The BMW 5 Series (E39) is the generation of BMW 5 Series made between 1995 and 2003. The E39 series was the successor of the BMW 5 Series (E34) in 1995, and was replaced by the E60 in 2003. Sales to Germany and most of Western Europe began in 1995, and by 1996 sales to the rest of the world had commenced. A mid-generational refresh appeared in 2000, featuring minute detail changes. At launch, the base model was the 520i, which developed 112 kilowatts (150 hp) in the pre-update models, and 126 kilowatts (170 hp) in later models. An M5 variant was introduced in 1998, with a 4.9-litre S62 V8 engine. All models but the M5 were available as either a saloon or an estate, the latter called Touring. You can find more visual details of the 2001 BMW 540i Protection gallery by scrolling up.
Development for the E34’s successor began in early 1989, internally known as “Entwicklung 39” and ended in 1995. The final design by Joji Nagashima was selected in June 1992 and later frozen for production under new design chief Chris Bangle. With design selection in 1992, the series development phase began and took 39 months till start of production. The domestic German design patent was filed on 20 April 1994, utilizing an E39 prototype. The first pilot production models were built in February 1995, with full-scale production starting later in the year.
The complete vehicle redesign draws heavily from the E38 7 Series in body construction and electronic technology. The mid-level BMW saloon showed evolutionary styling changes rather than a dramatic redesign. Initially offered only as a saloon, the wheelbase grew by 68 millimetres (2.7 in) and overall length by 55 millimetres (2.2 in) over the previous 5-series, the E34. In the US, the new 5 Series came in two forms: the 528i and 540i. The 1996 528i introduced a new M52 in-line six that it shared with the E36 328i, the 540i a 4.4-litre M62 V8 shared with the E38 740i. Both engines were upgraded over the prior 5 Series generation. The 2.8-litre dual overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine made 141 kilowatts (190 hp), versus 210 kilowatts (282 hp) for the 4.4-litre dual overhead camshaft, all-aluminium V8. A ZF S5-31 five-speed close-ratio manual transmission was standard on the 528i, with an optional A4S 310 R four-speed automatic or (in Rest of World models) a A5S310Z five-speed Steptronic transmission (based on the ZF 5HP18). The 540i, in contrast, could have either a Getrag six-speed manual or a new five-speed A5S 560Z automatic transmission with adaptive transmission control (with or without Steptronic option). Standard equipment on both models included dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, power steering, and air conditioning.
You can find more visual details of the 2001 BMW 540i Protection gallery by scrolling up.
2001 BMW 540i Protection Front View
The E39 all-steel body acts as a safety cage for occupant protection. The structural rigidity of the monocoque was increased using computer-aided engineering. This allows key points to be reinforced, to increase rigidity, without significantly adding to the weight. The overall increase is 10 kilograms (22 lb), which is offset by the aluminium suspension. Laser welding techniques ensure rigid bonding throughout. Another area of focus in the design of the body was in structural dynamics. The body was designed so that the frequencies for torsional twisting and bending are in separate ranges and above natural frequency. These frequencies are out of the range of engine and driveline vibrations; thus they will not amplify them.
The aerodynamically designed body and features of the E39 gave the 528i and 540i, 0.28 and 0.31 drag coefficients respectively. Torsional rigidity was also increased over the E34, by 40 percent. The chassis was so stiff that the rigidity was unchanged for the E60 model. This added stiffness allows the suspension to work with more accuracy. It also allows total engineering of ride quality through the suspension; rather than in combination with body flex.
Steering and suspension
With the E39, two steering types and double pivot, MacPherson strut suspensions systems are used. For the 520i-530i models, BMW, for the first time in a 5 series, utilised rack and pinion steering. This not only offers weight reductions over the recirculating ball type used on the V8s, but also provides quicker steering response through its variable ratio, as well as a more precise feel. This system steers from the front of the axle.
Six-cylinder models also receive an aluminium front subframe. The struts use aluminium “Tension Link” that comes from a forward position back to the front of the wheel and an aluminium horizontal link to locate them. Aluminium is used for the steering knuckles, outer strut tube, and the spring pads; saving 21 kilograms (46 lb).
With the 540i, BMW retained the front steering and suspension from the previous E34 540i with the design based on the E38 7 Series. The physical size, dimensions, and weight of the V8 engine required the use of the older recirculating ball steering. This system steers from the back side of the axle. The front subframe is steel. To compensate for the heavier front end, BMW used extra aluminium in components including the steering box, steering knuckles, outer strut tube, and the spring pads. The struts are located by an aluminium “Thrust Link” that comes from the rear to meet the back of the wheel and an aluminium horizontal link.
The E39 employs similar design to the E38 7 Series for the rear suspension, regardless of the model specified. This “four-link integral rear suspension” or “Z-link” axle was first introduced on the BMW Z1. With this, Chapman struts are utilised. Through precise toe angle changes, stable yet responsive handling without unwanted toe change effects under load is achieved.
Various engine sizes and configurations have been available. The North American market saw the 525i, 528i, 530i, 540i and M5. The European range was however, more diverse, with BMW offering the 520i, 523i, 525i, 528i, 530i, 535i, 540i, 525tds, 520d (the only four-cylinder 5-Series engine on this generation), 525d, 530d and M5.
In-car entertainment / navigation
Up until September 1997, the factory navigation systems were based on the first generation MKI (or Mark I) Navigation system, which uses a 4:3 screen and stores the maps on a CD. The MKI system was replaced by the MKII, which was used until E39 the mid-life facelift (September 2000). Introduced as part of the facelift, the MKIII used a 16:9 screen. In September 2002, the MKIV navigation system was introduced, which stores the maps on a DVD instead of CD.
North American model range
From 1997-2000, the E39 model range in North America consisted of the 528i, 540i, and M5. In 2001, the 528i was discontinued and replaced by the 525i and 530i. The 520i, 523i, 525i and 528i were powered by a 110 kilowatt (150 hp) engine in earlier versions, a 126 kilowatt (170 hp) and 141 kilowatt (190 hp) engines respectively. These were all versions of the gasoline M52 inline-six engine. The 530i was powered by a 171 kilowatt (231 hp) inline-six, the M54, shared with the E46 330i. The 540i was initially powered by the 210 kilowatt (282 hp) 4.4 litre M62B44 V8 which was derived from the earlier E34 5 Series’ M60, but included upgraded cylinder block material, electronics, and more displacement. In September 1998, the 540i received the further upgraded M62TUB44. This engine supported a VANOS variable valve timing system, and had electronic throttle control. It was slightly boosted to 220 kW (290 hp) for years 1998 to 2003 540i’s.
The 1997 model year 5 series E39 was introduced into the US market in the spring of 1996. Models available were the 528i with an I6, and the 540i with a M62 V8. The on-board computer, called the Multi-Information System (MID), was upgraded in mid-1997. The 528i E39 was the first car ever to be fitted with CBC – Cornering Brake Control.
For 1998 optional rear side airbags became available, and both models also gained BMW’s exclusive new Head Protection System, which consists of two tubular bags that inflate upon a side impact and pop out just above each front door. A new Sport Package for the 528i and 540i, as well as an automatic transmission 540i were added options. The Sport Package included black body trim (standard models had chrome around the top of the windows), a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch (430 mm) wheels and tires. In September 1998, the 540i’s M62B44 was updated to the M62TUB44, adding 15 lb·ft (20 N·m) of torque. DSC first became available on 540i with automatic transmission as of 9/97
The high-performance M5 saloon returned to the BMW fold. Built in limited numbers, the M5 used a 400 hp (300 kW) V8 S62, and came with a firmer suspension, 18 inch wheels, a 6-speed manual transmission, and exclusive interior trim. Lower-body rear side airbags were standard on the M5, remaining optional for other models.
1999 saw the introduction of the Touring (estate) body style and joined saloons in both I6 and V8 versions. New options for 1999 included brighter xenon headlights (only low beam), Park Distance Control that warns of obstacles when backing up, and self-leveling rear suspension for estates. Standard on V8 models and newly optional for 528i versions was BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control, designed to aid control in fast turns. The M52 2.8-liter I6 engines were now an all-aluminium block and head with the introduction of double VANOS, as opposed to the previous single VANOS iron block/aluminium head M52. M62 4.4-liter V8 engines were updated with single VANOS and electronic throttle control. The addition of VANOS provided a flatter torque curve, with higher max torque at a lower peak rpm. The “M Sport” package was added (replacing the standard sport package), and included the M Sport steering wheel, door sills, and shift knob.
In 2000, rain-sensing windshield wipers and xenon headlamps became standard on the 540i, and were newly available for 528i models. The 528i versions also gained the 540i’s standard stability control system. All models now had daytime running lights, and fog lamps.
For the 2001 model year (Cars made from September 2000), BMW updated the E39 with newer, clear-lens tail, side marker, new design steering wheel and headlights which first displayed the now-popular “angel eyes.” Rear tail lights were changed to “wave-guide” LEDs (Hella, the OEM, refers to these lights as “CELIS”), while the side and rear turn signals were changed from amber lenses to clear. The black trim was now painted to match the body color, and the front bumper now featured rounded fog lights. Internally many changes were made to electronics; items such as window regulators and the air conditioning were updated. The 528i was replaced by the 530i which had a new 170 kW (228 hp) M54B30 3.0 L inline-6. A new entry-level 525i was introduced featuring a 143 kW (192 hp) M54B25 2.5 L I6 and a slightly lower price. The available navigation system was changed to a wide screen version. The front grille was also changed to a new, more pronounced design.
For 2002, BMW Steptronic-equipped E39s had their manual shift direction switched to match BMW’s SMG (forwards to downshift, backwards to upshift) and automatic headlights were added. Also, in 2002 the 540i V8 32V engine power was increased from 210 kW (282 hp) to 216 kW (290 hp) while torque remained the same. All models received a standard in-dash CD player, 6-cylinder models added a standard power passenger seat, and the 525i received automatic climate control standard. Consumer Reports declared the 2002 BMW E39 the best car they had ever reviewed.
2003 marked the last year for the E39 platform; they were differentiated by the addition of extra chrome trim on the trunk (boot) and on the sides of the body. In all 6-cylinder models of the 5-Series, the sunroof became standard. The optional navigation systems upgraded from CD-ROM format (8 CDs to cover the entire USA and Canada) to a single DVD-ROM. The optional sport package on the 540i carried parts from M-technic. This included full M-tech ground effects, M-tech II suspension, 18 inch style 37 wheels, and a variety of M badging. Isofix/LATCH child seat anchors were added. The E39 estate (touring) was continued into 2004 until the touring version of the new 5 Series (E61) was released.
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