Those of us who like BMWs have found the last year or two particularly difficult. It’s hard to watch a company you’ve long admired commit a prolonged act of self-immolation. From a design team whose concept of beauty is about as refined as that of a jellyfish, to a marketing team that is the reincarnation of your high school bully, this is a company seemingly intent on destroying itself.
BMW had a golden era, however, and the good news is that many of the cars from that era are currently well within our budget. A case in point is the mighty BMW E39, the fourth-generation 5-series, produced from 1995-2004. A winner of many awards and untold number of plaudits, it is a modern classic well worth getting your hands on. Having just picked another up ourselves, here are five reasons you too should get one while you can.
1) IT’S LOVELY TO DRIVE
This is the E39’s single biggest selling point. It has been said that this 5-series was the peak of the mechanical car. What that means is that this is a car engineered so well that it doesn’t require any electronic gadgetry to compensate for its shortcomings. It just does everything well. A huge step forward from the previous E34, the E39 features a longer wheelbase, stiffer shell, and significant changes to the suspension, particularly in the use of aluminium components. All of this contributes to a car that is incredibly smooth and balanced.
And that’s before you even get to the engine. No, you won’t find a V8 in this price range (and if you do, walk away), but a host of delightful straight-6s are at your disposal. Both the M52 and M54 won multiple ‘best engine’ awards. And once you’ve experienced one, you’ll know why. Really, if there was a Venn diagram of ride, handling, and powertrain, you’d find the E39 smack in the middle of it.
2) IT’S LOVELY TO LOOK AT
Styled by Joji Nagashima, the E39 was hailed as a design classic the moment it was revealed. It’s not hard to see why. The long bonnet, good proportions, and clean lines just work. While it is clear that this is a car from a different era, especially the pre-facelift cars, it is still one that draws attention to itself in a calm and dignified manner. It has presence without being loud or angry. It’s not controversial. It just sits there with grace and class, letting you know that it is here to serve all your driving needs in style.
3) IT’S LOVELY TO SIT IN
Hailing from the glory days of the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ era, the E39 is very much a driver’s car, a theme that carries on right through the interior. Everything is oriented around the driver – the centre stack tilted towards you, the instruments clear and in your line of vision, a steering wheel which, although a tad large by today’s standards, is positioned just right. But none of that means sacrificing comfort: well-bolstered seats and plenty of soft leather ensure you and your passengers are well and truly coddled.
4) IT’S LOVELY TO BE SEEN IN
We’re not saying you should go out and buy an BMW E39 because of how it makes you look. But it is an established fact that children in your neighbourhood will come up and tell you they like your car. People will repeatedly ask for lifts because your car is so quiet and comfortable. Your family will be pleased when you take the long way home. It carries none of the stigma of the E46 Coupe, nor will anyone assume you’re the typical tailgaiting, indicator-averse X6 driver. You will instead be renown for your embrace of form and function, your intuitive sense of what is truly good, and your wise use of resources.
5) IT’S JUST LOVELY
Don’t just take our word for it. The American car magazine, Car & Driver, put the BMW E39 on its 10-Best list six consecutive times. Consumer Reports said in 2003 that it was the best car they’d ever reviewed. Jeremy Clarkson took the time to write about it after driving one 1000 miles across Africa. It has been hailed in The Telegraph as the best car ever made. Why? Because it’s just lovely in every way.
And all of this is why the E39 is becoming more sought after. If you want one, now is the time.