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Best Buy Friday: M5-rivalling 1997 BMW 540i

2017-03-03 10:19

Lance Branquinho

HIT IT FOR A SIX: Lance Branquinho thinks this 1997 BMW 540i can be the steal of the month. Image: Supplied

Cape Town - Don’t allow the legend of M5 to fool you. The best of these seminal M-cars was the only atmospheric V8: e39 M5. For many the best 5-Series of all, in fact, is generally regarded as being - surprise, surprise - the e39.

In the era of pre-millennial angst that was the 1990s (and your millennials have no real idea what I’m talking about), the e39 BMW 5-Series was cocoon of calm.

Unfortunately, most of those e39 M5s have been rather abusively driven and badly tended to. But the design merits of e39 can be had in other, rather appealing, ways too.

'Delightfully linear, obsessively smooth'

Remember when most all BMWs were naturally-aspirated? I certainly do. In the 1990s the only turbocharged BMWs you could buy were the diesels and of those your choice was 320d limited. Back in that happier, pre-Smartphone era, BMW engines had no soft rev-limiter issues or abundantly flat torque curves.

They were just delightfully linear, obsessively smooth, completely overengineered motorsport engines for the road. You felt the pedigree in throttle response. Even from the non-M BMWs. It’s why I think this 1997 540i makes a compelling case for itself. As an M5-lite.

READ: 1997 BMW 540i

Image: Supplied

For the price of a gaming laptop, which will suffer crushing depreciation, you can have a 4.4-litre BMW V8 engine, in an elegantly proportioned four-door sedan configuration. With leather the quality of which has aged beautifully. 

Honestly. Why wouldn’t you? The new 540i, launched this week in South Africa, is a turbocharged in-line six. It makes 250kW and 450Nm. Costs R990k. This twenty-year e39 540i makes 210kW and 440Nm. Costs R48 000. Driver engagement merits between the two? We’ll let you ponder that. All I can say is: hydraulic power-steering was a thing once upon a time…

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Two owners. Flawless rims. You can see this 540 has been doted on. And most of all, is has nomenclature which corresponds to engine capacity. Well, almost: that 540 badge should have been 544. Guess the discrepancy between what is badged on the back, on powering up front, is hardly a new issue for BMW. 

Best buy Fridays. It’s our way of getting you thinking about cars - that you shouldn’t.

Image: Supplied


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2017-08-01 13:41
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