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 stock coilovers. 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
The M5 was the fastest sedan when it was new because of 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. An engine only found in the e39 M5 and BMW Z8, although it does share the same block as the M62 engine (built from 1994-2005). It is a high revving, silky smooth, torquey V8 that is unlike any other engine that I have driven. The S62 engine uses 10w-60 oil, which looks like honey and is not cheap to replace – but luckily doesn’t burn oil like a Mazda RX-8.
The S62 engine is what the e39 M5 is most famous for and I now understand why. Most of today’s engines are turbocharged to try and mimic V8 characteristics – the M5’s engine is the definition of refined power. It pulls strongly from 2,000 RPM 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 like to say I had perma-grin the entire time I was driving. There is even a special little “sport” button that improves throttle response and steering feel – I recommend always leaving it in sport mode, that is if you like to have a good time.
The M5 puts the power down without any drama through its 18×9.5″ rear tires and grips the road with smaller 18×8.5″ front wheels. This car was wearing Continental DWS Extreme Contact 265/35/18 tires on the rear and 235/35/18’s on the front wheels. The engine impressed me and I understand why there is no replacement for displacement these days. 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 saw the e39 M5 for the first time. Dare I say it has perfect proportions? It 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 and that car already looks dated – no wonder you can pick one up for super cheap.
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 New Jersey pharmaceutical executive who still wanted an enthusiast car but made a shit-ton-of-money. The interior is oozing money – rich wood and soft leather everywhere. All the touch points are perfect and it makes drivers feel like one day they too can be rich. Once you step inside the BMW M5, you feel like an executive. The dash is covered in beautiful wood, soft leather coats the seats and there is even an Alcantara headliner. You understand why this car cost $74,000 in the early 2000s. It is a premium car that still has a premium feel today.
The E39 M5 was first in the market at the same time you could buy a Dodge Neon at a dealership – so it was considered a larger sedan. But in today’s automotive market it’s a PERFECT size. When you drive it, it doesn’t feel too big and you always know where all four tires are at all times. The back seats are huge and there’s plenty of room. And you can fit three sets of golf clubs in the trunk – what every pharmaceutical 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 never build another car like this. Some say the Chevrolet SS is a modern day e39 M5, but that’s alternative facts. The M5 is in a class of its own.