Is the BMW (E39) Series 5 the best there is? – Buying guides
Any kid of the ’80s and’ 90s will remember immortalizing their car poster with cutouts from magazines and newspapers slapped on their bedroom walls before they thought they would one day own them and drive them.
Some, like the Lamborghini Miura and Ferrari F40, were loved for their looks and impressive power, some may have stuck with a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing for its heritage and rarity, others may have glorified cars for their racing heritage … the Subaru Impreza 22B or BMW E30 M3 comes to mind. These were cars that defined the era – celebrated for their uniqueness, their thoroughbred lineage and of course because they were so cool!
However, while we had all of our cars displayed, we also had our dream cars – the cars we would actually see on the roads. Those were the tangible aspirations that we might actually have one day, maybe lucky enough to sit in… Mercedes-Benz, Bimmers, even Alfa Romeos. These cars may not have been rare or extremely powerful, but were revered for being the best in their class. A generation of machines, praised the world over for their intrinsic ability and loved eternally because they were immortalized as the respective highlights of their model all those years ago.
The BMW 5 Series is undoubtedly one of those cars that would have left a lasting impression on many young hearts.
A heritage of style and substance
Thanks to its multiple reincarnations, the BMW 5 Series has constantly reinvented itself as a segment leader by offering driving performance and elegance unmatched among its peers. Today, the 5 Series is considered by many to be a very ambitious vehicle. New or used, a BMW 5 Series is one of those cars that appeals to both heart and mind.
With a lineage dating back to 1972, the BMW 5 Series has earned a reputation as the go-to sedan for its sublime balance of style, performance, practicality and, of course, thrilling driving performance. With a plethora of engine and variant choices, sedan and wagon body styles (starting with the E34 generation), there was a 5 Series to meet the needs of almost everyone – from man. from business to passionate performance driver.
There have been seven generations of the BMW 5 Series since its inception:
- 1st generation – E12 (1972-1981)
- 2nd generation – E28 (1981-1988)
- 3rd generation – E34 (1988-1996)
- 4th generation – E39 (1996-2003)
- 5th generation – E60 (2003-2009)
- 6th generation – F10 (2009-2016)
- 7th generation – G30 (2017 – Current)
Of course, each generation of the 5 Series has brought new innovations, improvements in refinement and better performance – however, one generation stands out as an enthusiast’s favorite, celebrated for the purity of its driving dynamics and its elegance. timeless – the fourth generation ‘E39 Series’ 5.
First shown at the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, the E39 made its way to Malaysia the following year. Both in terms of design and engineering, the E39 was a huge step up from the previous E34 model. Power came from a pair of six-cylinder engines from the M52 Single VANOS engine family, displacing 2.5 liters in the 523i and 2.8 liters in the 528i.
Very sophisticated vehicle, even by today’s standards, the E39 was equipped with advanced features such as Electronic Stability Control and was one of the first cars on the market to offer adaptive transmission control and gear shifting. “ manual ” Steptronic for its automatic transmissions.
Major advancements were made in building the bodywork of the E39, which featured almost complete use of light alloy in its construction, allowing for a 40-50% increase in stiffness, better durability, with penalties of minimal weight. The E39 also marked a shift in the steering system from the old-fashioned ball-and-nut system to a more contemporary, hydraulically-assisted rack-and-pinion configuration (V8-powered variants retained the recirculating ball configuration).
The E39 received its quarantine facelift in 2000. Along with an enhanced appearance, the updates also introduced new Double VANOS engines from the M54 family to replace the existing M52 series. The new engines offered similar power levels from a slightly reduced displacement which in Malaysia translates into a lower annual road tax. The revised lineup included the 2.2-liter 520i and 2.5-liter 525i. Above them, a new top-of-the-range 3.0-liter 530i was added to the list. There are also very small numbers of 523i and 528i equipped with Double VANOS engines.
But it wasn’t just better powertrains and chassis upgrades, the E39 was a tour de force of new technology that remains impressive to this day – among the highlights were coded key memory functions that stored your personal driving preferences, steering wheel-mounted cruise control, on-board telephone control and climate pre-ventilation system.
In addition to all the technological advancements, the E39 ushered in a whole new design language, which for the first time featured fully enclosed headlights for better aerodynamics and sleek but beautiful proportions to cut the air with superb efficiency. That, coupled with a sporty attitude, gives the E39 a road presence that’s even cooler to this day.
Why is he loved to this day …
Ask any E39 owner worth their salt and the first thing they’ll tell you is how it works. The E39 is appreciated for its beautiful duality of being both a comfortable vehicle for the family and yet a sure-footed machine when introduced into a complex of turns. Much of this is due to the inherent rigidity of the chassis, excellent suspension geometry and precise rack-and-pinion steering setup.
In many ways, the E39 strikes a nice balance of modernity in terms of refinement, handling effort and power while offering traditional organic connectivity in terms of steering feedback, chassis balance and braking. Something you don’t get as much if you upgrade to its predecessor, the E34, or its tech-laden successor, the E60. Although the BMW (E60) M5 is a whole different story.
All of this contributes to a very inspiring driving experience that seems to model itself around your driving style.
Its well-designed interior provides a cozy and comfortable interior that, for the most part, is better designed and built than even its successor. Many would argue that it’s also one of the best and most durable interiors BMW has ever put together.
Then there’s the style, even after 25 years – the E39 remains as elegant and timeless as a Rolex timepiece. Also considering its many shapes – from the standard luxury design package, sportier M Sport variants to the rare BMW Alpina and AC Schnitzer versions – the E39 showcases everything from understated and chic to sporty and aggressive to your liking.
It must also be said that among its generation of competitors – namely the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W210) and Audi A6 (C5), the E39 was by far the best performing, most aesthetic and most powerful car. Something that the 5 Series model lineup doesn’t really like today since Mercedes and Audi have mostly caught up.
Can you still buy a BMW E39 5 Series today?
Overall yes – and at very low prices as well. A quick search on the Carlist.my classifieds page reveals a number of good examples for sale, there are quite a few for sale as well as the various local FB pages.
As we would advise with any used car. Do your research, talk to people, and learn as much as you can before you start your research, especially if this is your first BMW. Even better, look for the classifieds with a check mark that qualifies as Carlist. This way, you are guaranteed to buy a car that is PPI (Pre-Purchase Inspection) certified and with a warranty. As well built as the E39s, they are not without problems if they are not well maintained by a competent mechanic. Here’s a more comprehensive buying guide on what to look for.
Take your time and always carry out a thorough diagnosis of its engine, electronic systems, chassis and especially its body structure. It is wise to do this at a BMW specialist and not at your ordinary ordinary mechanic. Finally, test drive the car and see if it delivers that E39 driving experience.