The BMW E39 5-series was produced from 09/1995-06/2003 for the 1996-2003 model years. In September of 2000, for the 2001 model year, BMW gave the E39 a facelift. This means that the E39 chassis was updated, renewed both technologically and aesthetically for a few more years of production.
Even outside of the big 2001 facelift, things with the E39 changed each year. This article will summarize the changes BMW made to US-spec vehicles throughout production.
- E39 chassis replaces E34 for 5 series.
- Production for 1996 model year begins.
- Models offered were the 1996 528i M52B28 I6, and the 1997 540i M62B44 V8.
- Production for 1997 model year begins.
- Models offered were the 1997 528i M52B28 I6, and the 1997 540i M62B44 V8.
- MIDs upgraded.
- Production for the 1998 model year begins.
- Optional rear side airbags became available.
- Both 528i and 540i models gained BMW’s Head Protection System.
- A new Sport Package for the 528i and 540i.
- Automatic transmission optional on 540i. The Sport Package included black body trim (standard models had chrome around the top of the windows), a sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch wheels.
- DSC first became available on the 540i with automatic transmission.
- Production for the 1999 model year began.
- The 540i’s M62B44 was updated to the M62TUB44, adding 15lb/ft (20 Nm) of torque and single (intake valve) VANOS. The ‘TU’ added to the engine codes stands for Technical Update.
- The Touring body style returns, and is offered in both I6 and V8 versions (528i, 540i).
- Xenon headlights, Park Distance Control, and a self-leveling rear suspension is added for touring models.
- The M52 2.8 liter I6 engines were now an all-aluminum block and head. Double VANOS valve timing (both intake and exhaust valves) replaced the previous single VANOS iron block/aluminum head M52.
- DSC becomes standard on all models.
- Production for the 2000 model year begins.
- Rain-sensing windshield wipers and xenon headlamps became standard on the 540i, and were now available on the 528i.
- An M-Sport package was added, replacing the standard sport package. The M-Sport included the M-Sport steering wheel, door sills, and shift knob.
- All models now had daytime running lights (optional, can be coded), and front fog lamps.
- Production for the 2000 model year M5 began in the United States.
- BMW key updated to include colored logo and battery charging when in the ignition.
September, 2000 Facelift
- Production for the 2001 model year begins.
- The 528i model was dropped, and replaced by a 525i M54B25 and a 530i M54B30.
- Headlights were updated to Hella lights, featuring halo angel eyes.
- Tail lights were updated to Hella CELIS with LED bars. The previously amber turn-signal lenses on the 528i and 540i were now clear on all models with the new tail lights, as the old lights on the 2000 M5 had clear signal lenses.
- M5 fog lights were updated with clear glass as opposed to rippled glass.
- Side-markers turned from amber to clear (2000 M5 already had clear.)
- Non-M5 front bumpers were modernized, and incorporated round fog lights instead of rectangular.
- Body trim on the doors and bumpers were now painted body color instead of black, white the M5’s remained black regardless of exterior body color.
- A widescreen display and MKIII computer were now included with the navigation system. The Trimble unit was bypassed. Earlier E39s optioned with navigation had the MKI or MKII computer with a 4:3 display.
- A new, thicker M-Sport 3-spoke steering wheel was included with the sport package, and on the M5. The M5 got the same new wheel, but with multi-colored stitching.
- M5 shift knob and emergency brake handles were changed. The M5 received the stand 5-series leather emergency brake handle, and a nappa leather, illuminated shift knob. 2000 M5s had a metal trimmed shift knob (still illuminated) and a metal trimmed e-brake handle. These pieces proved to wear excessively after little use, so they were updated.
- M5 gauges changed from a black to a gray dial.
- M5 has M-Audio option to upgrade speakers and include larger subwoofers (4″ Nokia to 10″.
- Window regulator motors were updated.
- Air conditioning system was updated.
- PDC option now included front sensors in addition to rear.
- REST button on HVAC changed to incorporate a MAX A/C function, yet retains residual heat functionality when pressed during cold weather, while the engine is at an adequate temperture.
- Front kidney grills became more pronounced outside of the hood.
- Production for the 2002 model year begins.
- Radio on navigation-equipped cars updated from C43 to BM53.
- Steptronic-equipped E39s had their manual shift direction switched to match BMW’s SMG setup (forwards to downshift, backwards to upshift).
- The 540i M62TUB44 engine power output was increased from 282HP (210kW) to 290HP (216kW) while torque remained the same.
- All non-M models got a standard in-dash CD player.
- All sport models received the facelift steering wheel.
- I6 models added a standard power passenger seat.
- The 525i received automatic climate control standard.
- Consumer Reports declared the 2002 BMW E39 the best car they had ever reviewed.
- Production for the 2003 model year begins.
- Navigation computer updated the DVD-based MKIV.
- All models include sunroof as standard.
- The Sport package on the 540i carried parts from M-Technic. This included a full M-tech ground effects kit (M5-inspired front and rear bumpers), M-tech II suspension, 18-inch style 37 wheels, and a variety of M badging, such as door sills, steering wheel, shift knob (if manual), and exterior door trim.
- Isofix/LATCH child seat anchors were added.
- The E39 touring was continued into 2004, awaiting the touring version of the E60 5-series.
- CD53 radio in non-navigation cars was replaced with the CD53 unit, which can support auxiliary.
- Wheel center caps updated to a higher quality piece.
- Production of the E39 ended. *Tour models continued into 2004.
Images. Pre-facelift cars on top or left, updated cars on the bottom or right.
(Above: Top: 2003 540i M-Tech includes 18″ style 37 wheels, M5 inspired front and rear bumpers, black M5-badged side door trim, M-Tech II suspension. Bottom: Pre-2003 540i sport package includes 17″ style 32 wheels, standard bumpers, body-colored exterior door trim).