BMW has a real knack for building utterly fantastic performance cars and resigning them to the shadows of their respective top-tier trims. Cars like the 330i ZHP and this 2003 BMW 540i M Sport, the 5 Series equivalent of the ZHP, virtually fly under everyone’s radar despite being more sensible and affordable, albeit less powerful versions of the coveted M cars.
Mint condition, low-mileage BMW E39 M5s can go for close to $60,000. This 540i M-Sport only has 2,000 miles on the clock and currently sits at $38,000. The M5 does command a higher price for a reason: if you suppose there’s a massive difference in power between the 540i to the M5, well, you’d be right.
The 4.4-Liter V8 in the lesser 5 Series still cranks out a maximum of 282 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, but that’s 112 hp and 44 lb-ft less than the 4.9-Liter V8 M5. However, all of the M-Sport’s power comes in much lower in the rev-range. You can punch all 325 lb-ft the 4.4-Liter has to offer to the rear wheels from a lowly 3,600 rpm – right where you need it when you’re cruising down the highway and the left lane opens up.
To make it a true upgraded ’00s BMW, the 540i M Sport comes with more aggressive M-Technic II suspension, helping the executive sedan carve corners with the best of them. Considering those handling upgrades, the V8’s low-end torque advantage and similar weight, you might just embarrass and E46 M3 or two.
Between the price, performance, and lack of M badges typically littering BMW performance cars, this barely broken-in 2,000-mile 2003 BMW 540i M Sport is a bonafide sleeper car. Let the M5 crowd brag about the badge on the trunk. The M Sport is the better buy.
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