Buy­ing Guide BMW 5-Se­ries

Few sa­loons are as classy and ca­pa­ble as the BMW 5 Se­ries, and the E39 is a mod­ern clas­sic bar­gain

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - WORDS Chris Ran­dall PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Magic Car Pics

‘A four-fig­ure sum se­cures a nice one – sound ex­am­ples do still ex­ist’

It’s been 45 years since the BMW 5 Se­ries ar­rived in E12 form, and it’s been pro­vid­ing classy ex­ec­u­tive trans­port ever since. The Mu­nich firm has shifted mil­lions of them, and de­servedly so, but we’re con­cen­trat­ing here on the the fourth gen­er­a­tion E39.

Launched at the 1995 Frank­furt Mo­tor Show, the E39 has long been recog­nised as one of the best. Sleeker than its E34 pre­de­ces­sor, and boast­ing im­pres­sive qual­ity and re­fine­ment, it was fit­ted with a range of diesel, silky-smooth straight-six and V8 en­gines, and could be had in sa­loon or Tourer guise.

To­day, a barely four-fig­ure sum will se­cure a nice one and while plenty were ne­glected as they de­scended into bar­gain sta­tus, sound ex­am­ples do still ex­ist. So, a bit of care is needed be­fore tak­ing the plunge, but it’ll be worth it as the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is su­perb. The blend of ride and han­dling is top notch, with beau­ti­fully judged damp­ing and the sort of pre­cise, oily-slick steer­ing that makes an E39 as at home on a twisty B-road as it is rack­ing up the mo­tor­way miles in re­fined com­fort. Add in a plush, wel­com­ing cabin that was a marked change over the pre­vi­ous E34’s gran­ite-solid, but slightly clin­i­cal af­fair, and it re­ally is the com­plete pack­age. En­try-level petrol or diesels mod­els aren’t es­pe­cially sparkling per­form­ers, but the sixes and V8s won’t leave you want­ing when it comes to pace, and of course there’s the fire­breath­ing M5. The re­spon­sive, slick-shift­ing Step­tronic au­to­matic gear­box is the per­fect part­ner, though the man­ual shift ar­range­ment is counter-in­tu­itive – push for­ward for up­changes and back for down­shifts. Still, this is a mi­nor quib­ble that does noth­ing to spoil an oth­er­wise fine car that im­presses as much now as it did two decades ago. It’s easy to see why it has so many ad­mir­ers.

Four-pot E39s are avail­able, but most peo­ple want the ‘sixes’.

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