Thursday, January 14, 2016

Silver Streak: 2002 BMW M5 E39

Owning a high mile M5 is a bit like having a freshwater caiman as a pet.  Most neighbors will look at you funny, your gas/meat bill is going to increase, you will find out which of your neighbors are car/reptile enthusiast...but, most certainly, you will lose an arm/leg if something goes wrong. Find this 2002 BMW M5 here on eBay bidding for $12,000 with a few hours to go, located in Los Angeles, CA.

Sales of the E39 M5 started in 1998, when it superseded the E34 M5 that had been absent from BMW's North American lineup since 1995.  Gone was the rev happy and silky inline-6, and it its place was a brutish V8 that moved the M5 closer to muscle sedan than sports sedan.

Powering the E39 is a 4.9 liter S62 V8 that is rated at 394 horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque.  Like all E39 M5s, this one is shifted by a standard 6-speed manual gearbox that puts power to a limited slip differential out the back -- it was built in the time before electric doodads-gadgets and thingamgiggers gave cars sub 4.0 second 0-60mph times, but it does one heckofashow when you mash the loud pedal.

Owning an E39 M5 is not without its pitfalls, and I seriously recommend that anyone considering a purchased read this 2014 article by Tavarish on Jalopnik, the E39 M5 buyer guide and this FAQ on M5Board forums, or the FAQ.  If you don't go into E39 M5 ownership with your boots on and your catching net handy, you might find that some teeth are sharper than others.

See another V8 powered brute for a daily driver?


  1. The E39 M5 didn't go on sale until into '99 in Germany, and not until the 2000 model year in the US.

    They are as durable as any other E39 (which is to say that all the exterior plastics degrade pretty fast in the sun), maybe more so in some respects (they run much lower coolant temps than other E39s which may help preserve the underhood plastics), they're an E39 so the ergonomics and control layout are almost unmatched in the known universe. They really got this one right.

    Underbraked for a track car but then it's about a thousand pounds too heavy and 6000 parts too complex to be an ideal track car anyway.

    The stock ECU calibration for the throttle response is so 'lazy' that it makes smooth launches (modulating clutch takeup) difficult. Much easier in sport mode, or better still get an aftermarket recalibration that removes a lot of the delay.

    These were the early days of stability-control systems so the E39's is very conservative, very invasive, and it's either all-on or all-off unlike the much better systems that came later. I don't know if anyone's yet hacked it to 'loosen' it up a bit.

    1. ...and now, if you'll excuse me, this morning's been carved out to do oil and coolant changes on mine.

    2. One further remark: the largest recurrent maintenance expense with an E39 M5 is often the 'porkchops' - the outside corners of the front underpan that wrap up into the fenderwells. They are, inexplicably, made of a brittle hard plastic that splits into little bits when bumped on a curb, and they're $90 a corner at last purchase.

    3. Have fun storming the castle!

    4. You are a luck man mrwong. I have always wanted a M5. Does the M5 come with a cdv?
      Just yesterday I pulled the Clutch Delay Valve from both of my BMWs and installed a UUC short throw shifter and a zhp knob on my wife's X5. Both cars drive so much better now.
      I think one of the reasons why I own BMWs is because I enjoy working on them. Hopefully someday a M5.

    5. No CDV on the M5.

      M5 shifter somewhere between 540 and the various aftermarket shifters.

      Yeah, the M-Parallels is a weird thing on this one, though the 'shadow chrome' finish on the stockers is known to wear off and they're damned hard to keep clean.

  2. I know the M-parallel wheels are desirable, but I didnt know M5 owners would swap to those instead of the stock 18's. And is 92k miles considered high? I was expecting 200k+

    1. I agree I would rather have the M5 wheels than the Mpars.
      I think 92k is actually really low.

  3. That first paragraph made me want to stand up and clap.

  4. I love these E39 series BMW's. The wagons are beautiful. M's are amazing, but my preference would be a silky straight 6 with 6spd stick. Still elegant and as close to a timeless design as I can think of.

  5. I really love my E39 M5. But I sure agree with Mr. Wong, it is too heavy to be a track car. Tires just disappear! I'd strip an M3 for that! The M5 is just great for freeway and highway driving. It is just so easy .....


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