When working, close to motoring perfection, but let me down too many times
Three different failures of the cooling system, each one leaving me stuck at the side of the road.
Transmission required rebuilding when reverse failed.
Fuel pump failed, requiring replacement.
I have never owned a better car, yet I have never owned a worse car. To this day I remain conflicted about my 535.
On the plus side, the 225 bhp V8 petrol gave effortless performance. The handling was sublime, tricking you into thinking you were throwing a much smaller car into bends. Refinement was excellent, the 5-speed auto being so long geared that the engine was barely above tickover at motorway cruising speeds. When the 535 was behaving, it truly did feel like the ultimate driving machine.
Then the car would break down, and the illusion of precise German engineering would be shattered! The cooling systems of E39 5-series petrols seems to be designed to self-destruct - horrible cheap plastic everywhere that's just asking to fail. Of the five friends of mine who bought E39s, each one had some sort of cooling issue within the first six months of ownership.
I thought I was out of the woods after cooling system failure number three and a full transmission rebuild (€2,000, thank you very much!), but then the fuel pump died. I didn't dare go near a main dealer, but even a local mechanic didn't leave me with any change from €800. That was the straw that broke the donkey's back: I felt I had to get rid of the car after that.
Apart from all the breakdowns, running costs weren't what you'd call cheap. Nobody buys a 3.5-litre V8 for economy reasons, but driving in town, expect 18 mpg (UK) and plenty of visits to the petrol station. Motorway runs were better, returning 24 - 26 mpg, and one gentle run on back roads in the west of Ireland saw the on-board computer reading 32 mpg after the 90-minute trip.
If you're looking for a weekend car, or one that won't spend its life in traffic, and you can find one that's had its cooling system and transmission done already, then let your heart win out over your head and buy one. Just be prepared for the worst; that dreadful sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when the on-board computer goes "bong" and flashes up its latest tale of failure and woe on the matrix display.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 2nd November, 2010