5 Series - Which engine and spec - Jonathan {p}
Hi All

My trusty and economical mazda 626 is nearing retirement age. After covering 160k uneventful (but slightly boring) miles, I'm looking for something to replace it.

I am thinking of getting an E39 5 series.
Will be looking at paying ~£3-4k, so would be looking at something like a 00/01 reg.

I do around 12k miles/year, so excellent fuel efficiency isn't a major issue, nor is blistering performance. I currently get around 34mpg from my current car.

I am tending towards the petrol models, but is there any overriding reason why I should get a diesel, or are petrol models more reliable/cheaper to run (fuel apart)?

Does anyone have a recommendation on what is the best engine/spec to get? I was thinking along the lines of a 523i SE, which seems to be a reasonable compromise of 30+mpg with 170bhp and most of the ones I've seen online have decent kit as standard.

Lastly, is there anything significant to look out for on these cars?


5 Series - Which engine and spec - Toyota Red
Beware of the consequences of choosing a CO2-based tax 2001 model vs. a engine capacity based tax 2000 model. The Govt has delayed the introduction of the system, which seems to make the taxes broadly similar, but under their proposed measures, the tax would double. Whether they re-introduce it is speculation, but worth bearing in mind.

{link to one of our rivals made non clickable}

Also, I was browsing for a similar car, but they mostly seem to have interstellar mileages. Some hunting required. Nice sounding petrols though, I do like the straight sixes.

Edited by Dynamic Dave on 13/01/2009 at 18:48

5 Series - Which engine and spec - Pendlebury
I drove a nearly new 523 that you are looking at (nearly new suggests how long ago that was) and was very impressed with it. The build quality was superb and the drive was fantastic IMO. I thought then that the 5 series was probably the only car I think is worth paying allot of money for.
I think that once you start paying more money and even into silly money then few cars are even as good as the 5 series for the extra cash. I think that it is still true even with Lexus GS, Honda Legend and Merc E class.
If you can find a good one for that money and I suspect it will take a little bit of looking then you will be getting a very good car - once again the CBCB will help.

5 Series - Which engine and spec - Toyota Red
I should say I have had experience of the 540i, which is very fast, and probably very cheap now. mpg 'not great'.
Watch out for specs with M-tech suspension- it costs a bomb to replace, and the ride may be worse for your driving habits.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - jbif
I was thinking along the lines of a 523i SE, which seems to be a reasonable compromise of 30+mpg with 170bhp

The 520 from 2000 onwards is a 2.2 litre engine producing same bhp as the previous 2.5 litre engine in the 523i.

see www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/index.htm?md=41
520i M54 6 cylinder 170 HP 226 km/h 2000 - 2003
523i M52 6 cylinder 170 HP 228 km/h 1995 - 2000

These are really good cars but are now in the "council house" chav boy-racer car territory. Fortunately, the VED threat and last year's petrol price shock means that chavs may drift to Korean and Malaysian cars instead.

Edited by jbif on 13/01/2009 at 18:23

5 Series - Which engine and spec - Dude - {P}
My son ran a 530i Sport a few years back and of the 5 BMW`s he has owned, this was by far the best.

I would definitely opt for the petrol engine, and oddly you will find that the 3 litre engine is as economical as the 2.2 litre, but with far better performance. This is particularly the case with the manual gearbox, which are rare but well worth seeking out. My son`s 530i manual regularly averaged 34 mpg without any problems.

They are a great car, but you will need to search far and wide now to find a sub 100k miler and I would suggest you look for a 530i SE, which is softer riding than the Sport and a lot cheaper as well.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - pinkpanther_75
Some years ago I had a 1996 520i SE Auto (one of the first E39's). This rarely managed more than 20 mpg and was quite slow. A friend currently has a manual 2002 520i ES SE with the later 2.2 engine. This again rarely manages much more than 20 mpg, albeit in largely urban use. These cars are in my experience very well built and reasonably cheap to maintain in the hands of a decent specialist.

As has been previously mentioned the 530i offers much more performance, with little penalty in terms of fuel economy and would be my choice.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - Pugugly
Probably the E39 was the nicest BMW (in every respect) made - I still get dewy eyed over mine.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - Alby Back
To quote Bob and Vic.....you won't let it lie will you PU?

Sooner or later, the Roomie's for the chop, mark my words.......

5 Series - Which engine and spec - rtj70
But his last Beemer was not a E39.... So he got rid of it and got a Roomster??

Edited by rtj70 on 13/01/2009 at 23:07

5 Series - Which engine and spec - Jonathan {p}
Thanks for all the responses.

I did fancy the 3 litre, but its a bit difficult to justify really. The slightly lower mpg and additional insurance just don't make it worthwhile, especially as there are precious few manuals and I don't want an auto.

That said, if I see a good one...

Best idea seems to be get a 2000 or 2001 (pre March 01) with either the 520i or 525i newer engines with SE spec.

Any more comments gratefully received.


5 Series - Which engine and spec - rogue-trooper
Look out for rear subframe bushes. Also some problems with the pixels on the OBC packing up. Also if you do decide to go older be careful with the M52 engine and the Nikasil problem - IIRC that affected cars up to 1998. Also some problems with cylinders going pop and there are stories about turbo units blowing themselves to pieces. Door seals is another area - unless they have been changed recently they will be in pieces.

I presume that you are talking about saloons because if you are going for a touring might be worth checking that the self levelling suspension is working ok. Quite a pricey repair.

Apart from that nothing comes quite to mind apart from the usual dodgy MAF
5 Series - Which engine and spec - rogue-trooper
PS - and you might want to take a passenger with you. Some people find SE models far too softly sprung that all passengers feel car sick. This might only be applicable to the Touring and its self levelling suspension.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - colino
For good all roundness, the 520(2.2) and 523/525 are great cars. Personally I prefer the black SE's with leather and upgraded alloys. I would also wait for one with an electric pack to come along as if more than one driver, the electric seat memory is handy.
MAF's, thermostats and radiators are all for the watching and bushes and tyres become consumeables if you use their surprising agility to the max.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - MokkaMan
I have owned a 2001Y 530ise Touring from new. From memory, the facelift happened late 2000 (X reg onwards?) and as mentioned, given the punitive VED's coming this would probably be the registration to aim at.

I did take optional 17" alloys and sports suspension but I would have to say that the ride quality is good. As an example, I recently drove an elderly relative home from hospital from Edinburgh to Inverness after a major operation and he said he was very comfortable in the back seat.

Problems so far have been air conditioning failure at about five years old (cost about £500 from local independent garage to repair), the battery seems to run low if I do a surfeit of local town driving (I now have a trickle charger and give it a boost once a month), I replaced all tyres, disks and pads about eighteen months ago (this is obviously normal wear and tear but cost £950 from a local independent garage to do). The radio no longer works (I will get this looked at at the next service), but there is a 6CD stack and cassette so I just use those.

Mine is an auto (I think the vast majority are). There is obviously a steptronic gearbox, so you can change manually if you want. To be honest I have played with it a few times but really never use it (probably like everyone else). Economy is about 22mpg, which for an auto 3 litre estate is probably not too bad

I think overall, it is a brilliant car and I intend to keep it until it falls apart or becomes to costly to repair and also it comes without the dreaded i-drive
5 Series - Which engine and spec - Peter C
I have had my 2001 30i auto sport tourer for over 4 years and covered 45000 miles in it. It has a total of 120,000 mls on the clock. I love the car and will keep it for many years since it is now worth practically nothing. The Sport suspension is good but rather stiffer than the SE. The car is lower on the Sport suspension and the front spoiler is easily grounded. The Sport does look far better, is rarer but the SE is a more sensible and very comfortable choice

You should look out for one with as many extras as possible and the electric comfort seats are wonderful. It is a heavy car so do not expect very good fuel economy. I get 25 mpg on average. Diesels do seem to have problems with turbos. The petrols all sound wonderful. THe 530i is the pick of the bunch. The 540i is not as reliable and overkill really.

Watch out for missing pixels on the dash board, it is a common fault and worth knocking £500 off. Mine had the problem and I did not notice.

5 Series - Which engine and spec - pd
Don't worry about VED - that has all been dropped.
5 Series - Which engine and spec - valmiki
delayed more likely!
5 Series - Which engine and spec - doug_r1
I'd do a Google for:

a: e39 overheating, a problem for v8 and straight 6, it could be thermostat, pump, viscous, bleeding, radiator, header tank etc. You'll probably end up doing them all just to be safe.
b: e39 shimmy, endless fun for the garage, at your expense.
c: e39 rear balljoint/subframe bushes my independent said take it elsewhere, so I took it home, bought the puller and did it myself.
d: e39 abs module, what joy a selection of error codes non of which point to the real problem
e: e39 pixel, fortunately it's on the later version to mine.
f: e39 Crankshaft/Camshaft sensors
g: e39 handbrake, ooh, let's drop the prop shaft and change the cable, after we've unsiezed all the gubbins in the hub.

No, I'm not that impressed with German engineering. I had seven years with little trouble from a high mileage Citroen Xantia 2.0 16v and find myself with endless niggly problems from a 60,000 mile 523i, with dealer history of course, you must have dealer history or you're asking for trouble!
5 Series - Which engine and spec - ron
I, too, had a couple of Xantia's before my e39 530D. The 1.9td I had suffered a cambelt snap, well within spec. mileage, the other was an hdi 110 which suffered a head gasket failure. With these 2 cars, driving was something you did/a chore, not an enjoyment. Don't get me wrong, I'm no speeding nutcase, it's just the e39 is far more pleasant to drive.

Anyway, back to topic, as stated I've got diesel version, but also a friend has the v8 4.4 petrol version. Both are autos, he's lucky to see 25mpg on a run, roughly 17/18mpg around town, mine does 45-50mpg on a run and 33-35mpg around town. My friend did have a prob with overheating when he first bought it, this was traced in about 10 mins. to a faulty thermostat, this was changed, now no worries.
Any shimmy, check tyres pressure + wheel balance, if still there, get a quick look over from a main agent, this might sound crazy but seriously, they've never charged me to give a look over and a correct opinion on that area (worn bushes in my case)
Rear ball joints can wear, put that down to the plethora of speed humps this country now has, about an hour and a half from a decent indie.
ABS module failure, well, this really is luck of the gun, or should I say, highly unlikely luck of the gun.
The pixel problem if it occurs, can be fixed by others or by yourself. It might only happen once in a blue moon though.
Crankshaft/camshaft sensors, I suppose this could happen......at some point......it is an engine after all.
Handbrakes can seize up a bit if it's an auto and the handbrake doesn't get used much/at all.
I've heard that the cars can stop all together, if no fuel is put in the tank. But as this could affect other cars as well, it's probably not worth mentioning or scaremongering over.

As for German versus French engineering, try doing a 'door test'. Opening and closing the front/back doors and listen to the difference! Not conclusive by any means, but amusing all the same!

Value my car