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5-Series (E12,E28, E34, E39, E60) Chat relating to the BMW 5-Series of all generations. Specific models include: BMW 518, BMW 520, BMW 520i, BMW 530i, BMW 528i, BMW 530i, BMW 518i, BMW 524d, BMW 525i, BMW 525e, BMW 528e, BMW 540i, BMW 535i, BMW 520d, BMW 525td, BMW 525d, BMW 530d, BMW 525i/xi, BMW 530i/xi. (BMW 5-Series Forum)

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Old 03-04-2005, 09:14 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I have lusted for a BMW for quite a few years now and am giving serious consideration to purchasing a 98 540i. While at the dealer (a local Benz dealer) they introduced me to the E320 they had. Also a 98 similar miles and equipment.

The 540 definitely had more power and drove more like a sports car, but the E320 was very stable and provided more room for my family of 4. (Larger interior and 4 cu ft. more trunk space.

I found both a pleasure to drive although very different.

SO now the real question is, which one will give me the better reliability. No matter how much I enjoy driving a car, constant gremlins or high cost repairs will taint any ownership experience.

I don't actually trust the service departments from either dealer (looked at a local BMW dealer earlier in the week), as both state their cars a "bullet proof". It seems that there were a couple of recalls on the 98 5 series and it seemed to have a rough idle when cold but ran fine on the highway. There was also a low coolant message on the console (radiator leak?), and of course the pixels were buring out on the message display (how much to fix that?).

The E320 felt flawless, and had not even been detailed yet. Engine looked clean and everythign was tight. I found a number of messages on other non-BMW / Mercedes forums that stated problems with the transmission on the E320, and frequent power window isues.

Which do you feel is the more sound choice? And I fully understand the BMW driving experience. Loved everyone I've drivien. Z3, 328, 528, 540 and M5. And that may be the answer right there.

As I'm most likely to make this purchase in the next 48 hours any replies will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-04-2005, 09:55 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I would def. go with the 540. You can actually "drive" a bmw if you are in the mood. plus it has more power, and looks better
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Old 03-04-2005, 05:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You are comparing a 6-cylinder of ho-hum performance with a torquey and powerful V8 sedan that (in its generation) consistently was a Car & Driver 10 Best winner. On top of all that, in 2001 the higher-output I-6, the 530i scored the highest of any car ever tested by Consumer Reports. IMHO, it's hard to believe the same person could seriously consider purchasing both a 540 AND a 320. used

That said, an incredible deal, price-wise, could drive the decision toward one or the other car.

I do not know much about Mercedes reliability. My stance on the BMW is that the 528i (the closer equivalent to a 6-cylinder E-Class) is more reliable than the 540, but the difference isn't huge. If you can turn a wrench yourself, then there is absolutely no reason to shy from the 540.

On the other hand, if you are the type who has to take every single little issue to the dealer for repair, then you need to buy either a Lexus or an Acura.
No, seriously...
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Old 03-16-2005, 07:42 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I wanted to thank you both for the replies. I will be taking delivery of my 540 this Thursday. I can hardly wait.

I do have some newbie questions about the car.

1. I assume the in-car phone is analog, probably not possible to get service?
2. Anything I should be aware of in the first few months of owning this car? (Trouble areas that I should monitor.)
3. How long till my first speeding ticket? Man is that car smooth, and it's soooo easy to cruise over the 35mph residential speed limit.
4. General care thoughts. This is my first car with nice leather. What products and routine do you use to maintain it?


Thanks again.

Looking forward to my driving experience.
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Old 03-16-2005, 09:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Keep your eye out for coolant leaks at the radiator neck.
As far as leather care, Leatherique is hands down the best out there... www.leatherique.com but it is pretty expensive. I'd say use it, but if you cant afford it all the time, use it once to get you srtarted and then switch to lexol leather care and do leatherique once a year or so.

Im not so sure about that crazy old phone though.. lol
either way. . congrats on your new "toy" and enjoy
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Old 03-16-2005, 09:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Congrats on making the right choice! Is your 540 a manual or automatic? What model year and how many miles? Those factors will determine what you ought to look out for. Let me know and I can comment.

Yes I agree the leather is very, very nice. I recommend Meguiar's Gold Touch Leather Cleaner & Conditioner, in the squeeze bottle (like lotion). Do NOT buy it in the spray bottle - it's totally different and it sucks.

Speeding ticket? Probably a matter of time because speed is so effortless and it is so smooth. The good news is that it's a relatively bland sedan shape that doesn't stand out much in traffic so I haven't felt "picked on" by the cops or anything.
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Old 03-22-2005, 08:50 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thanks Eric.

It's a 98 540i with just over 64K miles on it. Automatic Transmission. I would have preferred the manual, but most all reviews I read, actuall recommended the auto vs the stick. How long does it take for the computer to "learn" my driving pattern to self adjust the auto shift points? I haven't done much driving in sport mode yet, but will have to correct that soon.

I did find some simple pleasures in flying around the freeway entrance/exit ramps. It's pretty impressive when I can do 65 while on an entrance ramp.

We did take it down to DC last weekend and I found myself using the Cruise control a lot more than I used to, and at one point we were on a two lane road with a speed limit of 45. It was almost painful to be going so slow. LOL

The car is Artic silver in color and while I admit that the black looks really sharp, I think it attracts more attention and I'm all for being as stealthy as I possibly can.

What's really funny is I keep looking outside each morning, just to make sure the car is really there. It's such a dream come true, after being a long term fan of the 5-series to finally own one, and a 540 to boot.

A few things I've noticed in the first 5 days of ownership.
1. Yeah the cup holders do suck. But it keeps us from ordering large sodas at the drive through now. Probably a good thing.
2. Wow does the brake dust build up quick. One road trip, mostly highway, and no agressive braking and the front wheels are already grungy.
3. Left front headlight is out of alignment (vertically). Seems like there is a broken plastic piece in the housing. I assume I need a whole new assembly. Is that common and how much to fix?
4. Seems to have a small oil leak that I want to track down, but not surprising considdering it's 7 years old.
5. Does the car feel larger inside than it really is? Meaning, parking in an underground parking garage was a bit hairy, since I am unfamiliar with where the perimiter of the car is. Of course I'm moving up from driving an MR2, VW Golf and Elantra. (Talk about a step up!)
6. The led display in the instrument cluster is missing a few lines. Seems like a few connections are bad, is there an easy fix for this? Note this is the one on the dash, not the display by the radio.
7. Low beam illumination seems worse than I expected. Probably in part due to the drivers side headlight being misaligned. I was going to change the bulbs, and had previously liked the Sylvania Silver Star halogen bulbs. They seemed to provide good coverage vs standard bulbs. I found the PIAA bulbs to be overrated, but are there other suggestions? HID conversion will have to wait a few months.

Thanks again for all the help. And I'm happy to be a member of the sleepless night club. LOL
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Old 03-22-2005, 09:15 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally posted by sp0rky@Mar 16 2005, 10:19 AM
Keep your eye out for coolant leaks at the radiator neck.
As far as leather care, Leatherique is hands down the best out there... www.leatherique.com but it is pretty expensive. I'd say use it, but if you cant afford it all the time, use it once to get you srtarted and then switch to lexol leather care and do leatherique once a year or so.

Im not so sure about that crazy old phone though.. lol
either way. . congrats on your new "toy" and enjoy
[snapback]312642[/snapback]
Is this an upper mount or lower mount? I did look over the upper hose connection and didn't see any signs of leakage, but saw the plastic connector that everyone referred to.

And which products from leatherique do you use? And the order of application will be helpful.
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Old 03-22-2005, 09:57 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Rejuvinator oil and prestine clean are the way to go for leatherique, unless you want to do a complete restore which is a lot of work and really not necessary.

You clean the seats as best you can by hand, and with a vacuum cleaner - then you want to generously apply the rejuvinator oil on a nice hot day and let it soak for the whole day if you can. Get all the residue off after that, or if the seat sucked it all up, apply the prestine clean and work it in with either a terry cloth or a soft soft brush, wait just a few minutes and clean it off. It really works wonders and everybody else who has used it swears it works wonders, too. It's truely unbeleivable.

btw: the hoses aren't such an issue as much as its the plastic expansion tank / neck that the hose connects to (all attached to / by the radiator)

keep havin fun with it
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Old 03-22-2005, 10:40 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally posted by sp0rky@Mar 22 2005, 10:57 AM


btw: the hoses aren't such an issue as much as its the plastic expansion tank / neck that the hose connects to (all attached to / by the radiator)

keep havin fun with it
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Bingo. This was replaced at the BMW dealer across the street from where I bought it, prior to my purchase. That's good news!

Now if I can only figure out how to fix the headlight issue and the oil leak, (I can live with the pixels burned out), then I'll feel really good.
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Old 03-22-2005, 12:35 PM   #11 (permalink)
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First off, Congrats on your new ride. Everybody seems to have answered most of your questions, except for lighting so here it goes. As far as bulbs go, I don't remember exactly which model light bulb we use, but find out, and go to any import parts store. They usually sell an off brand, and they are generally brighter than hell, which makes them great if you don't tailgate police regularly, the no name ones my friend has on his integra are so bright that they look like HID High's in his low beams. Look into a chip if they have one, nothing like improving power with mileage.
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Old 03-23-2005, 08:12 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I don't see where anyone answered your question regarding the burned-out pixels, so here is my feeble attempt to help. The bad news is that it is not an easy fix. The good news is that BMW NA may handle it. Research the last month of posts at the Roadfly forum (http://bimmer.roadfly.org/bmw/forums/e39/), I've seen a lot of info on it there.

Regarding the choice of automatic over manual in a 540. You mentioned your research found that the automatic was recommended. Just to "stick up" for the 6-speed (pun intended), I have to ask whether you actually drove both to see for yourself? Also, did you research the curb weight for each to see that the manual version is 55 pounds lighter at 3748 lb. versus 3803 lb.? (1999 MY) Not to mention the torque advantage with a shorter 1st gear...

Please don't take this as a slamming, the 540 is an awesome choice, auto or not! I just wanted to highlight an often-overlooked manual advantage for anyone else about to take the plunge into 540-land. Please post some photos when ya get a chance, and let us know how your pixel fix works out!
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