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Need help deciding 530 or 540?

Discussion in 'E39 (1997-2003)' started by splibsbmw, Sep 28, 2009.

    splibsbmw guest

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    I'm looking for an E39 for everyday use and mild club activity. I'm an old CCA member, been inactive since 2004 when my 87 E28 535is was totalled. My heart says buy a 99-01 540i/6, My head says buy a 01-03 530i/5. Is there a big difference in repair costs between the two? What are the non DIY issues I should look out for? Does the 530 have enough "giddie up" or will I have regrets? I have so many questions. Any thoughts, suggestions, I know I'm not the first to have these questions.

    mhardey guest

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    I don't think that there is any question but that the maintenance history of the car is more important than anything else. My 2000 vintage 528i/5 sport has 200k miles on the odometer. Still capable of 33 mpg on the highway at steady 65 mph, yet wind it out on the acceleration lane and the dual Vanos makes it seem like more than the 193 rated horsepower. I do my own oil changes and minor maintenance (tranny, diff fluids, filters, etc.) The 540 has much more zip (292 hp) but a propensity to be more difficult to maintain. On the other hand, I often wish I'd purchased the use 540/6 sport that I looked at before special ordering this car from the factory! Enjoy whatever you buy - but check the maintenance history carefully.
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    az3579

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    Either one you get, you must, must, MUST replace the cooling system! E39's like to have their cooling systems blow up if not maintained! Check the maintenance records and see if the previous owners have done this. If so, you should be good for a while.

    mhardey guest

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    Couldn't agree more. Get a copy of the "old school maintenance schedule" and follow it carefully. Available from author of Tech Talk column in Roundel. I changed out the radiator, thermostat, water pump and all hoses at 4 1/2 years and about 105,000 miles. Some say I should have done it sooner - perhaps as soon as 60,000 miles. Thereafter, flush and replace coolant every 2 years and you should be in good shape. Have had some minor transmission engagement issues in 1st and 2nd gear. Switched to a synthetic product and have had no more problems with it.

    vtx guest

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    Don't know about whether E39 530 has enough "giddie up", but know for sure that I often regret not buying it because 540i6 (which I bought instead) is quite painfully nose heavy. 530 should be better balanced. And of course, nothing can replace the inline six sound, if you care about that.

    mose121 guest

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    From a BMW service advisor's perspective, the 540i will eat you alive with maint/repairs. Especially once you get up there in mileage. Not to say that the 530 isn't still expensive to maintain, but it's a lot cheaper than the 540 in the long run. If you are a DIY'er, the 530 is much easier to handle when it comes to engine repairs.

    splibsbmw guest

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    re: need help deciding 530 or 540

    Thanks for all the feedback. Sounds like I need to go with my head and get the 530i/5. It also sounds like I should hold out for a car with the Sport package. Any suggestions pro and con?

    mhardey guest

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    You will find the ride considerably firmer, but not necessarily noisier. You will feel the expansion joints in the road. Tire selection with the sport package is a bit more important for noise control and handling. Lower profile tires can be inherently noisier and seem more prone to become louder as the tread wears. I've found that driving style has everything to do with tire life. The OEM ContiSport Contacts on my car only lasted 24k miles, including a really wonderful day at a Vehicle Dynamics Course and probably too many laps around the skid pad. It didn't completely destroy them, but the noise issue became a problem. But since then, I've averaged 40k miles per set of tires running both Bridgestone Pole Position S-02's and more recently the Goodyear Eagle F-1 GS-D3's. The Goodyears actually had plenty of tread left at 49,500 miles when the noise again started to get to me. Current set of inexpensive Kumho's are very quiet and have good road habits, but are somewhat less confidence-inspiring than the Goodyears. If you enjoy powering through the twists and turns of secondary highways, the sport package is the only way to go.

    vtx guest

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    Oh yes, Pole Positions becomes like drums of hell by the end of the first half of their life, but I liked control they provided the best. More about it here, if you care: http://e39diaries.blogspot.com/2009/08/tires.html

    18" tires are significantly more expensive than 17", and the selection is somewhat different. I don't remember if 530 comes with 16" rims (I think early production ears do), and I found that it is becoming more and more difficult to find high performance tires in this size.

    mhardey guest

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    Standard wheels in '00 were 16"s with sport package having 17" inch. Tires in that model were not staggered, 235-45R17. I upsized to 245-45 without any problems.
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    ponnie

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    Sport Pkg. differences

    In addition to the lower, stiffer suspension and 17" BBS wheels, the Sport Package also includes black-out trim around the windows, driver & front passenger sport seats, and an M-sport steering wheel. I've found Michelin tires work well with this suspension.
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    CRKrieger

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    Dude, your heart says "Buy another E28!" You know you want to. Go to www.MyE28.com and check out the forum. You'll find your car there.
    ;)

    vtx guest

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    Oh hell yeah!!!

    Second that. We've got a 535i E28 this March - damn, that's the best bang for the buck I've ever got with a car (despite its heritage and associated problems), and every time I get behind the wheel, I start laughing crazy from the sensory bouquet it delivers. www.MyE28.com is priceless - lots of people, lightning fast response.

    splibsbmw guest

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    Thanks for the reality check, I'm still looking at the E39 for now but the E28 may be in my future.
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    330indy1

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    another tidbit:
    did you know the 530 has rack & pinion and the 540 doesn't (space constraints)?
    ... the steering and F/R balance on the 3.0 model is generally "better"
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    ggondek

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    530 or 540?

    I traded my '99 540iA last year for an '01 540-6 with the sport pkg and I am very pleased with it. I am using (in the summer) 18" staggered wheels with Goodyear Eagle F-1 tires. The suspension on the 540-6 not only makes better use of the tires but rides smoother than the old car with the same wheels and tires!
    Be sure to heed the earlier post regarding the cooling system. Mine had a new radiator at about 80K and just had a new water pump at 89K. At least the overheating did not crack the head as it did in my '78 530i.
    The 540-6 is a strange car in that the engine is so smooth and quiet you will find yourself running at 4600 rpm on the highway because you are still in third gear. I have two M roadsters and a Corvette. When driving those cars I am always aware of what the engine is doing.
    That's my 2 cents worth. Good luck with your search!
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    KenM10759

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    For a time I had both an E39 and and E28. My E28 is gone now, as I had gifted it to my younger son and he blew up the auto transmission @ 191K miles.

    My 2002 530i/A has the sport package, and while it's not anywhere near as nimble as the E28, it really is very good and I have no regrets. It is so much quieter and smoother than the E28. I've got 134K on it it now and am still on the OE radiator, expansion tank and hoses. The fan clutch, water pump and thermostat housing have been replaced though, and there's no signs of impending doom.

    I do like the 235/45-17 Michelin Pilot Sport A/S tires that were put on it shortly after I bought it at 72,500 miles. The same tires are still on it and it seems to have at least another 10,000 miles left. They stick much better than I I ever thought they would, and I push it pretty hard at times.
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    Dmarque

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    No doubt about it....the 540i. I had both....the 540 has me counting down the minutes til I'm behind the wheel again. Never felt that way about my 530i. Oh, and by the way. Go for the 540 6 speed M-Sport. In the 2003 version only 147 were made....So it's a smaller club than most anything you can name. Never enjoyed a car more. You take care of it...it takes care of you. No maintenace problems to speak of at 85,000 miles.

    vtx guest

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    Damn! That's an interesting piece of information. I suspected that much (having one of those), but never saw an authoritative source - do you have a link, by chance?
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    CSBM5

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    Just don't drive the M5, so you won't be tempted as it will lure you in. The S62 is an intoxicating engine and what I believe to be the best all-around engine BMW has ever made.

    Way back in 2001 when the wait list for an M5 was 8-10 months at both my local dealers, I ordered a 2002 540i 6spd and took Perf Center delivery -- thinking the 540i would be fine, no need for the M5. Well, after driving the M5 at the PC, getting back into the 540 was a disheartening experience, down on torque/power, no LSD, etc. It took me a while, but I found a 12k mile 2001 M5 from the original owner, so I bought it and sold the 540i. I had both cars for a few months, so I had plenty of back-to-back seat time in each to compare -- no comparison btw. That was 6+ years ago now, and I plan to keep the M5 forever. The longest I've owned any BMW is a bit over 14 years when I sold my '72 E3 back in 1994, but I'm sure I'll have the M5 longer than that.

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