BMW 530d (E39) 2003


The benchmark, that’s what most people say about all versions of the 5 series, this is what a big saloon should feel like. No other car can carry off the mix of poise, style, looks and driveability. Every other big saloon was compared to the 5 series; no other car of its size could give you an exciting drive down a back road, while still being so stable on a motorway. Many years ago I drove a petrol powered version on the Autobahn at 120mph; there is no feeling like moving this much metal that fast but still feeling safe, only the 5 series could carry that off.
From the outside it looks big and slightly threatening, all the curves and creases are in the right places, the four headlamps and double grill give it a hard man look. The boot space is a little on the small side at 314ltrs, but the opening is big making it easier to get things in.
The interior space is limited too, it’s big enough for 5 adults but it feels cosy. The drivers’ seat is a different matter, there’s plenty of room to stretch out. I always still a little differently in an automatic, because I don’t have to clutch I tend to sit a little further back from the pedals which in this car is no problem, there’s plenty of movement on the runners, it does make the back seat a little tight. The cabin has a fantastic fit and finish, BMW used great materials when they nailed the car together and everything still feels new and tight.
On the road the 3.0ltr diesel unit does a great job of pushing you along, there’s a surge of power up to the red line of 5000rpm, the auto gear shift is smooth too. The engine puts out 190bhp but it feels more. The handling is a case of point the nose where you want to be and the car willingly goes there, it makes you feel like a better driver than you are. For a car of its size it grips like a heavy go-cart, even though there’s a 3.0ltr engine up the front there’s no noticeable under-steer, there is over-steer but that’s fun and totally controllable.
Once you reach the motorway the 5 series turns from sharp handling to big cruiser, it rides the bumps with ease, and it really is a long distance mile muncher, at 120kph (the speedo is in mph) the engine is just ticking over and there’s very little wind noise.
Around town the big automatic makes stop start traffic a breeze, visibility is good for a saloon, it is a bit hard to gauge where the back of the car is when reversing but you would soon get used to it, there’s good fuel economy too in real world driving you get 40-50mpg.
So we have a real driver’s car, a car that consistently appeared high in the list of customer satisfaction and reliability surveys both here and the US, a car that is what I believe a future classic, and right now it’s cheaper to buy than most hatchbacks. The only thing that stops us all buying a 530d is tax, the current tax on this car is €1293 per year and even if it was calculated using the C02 output it would be €1050. It’s a shame to see such a great car waiting for a new owner, it deserves to be driven and this one I’m testing has been cared for throughout its whole life, there isn’t a mark on it. I hope we will continue to see the E39 on the road, it’s a brilliant car, and it would be a shame to loose it because of some tax.
The car I tested is available from Noel Whelan car sales in Portlaoise; you can see it on Carzone.

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  • Anto

    “there is no feeling like moving this much metal that fast but still feeling safe, only the 5 series could carry that off”.

    Sorry but you clearly have very limited experience of driving fast cars.

    • Taken out of context but thanks for the comment

  • jazzy

    your review is bang on the mark, it’s hard to think of another 4 door car that big that you can drive that fast and still feel safe.
    Great review any chance of the 535 getting a review?

    • Thanks Jazzy, yes I have a 535d review coming very soon. Thanks for subscribing!