Modern classics

The BMW M5 E39 may be even hotter than we thought

by Alex Sommers
29 March 2021 3 min read
The BMW M5 E39 may be even hotter than we thought
Photos: Enthusiast Auto Group

The digital ink reading “NEW ARRIVAL” on the 2003 BMW M5’s online listing was barely dry when a “SOLD” banner took its place. Someone out there clicked on the 3157-mile M5, one from the final year of production for the vaunted E39 generation, and shelled out $199,990 (£144,600) to become its second owner. If that strikes you as a bit steep, you aren’t alone. It’s nearly double the current #1-condition (Concours, or best-in-the-world) value of $108,000 (£78,000) according to the latest market intelligence from the US version of the Hagerty Price Guide.

For the uninitiated, the E39 M5 is the one that brought V8 power to BMW’s Motorsport range for the first time. Its 394bhp from 4.9 naturally aspirated litres was herculean when its closest equivalent, Jaguar’s supercharged XJR, made 326bhp at the time, but the E39 M5’s lasting appeal goes well beyond raw numbers. Even after 21 years of automotive progress, many consider it to be a high-water mark in both style and driver engagement for both BMW and sports saloons in general. Now that even the newest examples are now old enough to drink and with unmolested, low-mileage examples getting harder to find, the E39 is firmly in modern collector car territory.

Like many of the cleanest BMW M cars on the market at any given time, the E39 in question sold through Enthusiast Auto Group (EAG) in Cincinnati, Ohio. EAG touted it as the bar by which all other E39 M5s should be judged, and – even keeping in mind that they were trying to sell this car – their assessment seems fair enough. Presented in Carbon Black over two-tone Silverstone sport leather with a six-speed manual transmission, no modifications of any kind, a four-figure odometer reading, the M5 is certainly a top-quality car deserving of a top-dollar price. The M5 was also a recipient of a thorough going over by EAG. As we noted in our story on outliers last week, the imprimatur of a respected dealer is often worth a considerable premium to buyers. But 200 grand is enough to leave us wondering if that’s really where the market is for these cars (even if M5s are the next big thing).

The price is even more eyebrow-raising outside of its US-market context. The UK Hagerty Price Guide doesn’t yet list the E39 M5, but its condition 1 value in the US is equivalent to around £78,000, and even that’s comfortably above what excellent examples sell for in the UK. As of the time of writing the most expensive we can find is a black car (erroneously listed as a 2009) with 32,900 miles up for £41,995 in London, with a 52,000-mile 2002 car in Leeds for £34,990. Another, a 2001 model with 60,0000 mile is shortly to go auction on The Market.

Neither has miles as low as this car, but the former is still £10,000 less than the condition 2 (excellent condition) value in the US and indicative of the disparity between the two markets – and makes a £144,000 sale price, low mileage or not, seem even further removed from reality.

So, that’s the $200,000 (or £144,000) question. If you were let loose with that kind of money to spend on BMW metal, would you be content leaving with one set of keys? There are other perfectly good E39 M5s asking less than half that amount, which leaves enough cash to pick nearly anything else off the showroom floor to take home, too. It could be an E24 M6, a “clown shoe” M Coupe, even a stick-shift Lime Rock M3 in that second parking space. Or is owning a top-notch E39 M5, possibly the best one in the US, worth it all?

Via Hagerty Insider

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