BMW E39 Changes Throughout Production

UntitledThe 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.

December, 1995 

  • 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.

September, 1996 

  • Production for 1997 model year begins.
  • Models offered were the 1997 528i M52B28 I6, and the 1997 540i M62B44 V8.

June, 1997

  • MIDs upgraded.

September, 1997

  • 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.

September, 1998

  • 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.

June, 1999

  • DSC becomes standard on all models.

September, 1999

  • 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

September, 2001

  • 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.

September, 2002 

  • 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.

June, 2003

  • 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.






guagesWheel centerbumper


(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).


Ryan Schultz

E39Source Administration

The following two tabs change content below.
2000 BMW E39 M5, Silverstone Metallic. 2002 BMW E46 330xi, Topaz Blue Metallic. BA Business Management, Kent State University. E39Source Owner.

Latest posts by Ryan Schultz (see all)

19 thoughts on “BMW E39 Changes Throughout Production

  1. Hi uhm i have a 96′ 523i and i was wondering if it’s possible to upgrade to facelift headlights is there a non-xenon angel eye?

  2. I bussy to buy a m5 e39 The only think is there is no navigation and telefon in arm consol.
    Howe can be possible
    Thank and regards

    • Look at the VIN, located on a sticker on the drivers door. If it starts with WBS, it’s an M5. The phone was an option on these cars, I believe navigation came on all of them.

  3. Thanks for the info. I’ve owned many BMWs and now my first E39. It’s a 540i base model with the last year of the pre Vanos M62 engine. The previous owner did upgrade the front bumper to an M5 and painted the trim the same paint color (297 Montreal blue metallic). I am disappointed (although having DSC) that it is an open dif and not a LSD like in the M5. I understand it can be transferred with some flange changes to make it fit. Fortunately the headlights were changed too to the HID Xenon and angel eyes. The stock bulbs were too dim so I upgraded to brighter LEDs. Typical maintenance issues at 147k. Seems the front struts, front thrust arms, and center drag link were still original. So I replaced them. Future upgrades will probably be the 17″ sport rims, H&R sport springs, and M5 rear sway bar.

  4. I love your M5 man.
    I have a 2001 540i 6spd, and I bought a set of F10 style M5 18″s for it. Tire shopping now, and have a couple ideas of where I want to go with fitment.
    Just curious, what are your F/R tire specs, because it looks just about right where I want to be…
    any suggestions are welcome, thanks.

    • Thank you very much!

      I run the stock wheels and tire setup on my E39 M5.

      18×8 in the front, with 245/40ZR in the front, and 18×9.5 with 275/35ZR in the rear. I have a stock (yet healthy) suspension, and the stock spec alignment.

  5. Hey,
    I own a 2003 BMW 540i with the 6 speed M Tech. It. Has now came time (@ 140k miles) to start working on the suspension. I do know that the 540i M comes with a different suspension than the base 540i but I was wondering if the suspension is the same as the M5! I wanted to change the sway bar bushings, which ones should I be looking for?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *