Monday Money: BMW E39 540i

PRICE: £5,000 -£11,000

This could be the ideal candidate for your daily classics itch. Heralded as the last great analogue BMW performance sedan, the E39 M5 has become a collectable that fetched for a record-breaking $176,000 (£143,000) at Pebble Beach auction last year. But not all hope is lost…

If you were waiting it out to snag an E39 M5 at the bottom of its depreciation curve, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. That ship has long sailed, and its value is now on a steep upward rise. However, you can still grab a V8 E39 that won’t fetch for silly money: the 540i. you might be asking why it’s worth settling for a cut below the M5, but you’d be surprised at how it is more compelling to use as your daily driver.

To make sure a classic car is a viable suggestion for your daily driver you want to make sure that the car has a good reputation for reliability and low running costs, otherwise, you can find yourself pouring more cash into the car than its RRP.

Fortunately, the 540i (and other E39 models) have this area covered so long as you’re looking at the pre-facelift models. The pre-face-lift models were one of the last BMWs to get away with not having the then troublesome VANOS engines.

Returning 30mpg over the M5s 25mpg should sting a bit less as well as the cheaper servicing costs since the M5s engine (S62) is lubricated by an expensive engine oil (among other pricy consumables). Parts are easier to source and cheaper to buy for the 540i’s M62 engine as it was a much more ubiquitous engine.

At 282HP and 310 lb.ft of torque at 3,600rpm, you’ll find that the performance per £ value is much better than the M5 especially given that the weight tops out at around 1,850kg.

Looks are subjective, yes, but there’s no denying that the E39 has a timeless, understated design. It doesn’t shout about its presence, that is if you don’t count that iconic V8 exhaust note.

Speaking of exhausts, the 540i uses a single-exit exhaust which leaves plenty of room for a spare wheel in the boot, unlike the M5 which trades that for a dual-exit exhaust and a mostly useless tyre foam. And are we forgetting, this is still a practical 4 door saloon with a cavernous boot because having all that performance is no fun if you can’t share it with friends (not that I suggest putting your friends in a boot)

In summary, the 540i is pretty close to being the perfect analogue-performance-daily for our inner Luddite and is definitely more 5er than you’ll ever need unless you’re looking for the touring model (more here on that).

By Jamil Jafri

Editor at The Mechanists