If an Old M5 Is Out of Your Price Range, Try This Instead

Like a lot of top-end sports cars, there’s often a perfectly suited performance car living in their shadows and the E39 M5 is no different.

The BMW M5 is considered one of the all-time greats to come from Bavaria. The entire M5 lineage, from 1985 onwards, is comprised of legend after legend. Granted the E60 M5 wasn’t exactly a looker, but at least it cradled an unforgettable 500 horsepower 5.0-liter V10. It should be no surprise then that M5s, especially older examples, are climbing in price. If you pine for a car cut from that cloth but think dropping $30,000, $40,000 or even $70,000 for a prime choice is absurd, take a look at this 1998 540i Sport.

Like a lot of top-end sports cars, there’s often a perfectly suited performance car living in their shadows and the E39 M5 is no different. The 540i Sport is down 100 horsepower and 50 lb-ft of torque from its more famous sibling but considering its engine is smaller, the power band is lower in the rev range and it’s lighter by over 200-lbs, the 540i Sport’s performance per dollar ratio is more appealing.

This particular 540i comes with a special-order Hellrot red paint job, which at the time was a $1,500 option. Throw in the sport suspension, vented disc brakes at all four corners and a 0-60 mph of 5.5 seconds and the 20-year old German sedan still looks like it could take on sports cars that rolled off the factory floor yesterday. When Car and Driver originally reviewed the 540i Sport it even said: “If somebody’s looking for ‘beef on wheels’ with protein to spare, this is the most muscular yet gracious near-supersedan around.” Then consider the original sticker price for this super sedan was $56,685 and it’s now going for just under $12,000 and you have a practical and entertaining bargain on your hands.

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