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BMW E39 540i M-Sport: Not the M5 you deserve, but the M5 you need right now

[dropcap style=”style1″]E[/dropcap]very marque has their thoroughbred, their top tier flagship, or their top model. That car everyone aspires to own in one form or another. Some have posters on their walls, some have relatives who owned them, and others remark of stories about that one time they got smoked in their brother’s T/A… You know the one. Almost every time though, the lesser models in the lineup grow overshadowed, overlooked, and easily dismissed. The truth is, despite seeming shortcomings, lesser models can be equally as good. In 2003, BMW decided to give the outgoing E39 5 series saloon, a final dose of steroids, and consequentially made an M5 for the people.

The 540i, even in the days of the E34 was always a true gentleman’s performance saloon. Since 1995 the powerful M60 V8 was available with either a slushbox, or an enthusiast friendly six speed manual transmission. Manual equipped 540i’s only became more common over the years, although they still remained fairly uncommon, but always remained a sleeper. By 2003, the final year of the best 5 series ever made, BMW birthed the limited edition M-Sport package for the 540i. The $4,200 option was hefty but consisted of cosmetic and performance upgrades to make the 540i sit right in between the legendary M5, and the standard 5. Cosmetically, M-Sport cars got M5 style MTECH bumpers, with a t-bar in the front grille, and black rub strips matching the Shadowline trim, all around giving the car a distinct look. Staggered 18’’ M-Parallel wheels grace the timeless and handsome chassis, being one of the best wheel designs to ever grace BMW.  Interiors were met with a three spoke sport steering wheel, black headliner, and enough M goodies to make an M5 owner jealous. Mechanically M-Sport cars received sport suspension, sport exhaust system, and finally a shorter differential ratio. Auto cars also got a tighter torque converter. Engine performance remained the same, but still a powerful 300 bhp.

The M-Sport could basically be boiled down to an M5 with 100 less horsepower, and fewer gimmicks, though it’s argued the car is easily 90% of the thrill at half the cost and maintenance. Despite this, the 540i M-Sport is only really starting to catch on as a bargain as M5 prices begin to settle. This might be a good thing, as only roughly 2,000 M-Sport cars were produced. The 540i M-Sport might not be the M5 you deserve, but it just might be the M5 you need right now.

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