If you’re a BMW enthusiast, you know of the E39 BMW M5. It’s widely considered to be the best M5 of all time and some go as far as to say it’s the best four-door sports car of all time. While we don’t know if we can go that far, it’s certainly up there with the best of them. However, if you want one now, it can get a bit tricky. High demand and lack of supply have driven prices up to almost silly heights. So if you want a proper E39 performance sedan with a V8 but one that’s far more affordable and cheaper to maintain, the E39 BMW 540i can be the car for you.
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The E39 BMW 540i is almost a baby-M5 in a lot of ways. It still packs a V8 under the hood, only it uses a 4.4 liter V8, rather than the 4.9 liter V8 of the E39 M5. The 540i’s 4.4 liter unit makes 282 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. While that’s a far cry from the 400 hp of the E39 M5, it’s still enough to be fun. Plus, that naturally-aspirated V8 still sounds great.
And that power difference won’t matter too much if you get one with a six-speed manual gearbox. Once you start rowing through the gears with an N/A BMW V8 under hood and drive going to the back, you’ll soon forget its power deficit.
It’s also still an E39 5 Series, which is the best handling 5er of all time. So its steering is brilliant, as are its chassis dynamics. There’s a balance of dynamics and comfort in the E39 that’s been absent in any 5er since. The BMW 540i still has that, despite not being as sharp as the M5. Though, the tradeoff of that is that the 540i is a bit more comfortable.
But the real kicker, something that could even make the 540i more desirable than the M5, is that it was offered in a wagon body style. So you can have a V8-powered, six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive BMW 540i wagon. Just that sentence alone gave me the fizz.