1999 BMW 5 Series 540i 4L V8 from South Africa


Love at first throaty rev! Elegant, spacious, refined... yet ready to blast off anytime, anyplace


Water pump failure at 130K kms.

Boot actuator failure - manual key entry.

General Comments:

I've had many BMW's including two E30s (both 325i Sports with LSD), an E36 (316i) and two E39s (a 530i Sport and this 540i), and I've loved them all to bits. This 540i is a dream to own. It starts easily every time I need it, everything works and the car is extremely comfortable on both short and long journeys. I believe it was the best value for money considering what else you can get for close to 80K (Rands), and I know from experience these cars can easily cover over 300k kms. They're built to last.

The water pump failure led me to realise spare parts for the V8 in South Africa might become a problem, as BMW does not continue to carry a lot of stock for them, apparently. All belts and tensioners were replaced on the engine when the pump was replaced, and it cost quite a bit (+2k) and took a bit longer than expected.

I've had some niggly issues with the electrics, for example the steering wheel lifts when you switch off (to ease getting in and out) and sometimes it doesn't drop back down into place on ignition... unless I press the driver memory button, which adjusts the seat, wing mirrors and steering wheel to your preset setting. The ODO LED has also started playing up, but I don't see this as a big deal (can still see the readings, just have to look very closely :)

The boot actuator is a well known problem (see the roadfly / bimmer forums for advice on how to fix/replace this part).

Advice and info from Beamer enthusiasts is readily available for almost anything needing to be done on these cars, and you can save a lot of time and money going the DIY route if so inclined. I let the power steering fluid run dry at one point, but it was an easy job to flush, fix all leaks and replace, thanks to the detailed postings on the forums. I've had many other DIY tasks done quickly and easily on my other BMW's thanks to the forums.

The 540i is a timeless classic, and I personally think this is BMW's most refined shape/design. I bought the car with really nice wheels, and even now at nearly 10 years of age I think she looks absolutely stunning. The throaty V8 is extremely powerful and sounds fantastic. I can really push this car as hard as I can (which she seems to love), yet when I settle off the gas (she gets thirsty when pushed hard) and cruise around the daily commute she drives quietly, doesn't use loads of fuel (averaging 13l/100kms urban, 11l/100kms highways, and is extremely comfortable :)

Highly recommended if you like your cars, don't mind tinkering, and are prepared to look after them. The last two BMW's I've owned I've sold for more than I paid for them... and I think in this case it'll be the same. Grab one now before they get expensive ;)

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 22nd April, 2009

12th May 2009, 01:31

I currently own a 1999 BMW 540i/A which I bought second hand from my brother in-law. And I must say this is a fantastic car. The review above nails it on the head. Value for money this is really a good car, and I can't see myself getting another car in the near future. Great car, I just love it!

8th Dec 2009, 23:38

I've had a 99 540i 6 spd now for 3 months and I smile every time I look at it. I get emotional when I describe what its like to drive it. I realized that when I bought her that maintenance would be expensive, and that she would chug fuel but I don't care. This car is amazing!!! I look forward to the end of the work day as I know that this car is waiting for me. It's a love story. Johnny (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

1999 BMW 5 Series 523i SE Saloon 2.5 from UK and Ireland


Finally I feel special (and I don't mean special needs!) LOL


Technically nothing, however I have noticed a few imperfections consistent with age.


- Rear wheel arches are starting to bubble up with rust. This theme is consistent on the off-side sill.

- Front head light lenses mist up when it rains.

- Both wing mirrors have failed. They still operate as they should except the seals have gone, and due to the fact that they are oil filled, this oil has leaked and therefore the mirror appears to be orange to look at.

General Comments:

Having never been much of a BMW fan myself, I was pleasantly surprised when I drove my first mile in the 523i. Although I have only had the car 3 days now, I just can't put it away. I've spent most of the weekend washing and polishing her and shining the tyres, and it just makes me feel like I've hit the big time. This is one aesthetically pleasing car.

The engine sounds gloriously silky and powerful and really roars. When driving around town, it is whisper quite and well behaved, but soon leaps into action when you push on.

The suspension and handling is much better than my Volvo 850, and with the Pirelli P6000 tyres all round, it grips reassuringly through the twisty bits when you wanna have a bit of fun.

The seats are uber supportive and really comfortable, and the leather still looks good despite the fact the this car is a high miler.

Now as pleased as punch as I am with the car, I only wish it was as rust free as my 15 year old Volvo 850!

I'm gonna get the few minor gripes fixed, cos I want the car to be as mint as possible, but it is rather disappointing!

I just hope that the next 12 months are as trouble free as the last 3 years have been with my 850!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 12th October, 2008

17th Jul 2009, 06:28

Just an update on my last review of the 523i SE...

I have now had the car almost a year, and although it has now covered 182k miles, it still hasn't missed a beat!

Shortly after buying it, I had to have the thermostat replaced when it went in for the service, but nothing further has gone wrong.

MOT was last month and I only needed 2 rear tyres (wear and tear) and a front brake pipe!

Otherwise she has been an absolute gem!

I still haven't got around to sorting the rust, lights and mirrors due to finances, however I had the aircon re gassed at my local Citroen garage for just £35!!!

Car is going in for a service next week, and to have front pads replaced as these were reported to be getting low on MOT.

Otherwise a thoroughly fabulous car that I'm loving to bits!!

I just wished I could afford to drive it more (currently averaging 23mpg around town, although I have managed an average of 41.mpg on a couple of long runs to London and back!).

A highly recommended bargain luxury cruiser!

16th Feb 2010, 07:47

Further to my previous posts, I am now selling the 523i after now reaching 187k miles. I have enjoyed absolutely every moment of ownership, despite this being a rather expensive toy to maintain.

Since July 2009 the car has been faultless, however parked up at a friends house just after Christmas, the front N/S coil spring snapped and took out the tyre and ruined the shock. This was a £300 fix without the tyre being replaced.

More recently, when waiting at traffic lights in 'D' - drive, if left for a prolonged period of time, a gearbox warning light comes on and the car goes into limp mode, which was rather annoying. It has only done this twice in the last few weeks, but still a concern, hence why I'm glad it's going.

I would certainly buy another Bimmer, but it would have to be a diesel, and I would have to be earning more money, as these cars can be a money pit, regardless of how well maintained they are.

Overall an awesome experience, but now back to my Volvo's I think with an S60 D5 SE!!