Monday, September 8, 2014

1999 BMW 540i M-Sport

The Really Important Stuff
Engine 4.4 L V8
Transmission 6-Speed Manual
Power 282 hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque 290 ft-lbs @ 3500 rpm
Fuel Economy City/Highway 18/26
Curb Weight 3650 lbs
Base Price When New $62,000
Market Value (Excellent Condition, 100K miles) $8,000

This car was made for the driver that must have it all. It’s a true luxury sports car that makes no compromises in either luxury or performance. You get the quietness, comfort, and refinement of a 5-series along with a brutal 315hp V8 and the track-tuned suspension from an M5.

The cabin is absolutely silent below 30mph, and at higher speeds there is only minor audible intrusion from the wind and the pavement. Road noise can be annoyingly noticeable on rougher roads, though. The BMW premium stereo provides deep, warm bass and crystal clear mids and highs. It exhibits no distortion even at relatively high volumes. Thanks to the balanced suspension sourced from the M5 (BMW's top-of-the-line sports sedan), this machine corners flat at any speed, right up to the limit of grip. The excellent Dynamic Stability Control works so well it appears to bend the laws of physics. It’s a proprietary BMW system which combines traction control, stability control, and anti-lock braking to keep you planted on the road even when you should be tumbling end-over-end into a tree. And unbelievably, it doesn't interfere with driving the car the way you want to drive it. Steering feedback is diminished by the generous power assist, but it’s enough to give the driver confidence in the bends. This car is truly a two-faced beast. Cruising at 65 on the freeway it’s an enclave of tranquility, with the engine turning at under 2000 rpm in 6th gear. But when the need for an overtake suddenly arises, just slam the shifter into 4th, match the revs, drop the clutch and the car surges to [REDACTED] mph in an instant.

If you decide that you must have one (which I guarantee you will after your test drive), expect to pay around $8000 for an example in excellent condition from a private seller, or around $9,000 at a dealership. But be prepared for the high cost of ownership—when the time comes for a major repair, you’ll find that BMW parts are far from cheap. Even the oil is $9 per liter, and power steering fluid is $22 a liter. The rapid depreciation may have lowered the cost of entry to owning a high-class German automobile, but the maintenance is just as expensive as the day the car rolled off the lot. The price of parts is still proportional to the original MSRP of around $60,000. You will spend about $1,200 to $3,600 a year on routine and preventative maintenance, depending on the condition and age of the vehicle. Fight the temptation to purchase a much cheaper example with known issues or a poor service history. If you do, I recommend setting aside another $6,000 for returning the car to showroom condition. One final tidbit of advice: if you make the decision to put an E39 in your driveway, you should do your best to combat the stereotype of BMW drivers as stuck-up jerks. This is exactly the kind of car you'll want to brag about to your friends, but by all means DON'T. You'll come off as snobby and they'll leave you for someone who drives a Honda. Bottom line: If you can afford the maintenance and are willing to give up talking to people about your car, this machine could be the best purchase you'll ever make.

  • You get the comfort, practicality, and features of a luxury sedan, with the power, handling, and driving experience of a sports car.

  • It makes any other car you drive feel inferior.
  • The potentially good gas mileage is hard to attain when you can't resist the urge to put that 315 hp to good use.

The Bottom Line:  I guarantee you will never regret buying this car.