I remember a particular evening more than 20 years ago when I was still a kid in high school. The sun was about to set, and there it was, a maroon-colored E39 BMW 5 Series facelift, with its four angel eyes lit up, captivating my attention as if holding my gaze while it drove past. Since then, I have always admired the E39 5 Series for its timeless design. But I only admired it from afar for a long time, as my fascination with the car was also dampened by horror stories of many owners dealing with unending problems and high maintenance bills. I loved the car, but never quite dared to seriously consider owning it.

Love At First Sight

My first time behind the wheel of an E39 M5 was, quite interestingly, during the International Media Launch of the G30 BMW 5 Series held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2016, where they also lined up the classic fleet for us to experience. That E39 528i with the plate “MAK 601” was the very first E39 I ever drove.

My First E39 Was A 520i

Photo by Kon Wai Luen

I eventually bought my own E39 in 2018. It was a 2003 520i with the 2.2-liter M54 engine. The car was locally assembled in Malaysia, and because it was a final-run production car before they introduced the E60, the car came pretty well-loaded with high OBC, rear shades, and electric seat adjustment.

Photo by Kon Wai Luen

Mechanically, this car has been largely stock. I have swapped out the standard 16-inch wheels for 17-inch Style 66 and eventually RS740. The only mechanical modification has been to upgrade the front brakes to 530i size and a full conversion to M Sport suspension. In my 5 years of owning the car, these upgrades have enhanced its driving dynamics without compromising the original character that I fell in love with.

A Car That Feels Right

Photo by Kon Wai Luen

After five years of owning the car and having the privilege of experiencing the latest and fastest cars through my work, the E39 is still the car that feels right every time I get behind the wheel. I do occasionally yearn for the added muscle of a 530i, but the E39 5 Series, for me, is my soulmate car. There’s something about the way the car moves, the way it reacts to our inputs, that I feel a sense of connection to the car every time I drive it.

More than the car itself, my journey owning the E39 would never be complete without the strong fellowship that I have been a part of, whether it’s the close-knit fellow E39 owners in Malaysia or the global E39 community at large. It never ceases to amaze me how almost every issue I have faced with this car has been faced by someone in some part of the world with the necessary solutions documented and available for easy access.

I have made it my mission to document the journey of E39 5 Series ownership with the intention of inspiring fellow enthusiasts to pursue the cars of their dreams. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of the E39 and the shared passion that unites us all. I will definitely move on to experience and experiment with having newer and faster cars, but whatever I buy or lease in the future, there will always be a BMW E39 on my car porch. [Photos and story @mrkon_drives]