1998 BMW 5 Series 540i 4.4 liter gas from North America


Could not be happier


When I got the car I replaced tires, windshield wiper rubber, bought new battery, and did an alignment (It's a 10 year old car after all).

Center brake light socket melted out ($10).

Upper radiator hose blew ($150).

Passenger side headrest stopped going up and down (don't care enough to fix it, the rest of the seat controls work fine).

Ignition coils and starter ($660).

General Comments:

For a 10 year old car, the 540i is impressive. When compared to most cars being sold today, the 540i doesn't feel anywhere lacking in power. If you hit some winding roads, the excellent handling and steering feel can't help but put a smile on your face.

The 540i has long highway gearing, so although it only does 0-60 in an average 5.7 seconds (for the auto) and 5.5 (for the manual), it has amazing passing power on the freeway, and the car pulls strongly and easily well into the triple digits.

At highway speeds, the 540i also displays an exceptional confidence and pose. 55 feels like 35, 65 feels like 45, and 90 feels like 70.

For the anyone interested in being engaged in the driving experience, the 540i provides the perfect feedback, at any speed, to put the driver in absolute control of the driving experience.

Strangely enough, some people expect a high performance V8 luxury sport sedan to be problem free, and I have to say for those delusioned enough to think so, Toyota makes a very reliable, poorly handling, overpriced, over-hyped, commuter sofa that will bore you to sleep every time you get behind the wheel. Or, there is the bus.

But if you are willing to pay a bit more in repair costs and maintenance to have to have a car that truly exemplifies the qualities of an "Ultimate Driving Machine", a drive in a BMW 5 series is waiting.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 9th May, 2007

1998 BMW 5 Series 528i 2.8 Litre from North America


A Troublesome Enthusiast's Sedan


At 31,500 miles (500 miles after I bought it) clutch went out. Probably due to poor driving by first owner. I bought the car as a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle from a prestigious California dealership, so I assumed their certification process meant that the clutch would have to have some life left in it. They refused to provide any assistance with the $1900 repair, not covered by warranty because it is a "normal wear and tear item". When I complained that a "certified" car should have more than 500 miles left on a clutch, they said "Sue BMW". I didn't.

At 38,500 miles 1st gear went out. Again, not covered, they said I was probably a bad driver (my next clutch lasted 85,000 miles- so I think I'm fine). Again they said my only recourse was to go after BMW North America. I wrote a letter. No response. $2100.

My car had a warranty until 100,000 miles. The following is a list of repairs that were made during that time for only a $50 deductible:

- (45k) Oil pump failure caused some sort of blockage in lines. Pressure built up. Hose exploded sending oil everywhere. Minor engine fire. Many hoses replaced. Oil pump replaced. Fire lining on hood replaced.

- (52k) Electrical system for A/C failed. No lights, no controls. Entire A/C dash unit replaced.

- (54k) Passenger Power sear failure.

- (54k) Got car back from dealership for power sear failure. Stereo no longer worked. Took 12 business days to locate problem. Loaner car= Kia

- (62k) Driver's power window stuck down

- (63k) Rear passenger window stuck up

- (64k) Terrible engine noise. Dealer diagnoses as a worn belt. "Normal Wear and Tear" so I pay $400. I drive off and engine just stops dead. Turned out to be the timing chain. They replace under warranty and refund my money.

- (66k) Power rear view mirror stop moving. They say it was a fuse.

- (74k) Driver's Exterior door handle does nothing. Some sort of actuator broke. Replaced under warranty

- (75k) Driver power window fails while in up position. While driving on street window suddenly falls into door and shatters. During previous window repair they had failed to put back some of the clamps and screws that hold the window into place. They said "We're surprised it lasted this long." They found it funny.

- (81k) Passenger power window failure.

- (98k) Passenger power seat failure.

Then my warranty ended.

- (103k) Check Engine Light- need new catalytic converter. $600

- (115k) New Clutch $1800

- (122k) While driving in 3rd I accelerate to pass a slow moving truck. I go to shift to 4th and go into 2nd instead. Bam. Had to rebuild the top of the engine. $3000- but my fault.

- (125k) Airbag light-passenger seat sensor failure $300

- (135k) Driver's Interior door handle no longer opens door. Broken actuator. $650

- (135k) Check Engine Light- Sensor for fuel cap broken $400

- (135k) Airbag light- same problem as before. Bad fix by mechanic. He replaced for free.

This is not to mention the DOZENS of cup-holders, front and back, that I have bought. At first I had BMW install them $100 until I looked at it and saw that it takes 5 minutes. So now I do it myself.

Also, the gas cap sensor is very finnicky and the check engine light goes off if you do not tightly screw the cap on. But after a few days of driving it resets.

So I've had a few problems.

General Comments:

The reliability of the car is horrible and the attitude of BMW as a whole is equally bad. But many dealerships have very nice staff.

When the car is working it is a great machine. Its fun to drive for a sedan and is a nice blend of sport and comfort.

It feels zippy because of the manual transmission, but there really isn't that much power. Most of the power-band is a bit strained, but if you know where to keep the rev's you can feel pretty good.

The ride is OK, not lush, not harsh. I have the optional sport package and low profile 17" wheels so my ride is on the firm side.

Rear seat room is fine for most, but not luxurious for tall people on long trips.

Storage is fantastic, especially with my fold down rear seats.

Interior quality is nice. The materials look and feel nice and the leather looks great still, 8 years later.

It is great to have this car with a manual- you can outperform automatic 540's. As far as manual transmissions go, this one only so-so. It will not feel like a sports car's transmission, but its better than the auto if you want to get the most out of the V6.

Depreciation was pretty bad. Car was over $48,000 new (I paid $36000 for it as an 24 month loan return). Now its worth about $7000. Probably wont lose that much value now.

Overall, I think my situation with this was unique. With the exception of being sold a car with no remaining clutch and then having to pay for it- most of the other repairs were done under warranty. If you don't like the hassle of going to dealerships and mechanics- this isn't the car for you. Buy a Lexus (yawn...). This is a bargain enthusiasts sedan. If you cant afford an M5 or a 540i sport (even more problems than my V6), this is a great option for someone seeking a manual luxury sedan. Just get an extended warranty or have a friend who likes to fix cars for free.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 21st December, 2006

6th Jan 2007, 17:12

Just a reminder, the E39 BMW comes with an inline 6 cylinder engine (I6), not a V6. BMW doesn't do V6 engines.

13th May 2008, 21:12

I think this review is very accurate.

I have a '97 528 which I bought in 2000 with 40k miles.

Lots of repairs (esp front end) costing lots of money.

I saved a ton once I found a good mechanic not at a dealer (much cheaper).

Overall it is a nice car and with 230k miles, still looks good but it is expensive to maintain. I probably wouldn't buy another one.

4th Jul 2008, 11:30

It seems the CERTIFIED badge does create some confusion nowadays.

For the buyer, it means everything it's just fine so I can trust it.

For the dealer, it simply means it's a used car and nothing else.

27th Apr 2009, 00:49

I had a BMW 540i, and it too cost a lot of money to maintain. Engine stopped working once the timing chain busted. Fun to drive, but repairs were too numerous; once every couple of months, and added up to be about $3000 every 3-6 months.