The E39 M5 Is So Good It Transcends Space and Time
Let’s get this out of the way: When you buy a car that cost $74,874 in the year 2000 for under $20,000 in 2017, it is going to be expensive to repair. You begin to care slightly less about the double-VANOS variable-valve-timing units failing when that car is one of the best performance sedans ever built.
This past weekend I had the great opportunity to drive my friend John’s 2002 BMW M5. He purchased the car from the second owner with 103,000 miles and has put 17,000 miles on his M5 in the past two years. It has been relatively trouble free during his ownership (which is rare): he’s replaced the fuel pump, rear differential, and suspension. Here’s the kicker – it doesn’t leak a drop of oil (John attests that to a proper engine break-in by the first owner). The color is “Carbon Black,” a beautiful deep black with hints of blue and purple and metallic flakes. He loves his M5 and says he is never letting it go. After driving it, I understand why.
The 4.9-liter V8 Is The Heart and Soul of the M5
This generation M5 was the fastest sedan when it was new thanks to the 4.9-liter V8 engine that produced 394 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. To the Bimmer Nerds, that engine code is known as the S62. This engine was only available in the E39 M5 and BMW Z8, although it does share the same block as the M62 engine (produced from 1994-2005). The S62 is a high revving, silky smooth, torquey V8 that is unlike any other engine that I have driven. It’s also lubricated with 10w-60 synthetic oil, which looks like honey and is not cheap – but luckily this engine doesn’t burn oil like the Mazda RX-8.
The S62 engine made the E39 M5 famous and I now understand why. It’s the very definition of refined power. It pulls strongly from a low 2,000 RPM all the way to the 7,000 RPM redline. In every gear there was torque available and I was never without enough passing power. The E39 M5 will pin you to your seat when you mash the throttle. I had perma-grin the entire time I was driving. There is even a special little “sport” button that increases throttle response – I recommend leaving it in sport mode if you like to have a good time.
Wide rubber helps the E39 M5 grip the road without any drama. John’s car puts the power down through the 9.5″ rear wheels wrapped in 265/35/18 Continental DWS Extreme Contact tires. Up front, a matching pair of 235/35/18 tires wrap the beautiful 8.5″ wheels.
The engine impressed me and I understand why there is no replacement for displacement. Most of today’s engines are smaller displacement and turbocharged to try and mimic characteristics of a V8. Once robots take over driving , the M5 will surely not be the reason why humans don’t like driving anymore.
The e39 M5 Defines Classic Design
Classic. Beautiful. Elegant. Sophisticated. Refined. These were a few of the words that came to mind when I first saw the E39 M5. I think it has perfect proportions that will never go out of style and that’s why it will only go up in value. My friend bought his for a good price and he will probably make some money if he ever sells it. We had the rare chance to park it next to the E60 M5, a car already looks dated – no wonder you can pick one up for super cheap (actually it’s due the V10’s maintenance cost).
When the M5 debuted in 2000, it dominated every Car and Driver comparison. It was hailed as the fastest production sedan on the planet. The E39 M5 was a built for the wealthy New Jersey pharmaceutical executive who still wanted an enthusiast car.
Once you slide into the BMW M5, you feel like an executive. The interior oozes of class. There’s rich wood and supple leather everywhere. All the touch points are perfect. The dash is covered in beautiful wood, soft leather coats the seats and there is even an Alcantara headliner. This car carried an MSRP of roughly $74,000 in the early 2000s. It is a premium car that used premium materials and have lasted the test of time. 17 years later, the interior still has a premium feel. It’s an amazing bargain.
The E39 5-Series was considered a large sedan in the early 2000s. How things have changed. Modern day 3-series are now similar in size and the 5-Series are huge. Considering today’s automotive market, the E39 5-Series is the perfect size.
Behind the wheel, it never feels like a boat and you always know where all four tires are at all times. The back seats are easy to get in and out, comfortable and there’s plenty of room.
I haven’t mentioned the trunk. You can fit three sets of golf clubs – what every executive wants and needs.
Should You Buy an M5?
If you have the means to do so – yes! Prices have been climbing back up for the past couple years and there is no sign of slowing down. Neither BMW nor any other manufacturer will ever build another car like this. Some say the latest 6-speed manual Chevrolet SS is the modern day alternative, but we know the E39 M5 is in a class of its own.