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Buyers Guide to:

BMW M5 (E39)

Useful Info


1998 to 2005

Fuel Type


Engine Size


Engine Type


Drive Configuration


BMW Car Club Great Britain

Munich Legends

Just Kampers

01256 862288,


The first BMW M5 arrived back in 1984, and was based on the then-current E28 5-Series. Fourteen years later the company launched the E39 model, a muscular four-door sports saloon powered by a 400bhp V8 engine. Driving the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox the result was impressive performance, the M5 sprinting to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds before going on to a 155mph top speed. Costing around £60,000 when new, the new car was luxuriously equipped with the likes of leather upholstery, climate control, and plenty of electronic gadgets to keep even the most demanding owner happy. The huge performance was matched by equally impressive handling, and the E39 version would prove very successful with more than 20,000 examples sold before it was replaced in 2005.

  1. 1. Front edge of bonnet
  2. 2. Wheel arches
  3. 3. Sills
  4. 4. Door bottoms
  5. 5. Boot lid
  6. 6. Around fuel filler

The Checklist

  • Thoroughly for signs of accident damage, and carry out a history check for peace of mind. Look for paint overspray, uneven panel gaps, or ripples in the boot floor. And check for any signs of corrosion underneath, especially around the jacking points
  • The bonnet for stone chips - it’s not uncommon for cars to have had paint repairs in the past, and they aren’t a problem assuming the work has been done well
  • The condition of the windscreen, light units, and bumpers as replacing them with new parts is very pricey. There’s a decent supply of second- hand bits which will keep costs down
  • Whether the car has been facelifted with later parts. For example, the ‘Corona’ (or ‘Angel Eye’) headlights were fitted from 2000 and are a popular update; ensure you know exactly what model you’re looking at
  • For evidence of regular maintenance by a BMW dealer or specialist – a car without a detailed service history should be avoided
  • For any rattling noises from the V8 that signify worn timing chain tensioners; replacing them isn’t especially expensive and it’s a bonus if they’ve been changed already
  • The oil level as consumption can be high. Cars built after February 2000 had an improved piston ring design to help cure the problem
  • That the engine doesn’t rattle when starting from cold - it could be worn VANOS units which control the variable valve timing. Rattling when hot is a bad sign and ignoring the problem will lead to costly engine damage
  • For uneven running or dashboard warning lights which can be caused by failed Mass Airflow meters (there’s one for each bank of cylinders) or throttle valve potentiometers. Replacement of either isn’t cheap
  • For excessive noise from the Borg Warner 6-speed manual transmission. A little noise is normal but steer clear of anything worse as a new gearbox is eye-wateringly expensive. Also check for leakage from differential oil seals
  • That the clutch isn’t slipping; expect around 60,000-80,000 miles in normal use
  • For any signs of wear in the suspension, especially the anti-roll bar and front suspension mounts, and ball joints. Clunks or rattles signify a set-up in need of an overhaul while a vibration through the steering points to tired track control arm bushes
  • The brakes as hard use will see them wear quickly, so haggle accordingly if fresh discs and pads are needed. And check the alloy wheels for scuffs and scrapes – they can be costly to refurbish
  • That the leather interior isn’t suffering from wear or scuffs on the seat bolsters. There are plenty of gadgets, too, so make ensure that everything works – the cost of fixing failed items mean they may have been ignored
  • The instrument display as it can suffer from failed or missing pixels; specialists can repair them at a reasonable cost, though. Also, check that the air-conditioning blows cold and don’t just assume that a re-gas is needed if not
  • That the tyre repair equipment is present. There’s no spare wheel, just an electric compressor and a can of repair foam (check that the usage date hasn’t expired)

Everything Check Out?

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