BMW 5 Series (E39) 1996-2004



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BMW 5 Series (E39)

The BMW E39 is the BMW 5 Series made between 1995 and 2003. The E39 was the successor of the BMW E34 in 1995, and itself was replaced by the E60 in 2003. Sales to Germany and most of Western Europe began in 1995, and by 1996 sales to the rest of the world had commenced. A mid-generational refresh appeared in 2000, featuring minute detail changes. At launch, the base model was the 520i, which developed 112 kilowatts (150 hp) in the pre-update models, and 126 kilowatts (170 hp) in later models. An M5 variant was introduced in 1998, with a 4.9-litre S62 V8 engine. All models but the M5 were available as either a saloon or an estate, the latter called Touring.


Development for the E34's successor began in early 1989, internally known as "Entwicklung 39" and ended in 1995. The final design was approved in 1993, with the German design patent being filed on April 20, 1994. The first pilot production models were built in February 1995, with full-scale production starting later in the year. The complete vehicle redesign draws heavily from the E38 7 Series in body construction and electronic technology. The mid-level BMW saloon showed evolutionary styling changes rather than a dramatic redesign. Initially offered only as a saloon, the wheelbase grew by 68 millimetres (2.7 in) and overall length by 55 millimetres (2.2 in) over the previous 5-series, the E34. In the US, the new 5 Series came in two forms: the 528i and 540i. The 1996 528i introduced a new M52 in-line six that it shared with the E36 328i, the 540i a 4.4-litre M62 V8 shared with the E38 740i. Both engines were upgraded over the prior 5 Series generation. The 2.8-litre dual overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine made 141 kilowatts (190 hp), versus 210 kilowatts (282 hp) for the 4.4-litre dual overhead camshaft, all-aluminium V8. A ZF S5-31 five-speed close-ratio manual transmission was standard on the 528i, with an optional A4S 310 R four-speed automatic or (in Rest of World models) a A5S310Z five-speed Steptronic transmission (based on the ZF 5HP18). The 540i, in contrast, could have either a Getrag six-speed manual or a new five-speed A5S 560Z automatic transmission with adaptive transmission control (with or without Steptronic option). Standard equipment on both models included dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, power steering, and air conditioning.





The E39 all-steel body acts as a safety cage for occupant protection. The structural rigidity of the monocoque was increased using computer-aided engineering. This allows key points to be reinforced, to increase rigidity, without significantly adding to the weight. The overall increase is 10 kilograms (20 lb), which is offset by the aluminium suspension. Laser welding techniques ensure rigid bonding throughout.[5] Another area of focus in the design of the body was in structural dynamics. The body was designed so that the frequencies for torsional twisting and bending are in separate ranges and above natural frequency. These frequencies are out of the range of engine and driveline vibrations; thus they will not amplify them.


The aerodynamically designed body and features of the E39 gave the 528i and 540i, 0.28 and 0.31 drag coefficients respectively. Torsional rigidity was also increased over the E34, by 40 percent. The chassis was so stiff that the rigidity was unchanged for the E60 model.[7] This added stiffness allows the suspension to work with more accuracy. It also allows total engineering of ride quality through the suspension; rather than in combination with body flex.

BMW 5 Series (E39)

Manufacturer  BMW

Production  September 1995 – June 2003 (sedan)

June 1996 – April 2004 (wagon)

Assembly  Germany: Dingolfing

Mexico: Toluca[1]

Russia: Kaliningrad[2]

Predecessor  BMW 5 Series (E34)

Successor  BMW 5 Series (E60)

Class  Mid-size luxury car

Body style  4-door saloon

5-door estate

Layout  Front engine, rear-wheel drive

Engine  2.8 L M52B28 I6

3.5 L M62B35 V8

4.4 L M62B44 V8

2.5 L M54B25 I6

3.0 L M54B30 I6

4.9 L S62B50 V8

Transmission  5-speed manual

4-speed automatic

5-speed automatic

6-speed manual

Wheelbase  2,830 mm (111.4 in)

Length  4,775 mm (188.0 in) (saloon)

4,806 mm (189.2 in) (estate)

Width  1,801 mm (70.9 in)

Height  1,435 mm (56.5 in) (saloon)

1,415 mm (55.7 in) (2000-03 540i saloon)

1,440 mm (56.7 in) (1997-99 estate)

1,417 mm (55.8 in) (1997-99 540i saloon)

1,486 mm (58.5 in) (2000-03 estate)

Designer(s)  Joji Nagashima (1993)

Steering and suspension


With the E39, two steering types and double pivot, MacPherson strut suspensions systems are used. For the 520i–530i models, BMW, for the first time in a 5 series, utilised rack and pinion steering. This not only offers weight reductions over the recirculating ball type used on the V8s, but also provides quicker steering response through its variable ratio, as well as a more precise feel. This system steers from the front of the axle.

Interior showcasing the updated E39's interior with widescreen navigation & TV.


Six-cylinder models also receive an aluminium front subframe. The struts use aluminium "Tension Link" that comes from a forward position back to the front of the wheel and an aluminium horizontal link to locate them. Aluminium is used for the steering knuckles, outer strut tube, and the spring pads; saving 21 kilograms (46 lb).

BMW 530i (E39) Sport sedan (Australia)

BMW 525i station wagon (Japan)


With the 540i, BMW retained the front steering and suspension from the previous E34 540i with the design based on the E38 7 Series. The physical size, dimensions, and weight of the V8 engine required the use of the older recirculating ball steering. This system steers from the back side of the axle. The front subframe is steel. To compensate for the heavier front end, BMW used extra aluminium in components including the steering box, steering knuckles, outer strut tube, and the spring pads. The struts are located by an aluminium "Thrust Link" that comes from the rear to meet the back of the wheel and an aluminium horizontal link.


The E39 employs similar design to the E38 7 Series for the rear suspension, regardless of the model specified. This "four-link integral rear suspension" or "Z-link" axle was first introduced on the BMW Z1. With this, Chapman struts are utilised. Through precise toe angle changes, stable yet responsive handling without unwanted toe change effects under load is achieved.

Interior showcasing the updated E39's interior with widescreen navigation & TV.

BMW 530i (E39) Sport sedan (Australia)

BMW 525i station wagon (Japan)

Engine specifications


Various engine sizes and configurations have been available. The North American market saw the 525i, 528i, 530i, 540i and M5. The European range was however, more diverse, with BMW offering the 520i, 523i, 525i, 528i, 530i, 535i, 540i, 525tds, 520d (the only four-cylinder 5-Series engine on this generation), 525d, 530d and M5.


Flexible Electronics Design


Since the start of production the entire in-car entertainment system (Radio Function, Navigation System, Television and Telecommunications systems) is based on a very flexible automotive computer system. As a result the E39 models can all be easily upgraded with the newest BMW technologies including BMW's Bluetooth System, the DVD based Navigation system, as well as BMW's CD changers that play MP3s. The factory navigation systems before 1998 production were based on the first generation MKI (or Mark I) Navigation system. This CD Based MKI navigation system used internal gyros, an external Trimble GPS navigation receiver and external video processor, which also received Television signals (TV Video module). The CD Based MKII version was introduced in 1998 Model Year E39s and included a newer, and faster processor which included the video processing function, no longer requiring the TV video module, and USA model E39s with navigation no longer included the TV module function as a factory option. The Next Generation Navigation Computer starting with the 2001 Production E39, the MKIII, was also a CD Based Navigation system and was equipped with a faster processor as well as internal GPS receiver. The MKIII Navigation computers were very susceptible to electronic failures due to spikes in battery voltage such as jump starting. BMW documentation shows that failures may occur as a result of loss in NVRAM Memory corruption when power is abruptly disconnected when the activity light is still illuminated. 2003 Model Year E39s with navigation were equipped with the MKIV DVD based navigation system, which featured DVD map support, included a faster processor and latest generation software supporting "Perspective mode" or 3D map viewing (V32 Firmware). The MKIV navigation is backwards compatible with ALL model year BMW E39s. Upgrading the BMW MKII or MKIII navigation computer equipped E39s is a simple plug and play swap out, with MKI system upgrading requiring the additional connection of the separate GPS receiver antenna disconnected and directly connected to the back of the mkiv. E39s built before 1998 and equipped with the MKI navigation system can be upgraded to the MKIV as well, simply by either replacing the MKI Navigation plugs with a new BMW wiring harness, (BMW part Number BMW 61 12 6 915 132) Or by simply disconnecting the BLUE plug on the TV video module and connecting this plug directly to the back of MKIV and not connecting the missing Magenta Plug. However, upgrading the MKI navigation system without the BMW P/N 61 12 6 915 132 will eliminate the dead reckoning function (Missing Connection for ABS wheel sensors and Reverse Sensors).


From 1997–2000, the E39 model range in North America consisted of the 528i, 540i, and M5. In 2001, the 528i was discontinued and replaced by the 525i and 530i. The 520i, 523i, 525i and 528i were powered by a 110 kilowatt (150 hp) engine in earlier versions, a 126 kilowatt (170 hp) and 141 kilowatt (190 hp) engines respectively. These were all versions of the gasoline M52 inline-six engine. The 530i was powered by a 171 kilowatt (231 hp) inline-six, the M54, shared with the E46 330i. The 540i was initially powered by the 210 kilowatt (282 hp) 4.4 litre M62B44 V8 which was derived from the earlier E34 5 Series' M60, but included upgraded cylinder block material, electronics, and more displacement. In September 1998, the 540i received the further upgraded M62TUB44, which was also seen in the E38 (7 Series) and in the BMW E53 (X5). This engine supported a VANOS variable valve timing system, and had electronic throttle control. It was slightly boosted to 220 kW (290 hp) for years 1998 to 2003 540i's.

Changes by model year (US)



The 1997 model year 5 series E39 was introduced into the US market in the spring of 1996. Models available were the 528i with an I6, and the 540i with a M62 V8. The on-board computer, called the Multi-Information System (MID), was upgraded in mid-1997.


1997–2000 BMW Saloon (North America; pre-facelift)



For 1998 optional rear side airbags became available, and both models also gained BMW's exclusive new Head Protection System, which consists of two tubular bags that inflate upon a side impact and pop out just above each front door. A new Sport Package for the 528i and 540i, as well as an automatic transmission 540i were added options. The Sport Package included black body trim (standard models had chrome around the top of the windows), a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch (430 mm) wheels and tires. In September 1998, the 540i's M62B44 was updated to the M62TUB44, adding 15 lb·ft (20 N·m) of torque. DSC first became available on 540i with automatic transmission as of 9/97


The high-performance M5 saloon returned to the BMW fold. Built in limited numbers, the M5 used a 400 hp (300 kW) V8 S62, and came with a firmer suspension, 18 inch wheels, a 6-speed manual transmission, and exclusive interior trim. Lower-body rear side airbags were standard on the M5, remaining optional for other models.



1999 saw the introduction of the Touring (estate) body style and joined saloons in both I6 and V8 versions. New options for 1999 included brighter xenon headlights, Park Distance Control that warns of obstacles when backing up, and self-leveling rear suspension for estates. Standard on V8 models and newly optional for 528i versions was BMW's Dynamic Stability Control, designed to aid control in fast turns. The M52 2.8 liter I6 engines were now an all aluminium block and head with the introduction of double VANOS, as opposed to the previous single VANOS iron block/aluminium head M52. M62 4.4 liter V8 engines were updated with single VANOS and electronic throttle control. The addition of VANOS provided a flatter torque curve, with higher max torque at a lower peak rpm. The "M Sport" package was added (replacing the standard sport package), and included the M Sport steering wheel, door sills, and shift knob.

1997–2000 BMW Saloon (Europe; pre-facelift)

1996–2000 BMW E39 estate (Europe; pre-facelift)

2000–2003 BMW 525i (Australia; facelift)



In 2000, rain-sensing windshield wipers and xenon headlamps became standard on the 540i, and were newly available for 528i models. The 528i versions also gained the 540i's standard stability control system. All models now had daytime running lights, and fog lamps.

European Market BMW 5 series (facelift)



For the 2001 model year (Cars made from September 2000), BMW updated the E39 with newer, clear-lens tail, side marker, and headlights which first displayed the now-popular "angel eyes." Rear tail lights were changed to "wave-guide" LEDs (Hella, the OEM, refers to these lights as "CELIS"), while the side and rear turn signals were changed from amber lenses to clear. The black trim was now painted to match the body color, and the front bumper now featured rounded fog lights. Internally many changes were made to electronics; items such as window regulators and the air conditioning were updated. The 528i was replaced by the 530i which had a new 170 kW (228 hp) M54B30 3.0 L inline-6. A new entry-level 525i was introduced featuring a 143 kW (192 hp) M54B25 2.5 L I6 and a slightly lower price. The available navigation system was changed to a wide screen version. The front grill was also changed to a new, more pronounced design.


New "Angel-Eyes" BMW E39 M-Sport package after facelift



For 2002, BMW Steptronic-equipped E39s had their manual shift direction switched to match BMW's SMG (forwards to downshift, backwards to upshift). Also, in 2002 the 540i V8 32V engine power was increased from 210 kW (282 hp) to 216 kW (290 hp) while torque remained the same. All models got a standard in-dash CD player, 6-cylinder models added a standard power passenger seat, and the 525i received automatic climate control standard. Consumer Reports declared the 2002 BMW E39 the best car they had ever reviewed.




2003 marked the last year for the E39 platform; they were differentiated by the addition of extra chrome trim on the trunk (boot) and on the sides of the body. In all 6-cylinder model 5-Series add a standard sunroof. The optional navigation systems upgraded from CD-ROM format (8 CDs to cover the entire USA and Canada) to a single DVD-ROM. The optional sport package on the 540i carried parts from M-technic. This included a full M-tech ground effects, M-tech II suspension, 18 inch wheels, and a variety of M badging. Isofix/LATCH child seat anchors were added. The E39 estate (touring) was continued into 2004 until the touring version of the new E60 5 Series was released.

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