and very few do. Instead it has ASC+T – one of the few additional options available at that time. This is the dedicated M Sport version of the E34 540i, for which it only appeared in 1995.
Clean Carfax, service and ownership records, etc. One of the nicest examples of this car you’re going to find ever, assuming you can even find one. This car was originally purchased from a BMW enthusiast dealer for over $20k a few years ago; $10k in work was done before it was resold. I have changed the motor oil, repaired a brake fluid leak and flushed the old brake fluid. I’ve conditioned the seats and will work on a full exterior detail once the weather permits (clay bar, polish and wax). I’ll do more work to it as time allows before it sells.
This car can best be summed-up as an M5 without the emissions-restricted 3.6 liter inline-six motor that we got in the US. That means it has all the M5 appearance parts with the EDC suspension and an M60 4-liter V8 that is easier to maintain and just as quick as the M5 from that time, but its also more enjoyable due to its torque characteristics and sound (although an S38 does sound good too). I say that as a biased-enthusiast, of course, but I’ve driven several E34 M5’s and just didn’t get that excitement or experience. It also doesn’t have the associated M5 maintenance/repair costs since most of the parts are standard 540i/M60.
Many new parts replaced within the past 15k miles like the flywheel, clutch, new lip on the lower front valance and other items. One newer EDC strut installed by previous owner. A critical maintenance item for these motors has been done; the oil pump bolts were re-tightened and added locktite to prevent the bolts from loosening. New tie rod ends are being installed this weekend due to the existing ones being worn (visible play in the bushings was noted). New hood struts installed a few weeks ago. Factory lights are not available as the original owner installed the aftermarket ones some years ago. They are high-quality and complement the car nicely.
Current known issues: driver’s seat has the well-known BMW seat-twist.
Additional pictures are available and others can be taken upon request.
Of the roughly 200 540i M-Sports brought over to the U.S., only 135 were equipped with the 6-speed manual. These are truly rare bits of kit. While I’d argue that they’re really not quite as special as a full M5, as I mentioned you get 95% of the M5 experience in this package. Condition appears to be good and this car is mostly original outside of blacked-out kidneys and aftermarket taillights. The important bits are still there, like the M-System II wheels and covers and the original EDC suspension.
It all sounds good, but here’s the rub – the price. $21,500 is a lot for an E34 that isn’t a M5. But it’s also in line with the market asks on these fast sedans, and even the E39 is getting in on the party – a ’03 540i M-Sport recently sold on Bring a Trailer for $21,000 with similar mileage while a stunning 2,000 mile example hit an astounding $54,000. For me, the draw of the M5s – which can still be had for the same money – is greater than the rarity of the M-Sport, but it’s clear that this is a package which will continue to have fans in the future.