2002 BMW M5 E39


The E39 iteration of the M5 series first broke cover at the 1998 Geneva Motor Show. The first M5 to be fitted with a V8 petrol engine, it boasted a astonishing 394bhp and 369lb/ft of torque, figures that endowed the M5 with staggering performance. Handling was up there with the very best of ‘em too, thanks to the new-fangled aluminium front suspension and a multi-link rear that was both lower and stiffer than the standard 5-series.

More than 20,000 were eventually built, but rather than commission others to build the car for them, BMW decided to build the M5 alongside the regular 5-series at the Dingolfing factory in Germany.

But please don’t think that this cost-cutting exercise diluted the magic, because many consider the E39 to be the finest M5 of them all. With a top speed of more than 186mph when derestricted (the standard cars are limited to a killjoy 155mph…) and a 0-62mph time of just 4.8 seconds, the M5 is still a seriously fast car.

That high-tech suspension paid its way, too. You might know better but we think the E39 M5 might just be the first car to start the obsession car manufacturers have with Nürburgring lap times, and while that might be fanciful thinking on our part, the stone-cold reality is that a standard E39 M5 lapped the circuit in just eight minutes and 20 seconds.

Facelifted in September 2000, the M5 gained its ‘Angel Eye’ headlights, a design mis-step that wrote a hitherto blank page in the aftermarket retailer’s handbook…

On a brighter note, the facelifted car also featured a few interior upgrades plus another couple of exterior colours in the palette for subsequent years. It was, as you might have gathered, a very modest facelift but when a car is this good, you’d be daft to make too many changes.

Only ever offered as a saloon – although at least one factory estate was built for testing purposes - the M5’s V8 engine is a thing of beauty.

The gearbox was always a six-speed manual, and the rear differential is a limited-slip unit for improved handling and traction. A Sport button firms up the steering and alters the throttle response for even more driver involvement during spirited helmsmanship, and two-piece brake discs help cut down the car’s unsprung weight.

The Vehicle

Bought three years ago as his third car – “one for special trips, like down to Le Mans” – it took him a while to find a good example in the Sterling Grey finish he was looking for. As you can see, it was worth the wait because this one is an absolute peach, but then he does admit to being fastidious when it comes to his toys.

Still showing well under 100,000 miles on the odometer, it has been beautifully curated over the years and comes with an unusually well-stamped service history booklet, including more than £7,000 spent on it in the 3,000 miles it’s covered since being in the vendor’s care. The vendor also tells us that during his ownership the car has been kept in a dehumidified garage and only used on high days and holidays. 

Only being sold to recycle the money he’s got invested into it for a convertible sports car, this is your chance to buy a beautifully fettled example of a fast appreciating classic sporting saloon.

On the Outside

Sterling Grey is an unusual and discreet colour and one we heartily approve of in a car as understated as this; the E39 dates back to a time when fitting fripperies to your cars was a sign of insecurity, so what is there is there for a sound aerodynamic or engineering reason rather than stuck on to pander to the whims of the marketing department.

Of course, the firm still enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for building ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ back then too, so the fit ‘n’ finish is as peerless as you could ever hope to see. Still sporting impressively tight and consistent shutlines, it adds ripple-free flanks and an absence of carpark-inflicted dents, dinks and scrapes to an already impressive CV.

Great paintwork, too. Not perfect of course because there are a few stonechips here and there but hugely impressive for a car that’s about to celebrate two decades on the roads.

The fact that its owners have looked after it so well helps, and that investment includes £420 to The Wheel Specialist in June 2020 to refurbish the 18-inch alloy wheels. Plus, a hefty sum to fit four matching tyres with 275/35R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 3 on the rear axle, and matching 245/40R18 on the front all of which look to still have good tread left on them.

As we will never tire of explaining, our experience shows that matching high-quality tyres are an infallible sign of a caring and mechanically sympathetic owner who is prepared to spend the appropriate amount in maintaining their car properly. Their presence does not, of course, preclude the need for a thorough inspection - something the vendor would welcome, by the way – but it does perhaps give you a shortcut into their attitude towards maintenance.

The ‘M5’ badging is as discrete as it is tidy, and the rubber trim on all four corners is still sharp, glossy, and free of scrapes.

As you’ll have guessed by now, the factory steel sunroof slides fore and aft smoothly and quickly. It seals tightly too, and there’s no sign of it having let water in at any point.

Work to do? Nothing, not really. There might be the odd stonechip but there’s nothing there to detract from its overall presentation and certainly nothing that devalues it in any way.

On the Inside

The dashboard is a model of clarity, being easy to read and as ergonomic as you could wish for, traits that are important when your car is capable of covering more than three miles in a single minute.

It also needs to be comfortable if it’s going to demolish continents in one giant leap. This means that the electrically adjustable leather seats not only provide brilliant lateral support when you’re in the mood to play but are also supremely comfy and leave you feeling as fresh as a daisy, even after an entire day sitting in them.

They are also in great shape with only mild creasing to their faces. The adjustable under-thigh supports still slide easily in and out, the electrical adjustment is smooth and efficient, and the seat heaters work as they should.

The ‘M’ steering wheel and gear knob show only light wear to their surfaces, and even the somewhat fragile cupholders are still whole and undamaged. Heck, even the OE torch is still present and correct in the glovebox.

The sat-nav system might look a little old-fashioned these days but it works perfectly, as does the factory fitted sound-system. Another nice touch is the period car phone, which lurks in the centre console; we haven’t tested it but it’s a lovely retro piece and a sure-fire conversation starter.

The boot, which is home to the DVD-based sat-nav and a CD multichanger in addition to the (apparently unused) tool kit, warning triangle, and compressor is very well preserved. The carpet still fits well and is free of stains and wear, while the underlying metal is solid and free of corrosion.

Really, there’s nothing in the cockpit that would cause us a moment’s worry, which means you can just jump in and enjoy using it without any nagging thoughts that you should be improving it rather than using it.


A car like this needs looking after properly and potential bidders be relieved to see the following work has been recorded:

• 05.11.2002 – pre-delivery check by Autohaus Tecklenborg

• 09.01.2003 and 1,641 miles – running-in check by Sytner High Wycombe BMW

• 02.09.2003 and 10,964 miles – oil service and used car check by Hexagon BMW

• 16.06.2004 and 24,503 miles – Inspection I and used car check by Hexagon BMW

• 04.05.2005 and 24,856 miles – used car check by Hexagon BMW

• 12.01.2006 and 36,329 miles – oil service and fresh brake fluid and coolant by Dick Lovett

• 10.01.2008 and 48,624 miles – Inspection II and a centre steering tie rod and alignment by Dick Lovett

• 24.07.2009 and 57,568 miles – oil service and fresh brake fluid by Dick Lovett

• 18.02.2011 and 65,845 miles – front brake discs and pads by Dick Lovett

• 17.10.2011 and 67,239 miles – Inspection I and fresh brake fluid plus a remanufactured clutch by Dick Lovett

• 20.01.2014 and 71,528 miles – oil service and new oxygen sensor by Dick Lovett

• 16.12.2015 and 80,340 miles – Inspection II by Dick Lovett

• 29.09.2017 – rear brake discs and pads replaced

• 09.06.2018 and 88,162 miles – oil service by Dick Lovett

• 25.04.2019 and 89,726 miles – front to rear brake pipes replaced by Munich Legends at a cost of £1,313

• 20.12.2019 and 91,500 miles – new alternator by Cooper Cobham at a cost of £1,750

• 19.02.2020 and 91,897 miles – oil service and air-conditioning refresh by Vines of Guildford

• 06.08.2020 and 92,295 miles – replacement power steering pipe and coolant fan by Munich Legends plus an oil and filter change and sump gasket at a cost of £1,565

• 19.02.2021 and 92,531 miles – Inspection II by Vines of Guildford at a cost of almost £1,000

• 14.04.2021 and 92,697 miles – two power steering hoses replaced plus new valve cover gaskets by Cooper Cobham at a cost of £1,439

As you’d expect given the comprehensive fettling it’s received over the years – including well over £7,000 since the vendor bought it – the M5 is running superbly, firing straight up and ticking over beautifully. It revs well too, converting your hard-earned into motion and noise better than almost anything else in its price range.

You’ll note that he’s even done some preventative work on known weak spots, like the front to rear brake pipes he had replaced at a cost of over £1,300. This means that the car’s new owner stands to benefit from his meticulous attention to detail, something which isn’t always the case given the numbers of E39 M5s we are starting to see that have been cheaply tarted up to take advantage of a rising market…

And, just take a look at the engine bay, which is neat and clean and is a credit to those who have worked on it over the years.

Or the underside, which is straight and solid and free of the usual rust and bodgery and even still has its original ‘do not tow or lash’ warning stickers on the lower suspension arms.

History Highlights

The M5’s MOT certificate is valid until October 2021 and was gained with just the one advisory point, for worn front disc pads.

It has a number of expired MOT certificates plus a sheaf of invoices and bills to confirm the work that has been done to it over the years.

It also still has its original owner’s handbook, fully stamped service history, book pack, and storage wallet plus two sets of keys.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car has been maintained to a very good standard.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.

What We Think

Many enthusiasts rate the E39 M5 as being the very best of ‘em all; still largely analogue and yet viciously fast, its handling is what makes this iteration so compelling.

And yet, they’re still, in our eyes at least, cheap – and that won’t last forever. In fact, we’re starting to see them climb in value with the very best cars having already topped £60,000…

But, if you want to be able to use your car, you really don’t want the very best because you’re going to be too scared to use it. No, what you want is a car like this: one that looks terrific but is gently patinated; strong and diligently maintained but nicely run-in. A car to use and admire, rather than to hoard and gloat.

Even better, a car like this could be yours for somewhere between £20,000 and £26,000, which is chump-change for the performance you are getting. That it should look after your investment as well as, if not better, than any of its contemporaries is merely the icing on the cake.

Viewing is always encouraged, within Govt. guidelines of course, and as stated this car is located at our Abingdon headquarters; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: Abingdon, Oxfordshire
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 92800
  • Chassis Number: WBSDE92010CB37494
  • Engine: 4941
  • Gearbox: MANUAL
  • Colour: Sterling Grey
  • Interior: Black leather

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