Considering buying 2001 E39 530i Touring SE with auto box and sat nav
(in the UK)
1) Technology changes so rapidly - is the sat nav any good - how might
it compare to the vurrent range of devices which have had 4 or 5 years
more development - is it still worthwhile having?
2) The 530i engine - any known weaknesses or gotchas?
The car has circa 65k miles on it.
Nice car - I drive a 2002 E39 530dA Touring.
http://www.bilgalleri.dk/html/gal_visbil.asp?ID )266 (In Danish I am
Definately YES - it would say. I got the original BMW nav with 16:9
screen and CD based maps in my car - it works very well I think, and a
lot better than TomTom on a PDA that I used before. It is still
possible to purchase updated maps for it, it does route calculation in
a matter of seconds. If the one you are looking on has the 4:3 screen
you would have to live with looking at that very not-high-tech
cassette deck that has been hidden behind the screen in the 16:9
I do not think so. It is important that it has been serviced, apart
from the the E39 is very often considered as one of the best cars in
it's class ever made.
Worthwhile? Only you can decide. BMW's nav is not the equal of that in the
Acura or Lexus, but it works well enough. IMO, NO automotive sat nav system
has quite got it right in terms of ergonomics, flexibility and features.
With nav you have the high OBC and Check Control. The instrument cluster is
prone to burned out pixels in the info area.
None to speak of. Insure all the fluids are changed. Brakes at least every
two years, coolant every two (BMW only says 4 now), differential @ 30K miles
(BMW never), trans @ 30-50K (BMW says 100K, used to be lifetime), PS every
30K (forgot that one, eh?). I synch mine with service intervals, but that
tends to be 32K and 2 years for me, so ...
There's a service bulletin on the ignition coils, but the 2001 isn't listed.
There's a service bulletin on the aux fan relay. Insure the bad part is not
in the car (underhood fires a remote possibility).
The cooling system is the weakest link. somewhere around 75K (plus or
minus) a preventative maintenance of the thermostat, its housing, and water
pump would be a good thing. The plastic radiator is a known weakness (it
cracks around the upper hose fitting), but more so on the V8's.
Mechanically, the engine should be good for 200K+ (valvotronic the possible
exception ... but there are no indications of excessive failures on any of
the special interest boards).
The E39 was considered the leader of its class for most of its production
term. You won't be disappointed.
R / John (2003 530i SP)
BMW's recommendations are the "new" intervals that were introduced with
"free" maintenance in the US. As the fluids haven't changed and the needs
to change them haven't changed, the schedule I presented is the "old"
interval that BMW recommended prior to free maintenance. Following the new
vice the old probably doesn't matter if the car is to be turned over in 100K
miles, but if you're in it for the long haul ...
R / John
1) BMW NAV is sad compared to the Japanese. BMW should have done what
Jaguar did and specified the Nippon Denso unit used by Lexus in its
2) The "weakness" of the car you're looking at is NOT the engine, but
the Auto transmission. Those things with their *lifetime* fluid are
expected to only last to 100,000 to maybe, and that's maybe 125,000
miles. Period. That is what BMW considers to be *lifetime*. If I had
to getan automatic trans, would try to find a car that has the tranny
fluid changed every 30-40,000 miles.
Except for the oil pump bolts, much higher failure rate of radiator, etc.
Care and feeding of the V8 is more expensive over the long haul. Of course
its extra grunt is addictive, but the 225HP I6 has ample power. If you
REALLY want power in an E39, a tuner M5 is the way to go.
R / John
Some think the E39 530i with 5 speed manual trans and sport suspension
was "better" than the 540i because BMW used rack and pinion steering
instead of the worm and gear drive found on the 540i. They felt tha
tthe 530i could outcorner the 540.
With comparable tires, likely. Not so much the steering, but the simple
matter of weight. The 530 is lighter on its feet. Most of the 540's weight
is on the front tires, which tends to emphasize understeer.
Too bad BMW never gave the 530 a 6sp. With the overdrive 6th, a more
aggressive diff ratio would have been possible without compromising mileage.
R / John
I have often heard repeated this statement (about the eights being front
heavy) but cannot find any supporting evidence that it is true.
Certainly the added weight of the larger engine is a handicap in
handling. About 250 lbs of difference in curb weight between the E39 3
liter six and 4.4 liter eight. But the engineers moved things around in
their designs to try to retain the 50/50 weight bias that BMWs are famed
for regardless of the total.
I can't find and weight distribution specs on the E39, but from the BMW
NA site info is available for the "current-day" 5 series. A 530i weighs
3,472 lbs with a 50.8% / 49.2% (F/R) weight distribution. A 550i that
weighs 3803 lbs total (331 lbs heavier) has a 51.3% / 48.7% F/R weight.
So while the modern 530i is 55 lbs heavier on the rear axle than the
front, the 550i is 91 lbs heavier on the rear than the front. The total
difference between the two of 36 lbs is hardly significant. Throw a
small gym bag in the trunk and you are all square.
I think the issue isn't that the 540i is too front heavy but that the
overall car is heavier and thus, not as nimble. Some say the rack and
pinion found only on the six cyl. cars helps alot in making the 530i
*feel* faster in a tight course too.
Of course, if you want torque, forget it! Get the 540i and enjoy!
For the E39 auto (2003 brochure)
530i 3549 50.9/49.1
540i 3803 52.5/47.5
I should have commented that most of the 540's EXTRA weight was on the front
wheels. It's not dramatic, but its there. (Don't you find the 3803 weight
interesting compared to the 550i?) The 540 SP's also go with staggered
wheelsets and larger rubber on the rear. This improves straight line
traction but further unbalances the car. The 540 has somewhat less rear
roll stiffness, also contributing to understeer. Of course, with the torque
of the V8, you can always steer with the throttle.
The 540's power and torque are wonderful selling points versus the 530. But
while you can only occasionally enjoy that extra performance, you have its
costs (great and small) always. They're both great cars, and both have
R / John
OK good. So they were:
530i Total: 3549 Rear: 1742 Front: 1806 Heavier in the rear by 64 lbs
540i Total: 3803 Rear: 1806 Front: 1996 Heavier in the rear by 190 lbs
So the V8 is 254 lbs heavier in total and picks up 126 lbs in the front
bias. Yep, that seems to prove it out. But it is still pretty evenly
biased as compared to the vast majority of cars on the road.
Yes, I do. I'm sure that the BMW engineers had to work very hard to
maintain that weight with a bigger engine.
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