Let me begin by saying that I may be slightly biased when it comes to my assured claim that the E39 M5 is the greatest sports sedan of all time. While there are many other remarkable performance sedans out there (E28 M5, E34 M5, W211 E55, C5 RS6, and countless others), the E39 has held a special place in my heart from a young age. Not many other sedans have aged as gracefully and the E39 M5 represents the perfect blend between past and present in the M5 lineage. While its performance is not as remarkably impressive by today’s standards, the E39 M5 blends the right amount of driver involvement with refinement.
While the 560hp F10 M5 will absolutely blow the doors off of the E39 performance wise, it just can’t quite capture the ideal level of involvement that is so quintessentially held by the E39. The E34 and E28 M5s are compelling in their own right and feature some of the best inlines sixes to come out of BMW’s M GmbH, yet their aesthetic designs haven’t withstood the test of time as well (not all may agree).
My introduction to the E39 began in 1999 when my dad purchased his first BMW, a 2000 Biarritz Blue 528i/5. Though I was only six years old at the time, his 528i ignited my passion for BMW and cars in general. It was shortly after the arrival of my dad’s 528i that I received for my birthday a rather influential game, Need for Speed: High Stakes, that happened to include none other than the E39 M5 in its roster of cars. I immediately gravitated to the M5 as it looked oddly familiar to the 528i. At the time, I did not know that the M5 had a 4.9L V8 nor that it had 394hp, yet I understood that the M5 was simply “better.” Naturally, the design captivated me and the E39 M5 soon became my dream car.
Fast forward thirteen years when I had the opportunity to experience the M5 in person in the form of a friend’s near flawless 2000 M5. I had been driving the 528i for two years and while I loved that car, it couldn’t be more different in its driving dynamics despite having the same chassis. I had a preconceived idea of what the M5 would feel like based off of the countless articles and YouTube videos I read and watched over the years but really didn’t know what it actually would feel like. To my surprise driving my friend’s M5 not only met my expectations, but far exceeded them. While I had ridden in both an E60 M5 and E92 M3, the E39 did not feel slow or underpowered by any means despite being a generation behind. Furthermore, I couldn’t believe the near telepathic throttle response courtesy of the eight individual throttle bodies of the S62 V8. Returning to the 528i, I knew that the M5 was firmly rooted in my list of future cars to own.
It wasn’t until nearly a year later that I was seriously in the market for an M5. The 528i continued to be an exceptional car though it started to develop several issues and, to be honest, I had my mind made up that I wanted the mighty M Funf. After several months of obsessively checking various websites such as Autotrader, cars.com, and M5Board I found two promising examples. I was not particularly torn to a certain model year though purchasing a facelift (2001-2003 MY) example had the mid-lifecycle cosmetic changes. Part of me though actually prefers the prefacelift lights as they compliment the classic design cues of the E39 styling. It turned out that both the M5s that I planned to look at were 2000s in two relatively uncommon colors: Anthracite Metallic and Avus Blue Metallic. Though I did not know it at the time, Avus was only available until 2/00 production before being replaced by Le Mans Blue. In fact, the owner of the car had it listed as Le Mans and it wasn’t until discussing over the phone that he realized that it was indeed Avus. As the Anthracite car was located on the way to New Jersey where the Avus M5 was located, it was the first one I looked at. The particular example was very clean with only 51,000 miles yet there were “issues” which deterred me from the car. For one, the M5 still had registration stickers dating back from 2011 which meant that it mostly sat for the duration of the past three years; something that is not a good thing when it comes to a high performance vehicle like the M5. Furthermore, while Anthracite is an absolutely stunning color, the interior spec did not excite me. The M5 was equipped with the “luxury” interior and did not have full leather or Alcantara. I really wanted the “Sport” interior in Silverstone. To top it off, the asking price of $19,500 was a bit out of my price range.
Feeling hopeful about the second car, I began the rest of the trip across Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Based simply off the M5Board post advertising the car, this Avus Blue M5 was more rough cosmetically but looked promising. In person, it was apparent that the car needed some cosmetic work such as new headlights and exterior trim but it felt mechanically sound and had under 100,000 miles. On top of that, the particular example was equipped with Silverstone All Leather that was only available for model year 2000 in the US. All seemed right about this car and I was able to secure it for a fair price that took into account some issues that needed to be addressed. Driving the car home is something that I will remember for a long time. It took weeks for it to finally set in that I owned the car that I had dreamed about since a young child.
I’ve now had the M5 for just over two years and it has been quite the journey of automotive ownership. I’ve nearly completed the seemly endless list of preventative maintenance and have gotten it to a cosmetic state that satisfies my OCD craziness. There have been both high and low points but in the end the novelty of owning the M5 has yet to wear off. In fact, I don’t plan on ever selling it.