Originally launched in 1984, the M5 was BMW’s first attempt to add its Motorsport ingredients to the already-sporty 5 Series. As the fastest sedan in the world, its future replacement, the E39 M5, would clearly have big shoes to fill. Unveiled at the 1998 Geneva Motor Show, the M5 delivered exceptional performance in a stylish yet mildly unassuming sedan, quickly becoming the sport-sedan icon we know today. In the case of the E39 M5, the sum of the parts is truly greater than individual pieces, a form of engineering chemistry BMW had mastered at the turn of the century.
Undoubtedly the greatest asset of the E39 M5 is its naturally aspirated V8 with eight highly responsive individual throttle bodies and double VANOS variable-valve-timing system. Producing an impressive 393 horsepower, and equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, 0–60 is covered in a blistering 4.8 seconds.
Delivering exciting handling characteristics, the E39 M5 features near-perfect weight distribution and specially tuned M Driving Dynamics Control. Calibrated on some of the world’s most demanding racetracks, its lightweight aluminum suspension and massive four-wheel ventilated brakes with Dynamic Brake Control offer more-than-capable performance.
Finished in Carbon Black Metallic, this M5 features 18-inch 10-spoke satin chrome-finished cast-alloy wheels. Crucial to any successful sports-sedan, a well-appointed “Sport” styling interior includes Silverstone-themed Nappa leather and aluminum trim topped off with a 12-speaker premium sound system. Elegant chrome-ringed instrument dials and a recalibrated M-design instrument cluster along with 16-way power front seats provided a luxurious, yet purposeful cabin feel. With only one previous owner since new, this M5 is in exceptional all-original condition, with just 23,358 miles at the time of cataloging. Proving their extreme collectibility in recent years, this is an excellent opportunity to acquire one of the most famed sports sedans ever produced.
|Vehicle:||2001 BMW M5|
|Number Produced:||20,482 (9,992 for North America)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$400|
|Chassis Number Location:||Firewall identification plate|
|Engine Number Location:||Front of engine behind water pump|
|Club Info:||BMW Car Club of America|
|Alternatives:||2002–04 Audi RS6, 2003–06 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, 1998–2003 Jaguar XJR|
This car, Lot 200, sold for $117,600, including buyer’s premium, at Broad Arrow Auctions’ Amelia Island, FL sale on March 4, 2023.
The E39 M5 was a groundbreaking car for BMW. It had been three eventful years since the end of production of the previous E34 M5, and the new model encapsulated technology we’ve now come to expect in our modern cars, including OBD-II diagnostics, driver-assistance systems and GPS navigation. Also, a surfeit of power, from the most technologically advanced engine BMW had yet developed.
Even the way the cars were built was different. The E34 M5 had been hand-finished by BMW’s M division. Its body shell was pulled off the main production line in Dingolfing, Germany, and sent to Garching, near Munich, for installation of its M-spec inline-6 and final assembly. But by the 1998 European introduction of the E39 M5, production had been consolidated at Dingolfing and the M5 was built on the same line as other 5 Series models.
If the no-longer-handmade M5 lost a bit of mystique, nobody much noticed, thanks to its new all-aluminum 4.9-liter S62 V8, shared with BMW’s Z8 halo car. A complex air-induction system and variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust allowed it to make plenty of power without sacrificing torque. The engine loved to rev, making nearly 400 horses at 6,600 rpm with a 7,000 rpm redline, with 369 lb-ft of torque available at 3,800 rpm. A Getrag 6-speed manual and limited-slip differential completed the package. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds was possible, improved from 6.3 seconds in the E34 M5. Top speed was governed to 155 mph, but the car was capable of doing more than 185 mph.
The E39 M5 rode on a new multi-link rear suspension, using aluminum control arms to reduce unsprung weight. Springs, dampers and sway bars were tuned for the M5, but interestingly. the M model retained the older Servotronic recirculating ball variable-assist power-steering box while the rest of the 5 Series got a new rack-and-pinion system. The car still delivered exceptional handling, earning widespread praise as one of the greatest sport sedans ever built — this during the heyday of the segment and against particularly stiff competition from the Mercedes E55 AMG, Jaguar XJR and Audi RS6.
Not rare, but scarce
BMW made a total of 20,482 E39 M5 sedans, of which 9,992 were sent to North America. Thus, the E39 M5 will never be rare (especially when compared to the 1,678 units of the E34 M5 that were imported). Somewhat more than half of E39 M5 production was delivered in 2000–01, and about 4,000 cars in 2002–03. These later cars benefited from engine upgrades including changes to the VANOS system.
Like many performance models, the E39 M5 followed a more-or-less standard depreciation curve for the first 15 years of life, gaining a cult following of enthusiast owners. This led to many of these enjoyable and robust machines being driven enthusiastically for many miles. Values began to trend upwards in the past few years, as enthusiasts began realizing that it was no longer a simple matter to find an E39 M5 in nice condition. Today this has created a notable dichotomy in pricing based on mileage and condition.
It is still possible, even easy, to buy an E39 M5 for less than $30,000, but it will have more than 100,000 miles, many previous owners, and possibly a checkered past. Prices rise as odometer displays decline and the CARFAX gets cleaner. A nice example with about 50,000 miles, however, is a $40k–$50k car, with prices continuing to rise.
Double your money
Then there are the true low-miles creampuffs, like our subject car. It previously sold on Bring a Trailer in November 2021 for $79,275, a one-owner car at the time with just 20,028 miles showing. Among the facts disclosed then was a 2003 paint repair on the hood. The car now shows 24,035 miles with no obvious changes to its condition.
Its $117,600 sales price at the Broad Arrow auction is still a ways off the high-water value for the E39 M5. That was the $176,000 sale of an as-new example showing fewer than 500 miles, by Gooding & Company at Pebble Beach in 2018 (SCM# 6878711). But our subject car’s second owner certainly did well here, earning more than $35k for the privilege of driving this car through an oil-change cycle.
While this was a strong sale, it is reflective of the furor for pristine examples of many modern sports cars that has rapidly doubled their values. We saw a similar-condition 2002 M5 with 22k miles sell for $62,720 at Gooding & Company’s Amelia sale just three years ago (SCM# 6930602). Clearly the Next Gen market is still on a tear. We won’t be surprised if in three more years this sale looks to have been ahead of the curve. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Broad Arrow Auctions.)