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Old 08-07-2012, 10:15 PM   #1
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2000 BMW 540i - Maintenance & Reliability Questions

Hi Guys

Noob Here

So I am about to buy this car, an E39...

I am getting a PPI done this friday at Nixon, as it was recommended on here and on various google searches and some indie dealers

I read that there is specific maintenance needed on this car... Can anyone please let me know what to do on a regular basis?

I am also wondering about reliability with the vehicle.

I drove it, and BMW is fantastic driving, but I always hear hater and trash talk from Lexus guys.

I did check a Lexus but I did not like the handling and performance, but the salesman kept bad mouthing BMW, stating the tranny would go on the car or something and kept going on and on about Lexus reliability. I test drove a 1999 GS400. The guy really messed up the interior of the Lexus with cheesy and cheap looking woodgrain that was glued on. The engine is strong, but the car cant really handle and perform as well as a BMW

The BMW feels pretty solid to me and a mechanic will check it, but what are yalls opinions and experiences?

What are the maintenance and costs?

Where are the best places to get parts?

I dont mind paying a little more for maintenance than usual, like if its only a 30% or so difference, because I really enjoy driving the 540i, however, my experience is noob with the car. Any tips will be thanked greatly...

BTW the car is pretty bad ass
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:24 PM   #2
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This pretty much sums up most of the problems.
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:27 PM   #3
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Thanks Man... I mma check the video
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:30 PM   #4
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LMAO WOW

Why all the bad mouthing from some Lexus people? It does not even sound all that bad... I could prolly fix those issues myself
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:40 PM   #5
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Some other issues for E39s

- Cooling refresh is a good idea every 100K (water pump, thermostat, expansion tank, belts)
- Final stage resistor which controls the climate control fan speed will probably go (~$100 part)
- Various engine sensors ($120-150 each)

Common issues for all BMWs from the late-90s/early 2000s
- Suspension bushings will likely need to be replaced
- Watch for broken control arms
- Driveshaft flex disc

A BMW will always require more attention than a Lexus - components will need to be replaced regularly and fluids need to be changed (brake, transmission, and differential.) Basically, if you want to own a BMW (unless it's something like an E30), you gotta pay to play. Is the driving experience of a BMW compared to a Lexus worth the extra bucks and attention? That is a decision that only you can make. Luckily, the BMW DIY community is very strong and if you want to save a few bucks, you can basically maintain the car yourself if you're so inclined.

Some common parts suppliers for the local Bimmer community include:
- Pelican Parts in California (best place to get Genuine BMW parts, which you sometimes need)
- BMA Parts in California (selection may not be as good for later models, but their prices are ridiculously cheap for OEM parts)
- There are a couple of other suppliers such as BAVAuto and ECSTuning which have a large selection, but they're generally more expensive than BMV and Pelican
- Tischer BMW is a dealer in the States that sells parts and accessories. If you want Genuine BMW accessories, they're your best bet as they are considerably cheaper than local dealers.
- BMV Parts in Richmond (local supplier; I haven't used them before, but some local guys swear by them)
- UAP/NAPA carries European OEMs if you're in a pinch
- Parts from the dealer are sometimes 100-200% more than what you would pay on an OEM part sold by a retailer in the States

Nixon gets a lot of business (I've used them myself on occasion) and so does CG Motorsports. There are a couple of other shops such as Heineken Auto and German Auto Sports that others have used with little complaint. Well, there's an entire story behind the guy who runs German Auto Sports, so while they may be a bit cheaper ($90/hour vs $100/hour of the other shops), just be wary.

BTW, I hope the 540 you're getting inspected is a 6-speed manual. There's no sense in taking the gas mileage and maintenance penalties if it's not a stick.

Last edited by Tapioca; 08-07-2012 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 08-07-2012, 10:57 PM   #6
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Lexus and BMW cater to different crowds. It makes me laugh that some clueless salesman was bad mouthing BMW. Lexus's are great cruisers, reliable, completely solid, but completely devoid of character or BALLS. I'm referring the the LS and GS lines that would compete with the E39 of course.

I considered getting an E39 for a long time, after owning an E34. My dad bought an E32 as well. What kept me away was the fuel consumption of the V8, I needed something more economical. And of course the cooling system issues. If you don't keep up with maintenance on the cooling system, you will run into trouble. It seems a lot of older BMWs have weak cooling systems, I cant speak for the newer cars.

It's a clean looking car. Nice interior. Very well made and very solid. Bills will be a bit higher than on the Lexus for sure, but it's the price you pay for something a lot more fun to drive. If I were in your position, I'd go for the 540i, no question. Best car in its segment in that time, by far. The M-B E-class was mostly garbage. The Audi A6 was questionable with certain engines, and it wasn't up to BMWs level in terms of engineering and quality. Good looking cars though.

Here's a few E39s for inspiration.

I personally think it looks best in greys and dark blues. Silver usually makes it look too Civic-like.













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Old 08-07-2012, 11:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapioca View Post
Some other issues for E39s

- Cooling refresh is a good idea every 100K (water pump, thermostat, expansion tank, belts)
- Final stage resistor which controls the climate control fan speed will probably go (~$100 part)
- Various engine sensors ($120-150 each)

Common issues for all BMWs from the late-90s/early 2000s
- Suspension bushings will likely need to be replaced
- Watch for broken control arms
- Driveshaft flex disc

A BMW will always require more attention than a Lexus - components will need to be replaced regularly and fluids need to be changed (brake, transmission, and differential.) Basically, if you want to own a BMW (unless it's something like an E30), you gotta pay to play. Is the driving experience of a BMW compared to a Lexus worth the extra bucks and attention? That is a decision that only you can make. Luckily, the BMW DIY community is very strong and if you want to save a few bucks, you can basically maintain the car yourself if you're so inclined.

Some common parts suppliers for the local Bimmer community include:
- Pelican Parts in California (best place to get Genuine BMW parts, which you sometimes need)
- BMA Parts in California (selection may not be as good for later models, but their prices are ridiculously cheap for OEM parts)
- There are a couple of other suppliers such as BAVAuto and ECSTuning which have a large selection, but they're generally more expensive than BMV and Pelican
- Tischer BMW is a dealer in the States that sells parts and accessories. If you want Genuine BMW accessories, they're your best bet as they are considerably cheaper than local dealers.
- BMV Parts in Richmond (local supplier; I haven't used them before, but some local guys swear by them)
- UAP/NAPA carries European OEMs if you're in a pinch
- Parts from the dealer are sometimes 100-200% more than what you would pay on an OEM part sold by a retailer in the States

Nixon gets a lot of business (I've used them myself on occasion) and so does CG Motorsports. There are a couple of other shops such as Heineken Auto and German Auto Sports that others have used with little complaint. Well, there's an entire story behind the guy who runs German Auto Sports, so while they may be a bit cheaper ($90/hour vs $100/hour of the other shops), just be wary.

BTW, I hope the 540 you're getting inspected is a 6-speed manual. There's no sense in taking the gas mileage and maintenance penalties if it's not a stick.
Thanks!

It sounds like it just costs a bit more than the usual run of the mill

I dont mind spending a bit more money than a Lexus... how much do you think? I dont really like Lexus all that much... the only thing I do like is that the engine is strong and solid... but everything else sucks IMO...
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by kwy View Post
Lexus and BMW cater to different crowds. It makes me laugh that some clueless salesman was bad mouthing BMW. Lexus's are great cruisers, reliable, completely solid, but completely devoid of character or BALLS. I'm referring the the LS and GS lines that would compete with the E39 of course.

I considered getting an E39 for a long time, after owning an E34. My dad bought an E32 as well. What kept me away was the fuel consumption of the V8, I needed something more economical. And of course the cooling system issues. If you don't keep up with maintenance on the cooling system, you will run into trouble. It seems a lot of older BMWs have weak cooling systems, I cant speak for the newer cars.

It's a clean looking car. Nice interior. Very well made and very solid. Bills will be a bit higher than on the Lexus for sure, but it's the price you pay for something a lot more fun to drive. If I were in your position, I'd go for the 540i, no question. Best car in its segment in that time, by far. The M-B E-class was mostly garbage. The Audi A6 was questionable with certain engines, and it wasn't up to BMWs level in terms of engineering and quality. Good looking cars though.

Here's a few E39s for inspiration.

I personally think it looks best in greys and dark blues. Silver usually makes it look too Civic-like.













Those are pretty cars... its definitely my top choice at present in my budget range... its a nice car... I have been shopping around and so far its a top choice

Lexus is solid too, engine wise, but its got terrible performance and handling... The guy let me rip it, and I did not feel confident going corners fast on it... the BMW, very confident...

I also like the BMW styling better...

For the most part, I have heard great things about the 540i e39... only a few bad opinions regarding reliability...
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:24 PM   #9
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My best friend had an e39 540i wagon, who then sold it to another friend so all in all I heard the rants and raves about it for about 5 years. I saw it from about 110kms up to about 200, and in all that time it was never really down. Quirks with some electronics, we the only real issues, but IMO considering the car was bought for a pretty reasonable price, when you consider all the bills added up I don't know many other cars that could compete with the looks, practicality and fun for the total spent on it. It isn't cheap, but neither is any 10 - 15 year old fast, european car. Don't spend all of your money on the purchase, and have some cash set aside for mods and maintenance and it will be good times.Remember its not about kilometres, its about service records and maintenance.
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:44 PM   #10
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Thanks!

It sounds like it just costs a bit more than the usual run of the mill

I dont mind spending a bit more money than a Lexus... how much do you think? I dont really like Lexus all that much... the only thing I do like is that the engine is strong and solid... but everything else sucks IMO...
It's really hard to say without knowing the service history on the car. Once you get a PPI from Nixon, you'll be able to get a pretty good idea of what's needed.

If you can turn a wrench and are comfortable with spending time underneath your car, owning a later model BMW, such as an E39, can actually be quite reasonable if you use some of the American parts suppliers I mentioned. Other than some sensors that require Genuine BMW parts, parts won't milk you dry - the labour will if you don't want to at least try some of the maintenance yourself. The thing that will definitely require attention, the cooling system, is actually a pretty simple project that will cost you no more than $300 in parts and maybe an afternoon of your time. Bushings come in sets and probably don't cost more than $200-300. Brake pads and rotors should easily run under $500. Fluids other than oil should be changed every 3-4 years. Are you comfortable taking apart a few interior panels to change a few electronic parts?
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Old 08-07-2012, 11:46 PM   #11
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Being a BMW owner and enthusiast, When I have people approach me and ask "I want to buy a BMW, what do you think?"

my reply is "Do you like maintaining your vehicle?", "frequent trips to the shops?", "are you picky, and baby your cars?"

they all reply with "no..."

my reply "Well then, don't buy a BMW!"

sure different models carry different problems, but as noted the main issue with BMW's is their cooling system maintenance, as well as suspension bushings and what not.

that being said, I think an E39 540i is a great car

typical problems (some as noted)
-electrical (FSU, dying display pixels, sometimes the alternator, etc)
-suspension (balljoints, control arm bushings, subframe bushings)
-steering (The 540i uses a steering box - loose steering, power steering leaks)
-Gear box (the automatics use a lifetime fluid which lasts the lifetime of the transmission, which can sometimes be not that long...)
-engine (cooling system - radiator, waterpump, valley pan, hoses. Intake manifold gasket leaking, vanos seal failing causing noise)
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:00 AM   #12
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It's really hard to say without knowing the service history on the car. Once you get a PPI from Nixon, you'll be able to get a pretty good idea of what's needed.

If you can turn a wrench and are comfortable with spending time underneath your car, owning a later model BMW, such as an E39, can actually be quite reasonable if you use some of the American parts suppliers I mentioned. Other than some sensors that require Genuine BMW parts, parts won't milk you dry - the labour will if you don't want to at least try some of the maintenance yourself. The thing that will definitely require attention, the cooling system, is actually a pretty simple project that will cost you no more than $300 in parts and maybe an afternoon of your time. Bushings come in sets and probably don't cost more than $200-300. Brake pads and rotors should easily run under $500. Fluids other than oil should be changed every 3-4 years. Are you comfortable taking apart a few interior panels to change a few electronic parts?
I'm fairly comfortable doing things myself... some things I may need to go to the shop... but if there is a good local mechanic that charges fair, I dont mind going to the shop.... electronic interior stuff, I am fairly comfortable with, if there is a good blueprint for everything... I am fairly comfortable changing cooling system components

how much you figure a brake job would cost at Nixon or a similar indie shop? I live in an apartment building, so dont have my own garage, but some of the stuff with a jack stand I should be able to handle, and fluid changes, and perhaps the brake stuff
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:01 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by skylinergtr View Post
Being a BMW owner and enthusiast, When I have people approach me and ask "I want to buy a BMW, what do you think?"

my reply is "Do you like maintaining your vehicle?", "frequent trips to the shops?", "are you picky, and baby your cars?"

they all reply with "no..."

my reply "Well then, don't buy a BMW!"

sure different models carry different problems, but as noted the main issue with BMW's is their cooling system maintenance, as well as suspension bushings and what not.

that being said, I think an E39 540i is a great car

typical problems (some as noted)
-electrical (FSU, dying display pixels, sometimes the alternator, etc)
-suspension (balljoints, control arm bushings, subframe bushings)
-steering (The 540i uses a steering box - loose steering, power steering leaks)
-Gear box (the automatics use a lifetime fluid which lasts the lifetime of the transmission, which can sometimes be not that long...)
-engine (cooling system - radiator, waterpump, valley pan, hoses. Intake manifold gasket leaking, vanos seal failing causing noise)
How frequent?

I will def baby the car and maintenance I dont mind doing...
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:03 AM   #14
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My best friend had an e39 540i wagon, who then sold it to another friend so all in all I heard the rants and raves about it for about 5 years. I saw it from about 110kms up to about 200, and in all that time it was never really down. Quirks with some electronics, we the only real issues, but IMO considering the car was bought for a pretty reasonable price, when you consider all the bills added up I don't know many other cars that could compete with the looks, practicality and fun for the total spent on it. It isn't cheap, but neither is any 10 - 15 year old fast, european car. Don't spend all of your money on the purchase, and have some cash set aside for mods and maintenance and it will be good times.Remember its not about kilometres, its about service records and maintenance.
Mods, eh?

The car is already cool stock... but yeah, I am def interested in doing some mods

I heard you can get BEHR radiator with lifetime warranty, so I may change that right away...
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:03 AM   #15
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Brakes are easy, you should be able to do them yourself without much of an issue.
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:05 AM   #16
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family has 745i 06 and is filled with regrets with so much maintenance etc.... we do not remember how many times it wetnt into the shop! breaks down to ezy ...
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Old 08-08-2012, 07:40 AM   #17
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Don't settle for the Lexus if you've got your eyes on an E39, you will regret it.
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Old 08-08-2012, 08:20 AM   #18
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I'm fairly comfortable doing things myself... some things I may need to go to the shop... but if there is a good local mechanic that charges fair, I dont mind going to the shop.... electronic interior stuff, I am fairly comfortable with, if there is a good blueprint for everything... I am fairly comfortable changing cooling system components

how much you figure a brake job would cost at Nixon or a similar indie shop? I live in an apartment building, so dont have my own garage, but some of the stuff with a jack stand I should be able to handle, and fluid changes, and perhaps the brake stuff
I don't think you'll necessarily need schematics (unless you want to do your own soldering), but having a Bentley manual around (or at least a copy of it on your tablet, garage PC, etc.) is handy so you'll know which interior panels to take out if you ever need to replace a set of final stage resistor or climate control unit, for example.

As someone mentioned, Nixon goes by book time so I imagine that a full brake job is at least 1.5-2 hours per axle? As far as I know, Nixon still charges $98/hour, so that's at least 300-400 for labour plus parts. Unfortunately, there aren't too many shops that allow you to bring your own parts in, so you have to bite the bullet and pay what the shops charge for parts. Fortunately, Nixon is a BMW enthusiast shop so they likely use OEMs for most of their parts (at least they have when I've gotten work there in the past.) While other smaller shops which may charge slightly less for labour, they may get their parts from a source like Lordco.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JustJunMC View Post
Mods, eh?

The car is already cool stock... but yeah, I am def interested in doing some mods
I don't know what kind of budget you have, but if it's limited, you should really save your money for maintenance. The E39 is already a beautiful and elegant car - it really needs nothing else except a cut polish every year.

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family has 745i 06 and is filled with regrets with so much maintenance etc.... we do not remember how many times it wetnt into the shop! breaks down to ezy ...
BMW build quality went down the crapper after the E46.
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Old 08-08-2012, 09:25 AM   #19
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i have a 540 and a 740. the maintenance schedule is intense. if the history of the car is unknown, expect to replace a lot of parts. the definition of maintenance for a japanese car is different than maintenance for a german car. some things you don't expect need to be replaced regulary on a japanese car are maintenance items on a german car. just get ready for that.

as for e39 540s, some maintenance items include:

engine
- cooling system overhaul with valley pan gasket
- resealing intake for vacuum leaks
- resealing valve covers, vanos solenoid gasket, osv, osv tube, oil pan gasket, etc for oil leaks
- tighten oil pump bolts
- replace plastic timing chain guides
- replace engine sensors, crank position, cam position, knock sensors degrade due to heat and position
- chain tensioner replace
- o2 sensors, cats
- maf do occasionally go bad
- some of the emissions control evap stuff does fail occasionally
- engine mounts shear in half
- electric fan and resistor pack

steering
- steering box should be adjusted or replace if play is excessive
- servotronic solenoid can fail due to heat and age
- servotronic module can also fail
- any of the 10+ ball joints in the steering linkage

suspension
- control arm bushings up front
- subframe and misc mounts
- sway endlinks

electrical
- abs/dsc controller in engine bay fails due to heat
- general module failure causing all sorts of issues
- trans module if auto
- many modules require coding as its vin or model specific. new modules need to be reprogrammed to the car. junkyard modules don't always recognize even if it has same part number
- dead pixels on dash, climate control, obc
- hvac electrics
- power windows inop, falling of rails

driveline
- guibo
- trans if auto
- trans mounts
- trans seal
- shifter bushings if mt

braking
- these cars eat brakes
- pad wear sensors
- speed sensors

all i remember so far

you can get oem parts from
getbmwparts

aftermarket i use
autohausaz
bma parts
rock auto
fcp euro but only for lemforder parts

fyi, dont cheap out on shitty replacement parts. stay away from URO, karlyn, hamburg technic, fcp brand, deutsche parts, to name a few.
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Old 08-08-2012, 10:47 AM   #20
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If reliability is an issue, I'd look for a E39 530i with the Sport / M-Sport package instead.
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:39 PM   #21
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There is a guy on craigslist selling a 530i... Imma give him a ring... thanks for the info

the 540i is nice... just scared as there are no maintenance records...
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Old 08-09-2012, 09:49 PM   #22
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The E39 is already a beautiful and elegant car - it really needs nothing else except a cut polish every year.
Depends on the option package. If its got some style 5s or m parallels I'd almost agree with that, but some of the other wheel options were pretty sad. I'm not incredibly familiar with e39s though so forgive me if the other wheels were only on the lesser models. Its nice to put small details into making the car your own style though.
Agreed on the limited budget part though. If you cant afford mods and maintenance, pick the right one.

Last edited by westopher; 08-09-2012 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 08-09-2012, 10:01 PM   #23
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awesome... so many beamer peeps... thanks for all the info and chat
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Old 08-10-2012, 12:10 AM   #24
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If reliability is an issue, I'd look for a E39 530i with the Sport / M-Sport package instead.
great advice here...

I've had a 530i (sans M) for about 6 years now, it has 160k now, and all ive done is brakes, belts, oil/filter changes, blower resistor, and a gasket replacement.... Really just maintenance items... The car has been incredibly reliable, an amazing drive, and such a well balanced car.... I'm planning on selling it soon, because my family is growing, but otherwise I would keep this car until 300k no problem, its fantastic.

I would recommend the e39 to anyone, its awesome. The 540 is nice, but honestly the 530i will cost you less, is more fuel efficient, a bit slower but fast enough, and better balanced (weight-wise).
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Old 08-10-2012, 09:11 PM   #25
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BMW's are def great cars... dont know why I hear some people bad mouth but perhaps its jealousy

those crazy german engineers!
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