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RE: BMW M5 (E39): PH Heroes

RE: BMW M5 (E39): PH Heroes

Sunday 22nd October 2017

BMW M5 (E39): PH Heroes

The E39 M5 is 19 years old. Adolescence finds it in sparkling form.



You won't need me to tell you that there's another BMW M5 just around the corner. It'll have a turbocharged V8 and 600hp. It will have four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It'll be as fast as a photon and built like a fallout bunker. But it won't be as good as the E39.


By good, I mean as feelsome or as unprocessed or as affecting. Driven right now, the E39 M5 is every bit the unicorn; perched fortuitously between being neither too old or too new, between being neither too rare or too common and between being an anachronism and a bloody revelation.

Naturally some of it is becoming merely instructive. While it might be 20 years old next year, the E39 is too familiar to be thought compelling or novel inside. By '98, BMW was already high on the bottom line of imperfect plastics, and some of their original softness is turning slowly to tackiness even in this, a mint example.

Ditto the steering - unheralded even in its day for the imprudent use of a recirculating ball rather than the rack and pinion found among other E39s - and rendered nondescript now by the subsequent legion of cleverer hydraulics systems and leaner electronic alternatives.


But that's where the limitations end. The E39 - and the contemporaneous E46, too - constitute one of the few examples of a timeless industrial design to emerge from the disposable, meretricious nineties. The car remains acutely purposeful in the modern sense, without tolerating so much as a single extraneous line.

It yields to excess only where it ought to; in the polished quad exhaust projecting from rear bumper and the satin chrome finish of the still gorgeous 18-inch M Parallel Spoke alloys. There's a unique M-Technic airdam at the front, too - but that's just a reminder of the V8 dug into engine bay like a sapper in a trench.

The 4.9-litre S62 unit is a stroked and bored-out evolution of the 4.4-litre M62 V8 featured in the 540i. But that hardly describes the sonorous, molasses-sweet nature of the engine, which sports an electronically-controlled throttle body for each cylinder and thrums evocatively through the M5's hardpoints.


It outputs 400hp to the rear wheels, but instead of endlessly illuminating the traction control light as the F10 does with interminable regularity, the E39's delivery finds the deck in conducive mood - mostly because its 369lb ft of torque is produced at a distant 3,800rpm rather than troubling the tyres from idle.

Along with the note-perfect soundtrack, it is the palpable lack of turbochargers that nails on the S62's charm. The throttle response alone is worth several minutes of staggered, go-nowhere pedal-pushing. But the V8 behind it is never wound-up or frenetic: the double VANOS valve timing has the power unraveling into the back axle with the granular progressiveness of poured cement. It positively flows - and you sit there, pedal nailed, relishing the heft and gravitas of each passing 1,000rpm with the puckered lips of a man in the middle of an almighty golf swing.


The car orbiting this additive-free masterpiece is similarly organic. The six-speed Getrag gearbox - albeit overlong in the throw - is the ideal foil to the V8, and the sensory pleasure of negotiating with such a mighty engine via a manual transmission and well-oiled clutch pedal can hardly be overstated.

Nevertheless, it is in the chassis that the car's distinctively mechanical appeal bubbles over. Despite having its spring heights reduced over the stock E39 and wearing thicker anti-roll bars and solid balljoints where rubber bushings once sat, the car's lubricated sense of compliance over B road tarmac makes a nonsense of the F10's overwrought adaptive damping.

Granted, its body control is hardly in the same league, but this simply means that you slip over England's terrain at a halfway sane speed rather than blithely barreling across it as you would in its descendent. This distinction, between being immersed in a car's performance and simply letting its monstrous capability wash over you, is at the nucleus of the E39's charisma.


Better still, it comes without the mod con shortcomings that an E30 or E34 might: the (admittedly high-spec) E39 we drove featured remote central locking, heated seats, sat nav, parking sensors, cruise control and - amusingly - a mobile phone connection. Not to mention an ESC system that keeps things civilized in the rain - and at all other times can be completely switched out with a simple solitary button push.

True, BMW's latest heritage car would not come cheap. Its 19k odometer reading is very much the horn on the unicorn's head; a feature that would a middling five-figure sum into an excessively large one. The priciest example among the classifieds has covered 25k - and is up for just shy of £50k.

A more realistic prospect would be something like this wearing still below-average miles and available for Ford Fiesta ST money. But we wouldn't dissuade you from a well-cared for high-miler either, if the VANOS system and timing chains are sound. They currently hover around the £10k mark - a respectably modest price to pay for a thoroughbred, and likely 10 per cent of what a launch edition F90 will cost.


BMW M5
Engine
: 4,941cc V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 400@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369@3,800rpm
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,825kg
MPG: N/A
CO2: N/A
On sale: 1998-2003
Price new: £60,000
Price now: c.£7,500 - £40,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

aaron_2000

Original Poster:

821 posts

8 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
God this thread is gonna be a nightmare, I can already see it. Aged very well though, a very well done design for sure.

Cold

3,552 posts

15 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
I see Nic Cackett is still giving his Thesaurus a good workout. thumbup

alorotom

3,419 posts

112 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
FFS is the E39 appreciation society paying for all these stories ... best car ever, PH heroes

What a load of utter bks - they’re old, past their best, not particularly pretty (subjective yes) and are now a massive PH cliche along with the MX5

williamp

15,749 posts

198 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
yes but... but...Tiff sideways....

They have cooling issues, abs issues, pixel issues, random electrical gremlins. And the XJR has a whole lot more soul. And even the S type R has 420bhp and is half the price. And real wood...

Plate spinner

12,323 posts

125 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
Yummy
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blasos

205 posts

87 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
Best car in the world for me. Classic lines, perfect proportions, looks right from every angle, 400 Bhp, 5 seats - the King! SI molar praise could be given to the same era W220 S-Class.

gigglebug

661 posts

47 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
alorotom said:
FFS is the E39 appreciation society paying for all these stories ... best car ever, PH heroes

What a load of utter bks - they’re old, past their best, not particularly pretty (subjective yes) and are now a massive PH cliche along with the MX5
So your objections are;

They are old - Many fantastic cars are as old as this and many more are a lot older, age isn't an exact science for determining a cars abilities or how special it is, is it?

Past their best - What does that even mean? It's not an aging footballer or supermodel is it? A well maintained example in perfect order isn't going to feel any different to what it did 19 years ago is it?

Not particularly pretty - Which you have already pointed out is merely subjective.

You don't seem to have anything particularly relevant to hold against the car to claim that it's somehow a cliche?


alorotom

3,419 posts

112 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
E39s in pretty much every guise are upheld on here and it’s ridiculous

Some cars age well; this one hasn’t

Oddly, everyone is allowed an opinion - strangely many on here have an identical one about the E39 - I’m all for live and let live but let’s not pretend that these are something special as they really aren’t

SidewaysSi

3,852 posts

159 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
alorotom said:
E39s in pretty much every guise are upheld on here and it’s ridiculous

Some cars age well; this one hasn’t

Oddly, everyone is allowed an opinion - strangely many on here have an identical one about the E39 - I’m all for live and let live but let’s not pretend that these are something special as they really aren’t
So please give us a few examples of what you would class as special.

Alucidnation

7,544 posts

95 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
They do look fairly bland.

gigglebug

661 posts

47 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
So what do you actually dislike about the car other than it's looks?

If you were claiming from experience that it was unreliable, had a rough engine, poor handling and ride comfort and was just plain uncomfortable to sit in I could see from an objective point of view why you disliked it but as it stands all you have offered very little to back up your own claim of it being a cliche.

selym

5,105 posts

96 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
Another E39 M5 thread. The MX-5s will start to get a little jealous.

Alucidnation

7,544 posts

95 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
gigglebug said:
So what do you actually dislike about the car other than it's looks?

If you were claiming from experience that it was unreliable, had a rough engine, poor handling and ride comfort and was just plain uncomfortable to sit in I could see from an objective point of view why you disliked it but as it stands all you have offered very little to back up your own claim of it being a cliche.
If i had other negative things to say about the car then i would have.

Why you think there should be, i really don't know.

I had one many years ago and thought the same then.

SidewaysSi

3,852 posts

159 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
I too would like to know what you mean by "old" and "past their best" as I am nt sure what you mean. Please explain.

fausTVR

1,211 posts

75 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
I've not owned one or even been in one, but I do know M5s in all their guises were made to be the last word in 4 door saloons.

The only criticism I could level at the E39 M5 is its image, that of the council estate, as with all fast Beemers, I can't help being reminded of purveyors of rare herbs bullying their way through the mean streets in the German whip.



Edited by fausTVR on Sunday 22 October 08:37

Burwood

8,033 posts

171 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
50k. Hexagon living up to their reputation, again. Do they sell any cars

gigglebug

661 posts

47 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
Alucidnation said:
If i had other negative things to say about the car then i would have.

Why you think there should be, i really don't know.

I had one many years ago and thought the same then.
I have no idea why you have replied to me, I wasn't asking you a question. My query is aimed at Alorotom.

PowerslideSWE

859 posts

63 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
alorotom said:
E39s in pretty much every guise are upheld on here and it’s ridiculous

Some cars age well; this one hasn’t

Oddly, everyone is allowed an opinion - strangely many on here have an identical one about the E39 - I’m all for live and let live but let’s not pretend that these are something special as they really aren’t
Driven many have you?`

Without faults they are not however, but there is a reason that the prices are going up..

PowerslideSWE

859 posts

63 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
williamp said:
yes but... but...Tiff sideways....

They have cooling issues, abs issues, pixel issues, random electrical gremlins. And the XJR has a whole lot more soul. And even the S type R has 420bhp and is half the price. And real wood...
Did you just compare one of these with an S-type R?

Looks are subjective and all that....

selym

5,105 posts

96 months

Sunday 22nd October 2017
quotequote all
PowerslideSWE said:
Driven many have you?`

Without faults they are not however, but there is a reason that the prices are going up..
Let's be fair, the values on most cars of that type are going up. Hero worship isn't helping that.