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Many BMW enthusiasts lust after the E39 (1999-2003) M5.  Simply put the M5 is a fantastic car. For a fraction of the price and a fraction of the reliability problems you can have a vehicle that has 90% of the performance.  

The E39 540i M-Sport is that vehicle.  For the E39 Chassis, the 540i from 2003 is considered to be the best of breed.  Earlier versions had 5-Speed manuals and various odds and ends, but the 2003 variant has all the bells, whistles and that sick M-Technic aero kit that looks very similar to the big brother M5.

What engine does the BMW E39 540i have?

The E39 540i has one of two engines. From 1995 till 1998 the car had the M62B44, a 4.4 litre, 8-cylinder, V configuration engine derived from the prior generation 5-series and 7-series cars. In 1999 BMW introduced the M62TUB44 which basically means they introduced Variable Valve Timing, updated engine software and an electronic throttle body.

What does E39 mean?

In 1968 BMW introduced the concept of a “Platform Code” (today we call them “Chassis Codes”) to indicate the variant or body style of a vehicle. The “New Six” (E3) line of cars first featured a Chassis Code. For example the “E3” Chassis Code denotes that the car is a mid-sized 4-door sedan.

What series is a BMW 528i, 530i, 540i and M5?

Cars that begin with “5” show that they are part of the “5-series” range of cars offered by BMW. The 5-series means mid-sized, 4-door sedan. The numbers after the “5” are used to illustrate the engine size or in more recent years the power-class of the car. For example the E39 540i has a ~4-liter, 8 cylinder, V8 configuration engine while the 530i has a ~3-liter, 6 cylinder inline configuration engine.

What is the difference between a BMW 528i and the 530i? 

In the 90’s and even today BMW uses a 7-year production cycle. This means that an E39 Chassis is built for 7-years. In the 90’s BMW found it necessary to “freshen up” the offering. These changes typically introduce different engines, technology and styling packages to keep competitive in the market. This is called the “Life Cycle Impulse” or LCI (in norman terms a “Mid Cycle Refresh”.

The 528i is the model BMW originally introduced while the 530i is the LCI. The 528i is seen to be less reliable simply because with the 530i BMW had 3+ years to work out the issues in the 528i. BMW chose the 528i with the M52TU engine and later upgraded the engine with the more robust M54 unit. To learn more about the LCI checkout the Wikipedia article. 

If you are considering a 6-cylinder variant car, we are having great success owning and operating the M54 engine and highly recommend a 530i that uses the same engine.  For those looking for more power the 540i is the V8 powerhouse you seek!

What makes the 2003 BMW E39 540i M-Sport Special?

Many automotive journalists are simply enamored by the M5 powerhouse. The 540i M Sport shares similar performance characteristics and much of the suspension, just not the high-strung and expensive engine.

The Engine

The M62TUB44 engine has 290 horsepower while the S62 has 394 horsepower achieved by many expensive performance upgrades. Over time the S62 is shown to be somewhat reliable though very expensive to repair. The M62TUB44, can be found in mass volumes because it can be found in the 5-Series, 7-Series, X5 and even the Range Rover of the era. This means that if you blow an engine they can be readily replaced. The S62, only offered in the 5-Series & Z8 and are incredibly expensive to replace.
For the BMW M5 and the 540i, BMW decided to share the same Getrag Transmission. While the M5 has a stronger  Clutch and Flywheel to handle the additional power. A 540i owner will get the same notc-likey pleasure out of their daily drive.

Suspension

At the time the 540i stock, definitely a more luxurious animal. With modern suspension technology any 540i owner can update their suspension to outperform the M5.

The 2003 Limited Edition

In 2003 as an exit gift to BMW 540i fans, the M-Sport Limited Edition has the Style 37 wheels, more sporty suspension and some styling tweaks along with some styling tweaks. The styling has the M-Technic Aero Kit that make this version the model to have.

Conclusion

The 2003 E39 540i M-Sport is 1-year special has all the benefits of a high-performing sports sedan with very little draw backs (in comparison to the M5). For a real world enthusiast the 540i M-Sport is a reliable, blast to drive with reasonably priced parts to fit many budgets.

 

Using BRZO you can quickly find a number of good looking examples of the 540i M-Sport and it is likely that many of these were well pampered.  

Here is a video on how I search for these cars:

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