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    Thread: E39 540i or e46 330ci/330i

    1. Member
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      10-04-2012 03:52 PM #1
      Which one do you guys like better? Anybody who has owned or driven both please post your opinion. Maintenance costs, and handeling are two of the main things i would like to know about. I would assume a 330 will handle better, but is it a lot better or what? Which costs more to maintain and are they both expensive to maintain, seems like they are from what I have read

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      10-04-2012 04:02 PM #2
      I had a 330i ZHP for a few years and it wasn't outrageous to maintain. The typical issues are pretty well documented at this point (I assume the E39 would be the same way). If you stay on top of it, it's fine. I had one nagging issue: a vacuum leak that I finally tracked down but was far too big of a hassle to fix.

      I owned it from 45,000 to around 70,000 miles. Keep in mind both are getting up there in age. I'd want to be safe and keep some cash on hand. I can't speak for the 540 but would guess it's pretty similar in terms of maintenance costs.

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      10-04-2012 04:41 PM #3
      I would be looking to buy one in the mileage range of 80,000 to 110,000 so I am hoping most of the main maintenance things are done

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      10-04-2012 04:54 PM #4
      The E46 will handle a little better and be lighter on its feet. The E39 is bigger and offers real V8 power. Personally, I think the E39 is the best car BMW ever built, but that's just my opinion. I'd get a 540 over a 330 without a second thought.

      Maintenancewise, they're both going to need things. Check the car out (or have a good mechanic check it out) BEFORE you buy it to be sure. Use the Google, there are several common issues to look out for on both models.
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      10-04-2012 04:57 PM #5
      I inquired with a friend who is the parts manager at BMW about an E39 540 and he told me that a few of the control units, such as ABS for example are common to go. It can get pricey. Its a shame because there are many nice examples for reasonable prices out there. His best advice was to stay away from the E39's.
      Quote Originally Posted by 00boraslow
      Sorry, but I am not interested in any wheels at the moment. Do you have any firearms or ammo?

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      10-04-2012 04:57 PM #6
      Quote Originally Posted by Anony00GT View Post
      The E46 will handle a little better and be lighter on its feet. The E39 is bigger and offers real V8 power. Personally, I think the E39 is the best car BMW ever built, but that's just my opinion. I'd get a 540 over a 330 without a second thought.

      Maintenancewise, they're both going to need things. Check the car out (or have a good mechanic check it out) BEFORE you buy it to be sure. Use the Google, there are several common issues to look out for on both models.
      So you dont think handle in the 540i is much worse? Would you still consider a pretty well handling car?

    7. 10-04-2012 06:02 PM #7
      I owned a 98' 540i 6speed sport. Unfortunately in the month I owned it, the car tried to bankrupt me. While driving the radiator neck broke and I luckily coasted downhill into a local shop to park it and have it replaced. upon further inspection i had to replace a few of the cooling hoses at the same time. after a subsequent road trip I replaced ALL the cooling hoses. If you are wondering why it all didn't get done at once, this cooling system failure happened the day before I had to report across the country to a new duty station. I was sorta pressed for time.

      couple weeks later the car started braking (un-commanded) abruptly in 1st. When I say abruptly, the only reason my face didn't hit the wheel was because of the seat belt. Its pretty interesting to drive around in a car that you think is actually trying to kill you in traffic. It was no bull**** dangerous. BMW said it was probably the ABS unit which is frighteningly priced. I ended up replacing the MAF. Turns out it was broken and some signal about tq output was going incorrectly to the ABS/TC system and causing the brake application....i think. i traded that thing in a couple days later on a 2010 GTI.


      I tell you this story so you don't say...ahh those internet stories...they wont happen to me. Well it happened to me and the car I bought (other than the issues noted) was pretty damn clean. 2 owner car, I knew the previous owner. It had a STACK of maintenance records, 78k miles, etc etc. When things go wrong on those, it is ghastly expensive. While it was in the shop for the stopping issue, they magically found a possible leaking valley pan gasket. like $1100 bucks through BMW.


      Its not an impossible car to work on, I replaced the MAF, most of the stuff isn't rocket science. But I would never use one as my only car ever again. If your into taking care of one, it could be fun. They make great noises, mine had a Remus exhaust. Id recommend one if you got a 540. They have great power and are better on gas than my B6S4 was. On a side note, the b6s4 is a much nicer car.

      Cliffs: expensive to maintain
      fun/ish to drive
      they still look amazing

      get a 330 ZHP

      Apologies for grammar and writing style

    8. Member SchnellFowVay's Avatar
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      10-04-2012 06:14 PM #8
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      Which one do you guys like better? Anybody who has owned or driven both please post your opinion. Maintenance costs, and handeling are two of the main things i would like to know about. I would assume a 330 will handle better, but is it a lot better or what? Which costs more to maintain and are they both expensive to maintain, seems like they are from what I have read
      Look, the reality is that some examples will be fine, others will have things go wrong.

      If the thought of a sudden $3,500 repair bill really and truly scares you, then I am not sure that either car is the way to go.

      Neither car is particularly reliable, though the 330 is a bit newer and will probably be more reliable.
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      10-04-2012 07:33 PM #9
      I know you didnt mention it but you might want to check out a e39 530i/528i. Not a big V8, sure, but the inline 6 in those is more reliable, cheaper to maintain, better mileage and still has enough get-up to have fun with. I wanna say they have 230ish HP and the V8 has like 280, so the HP increase isnt crazy. Just a thought.

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      10-04-2012 09:50 PM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by In 4 Bagels, Left Hungry View Post
      I know you didnt mention it but you might want to check out a e39 530i/528i. Not a big V8, sure, but the inline 6 in those is more reliable, cheaper to maintain, better mileage and still has enough get-up to have fun with. I wanna say they have 230ish HP and the V8 has like 280, so the HP increase isnt crazy. Just a thought.
      Thanks I will check craigslist for them

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      10-04-2012 09:54 PM #11
      Buy a 540i.
      It's big, comfy, and I wish I had one.
      Unfortunately, I already have 4 cars and live on a college campus so if I bought another car, I might have to kill myself.

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      10-04-2012 09:59 PM #12
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      So you dont think handle in the 540i is much worse? Would you still consider a pretty well handling car?
      They're both very well handling cars. They can both outhandle just about everything else from that era in their weight class.

      It's kind of like apples to oranges though, because the 330 is a much smaller car.
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      10-04-2012 10:02 PM #13
      A month after I flew to NC to pick up my ZHP, this shows up in my backyard:

      http://providence.craigslist.org/cto/3306953586.html

      Might want to check it out. I haven't seen any frightening horror stories yet - I've already had the water pump/t-stat + housing/drive belts/FCABs replaced as preventative maintenance. Been a dream so far.

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      10-06-2012 09:53 AM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by FujiTekniques View Post
      A month after I flew to NC to pick up my ZHP, this shows up in my backyard:

      http://providence.craigslist.org/cto/3306953586.html

      Might want to check it out. I haven't seen any frightening horror stories yet - I've already had the water pump/t-stat + housing/drive belts/FCABs replaced as preventative maintenance. Been a dream so far.
      Its awesome but out of my price range

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      10-06-2012 10:50 AM #15
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      Its awesome but out of my price range
      are you looking into the pre facelift or post facelift e39s?

    16. Member DerSpiegel's Avatar
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      10-06-2012 10:59 AM #16
      Quote Originally Posted by mikes4 View Post
      couple weeks later the car started braking (un-commanded) abruptly in 1st. When I say abruptly, the only reason my face didn't hit the wheel was because of the seat belt. Its pretty interesting to drive around in a car that you think is actually trying to kill you in traffic. It was no bull**** dangerous. BMW said it was probably the ABS unit which is frighteningly priced. I ended up replacing the MAF. Turns out it was broken and some signal about tq output was going incorrectly to the ABS/TC system and causing the brake application....i think. i traded that thing in a couple days later on a 2010 GTI.

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      10-06-2012 01:23 PM #17
      Quote Originally Posted by 71DubBugBug View Post
      are you looking into the pre facelift or post facelift e39s?
      Post would be ideal but we'll see what I find

    18. Member bombardi's Avatar
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      10-06-2012 04:40 PM #18
      Off the top of my head I can think of these common repairs for an E39:

      1. Rear door vapor seals
      2. Fan clutch
      3. Radiator hoses
      4. T-stat
      5. Rear sway bar bushings tend to wear out every 30k but can upgraded with better parts.
      6. Guibo (driveshaft bushing)
      7. Thrust arm bushings tend to wear out but can upgraded with 'beefier' parts
      8. Clutch should be replaced every 60K for M models.
      10. Because I like numbers.

      All of the above depend on mileage of the car.

      These cars can be great daily drivers if they have been properly maintained. Mine has been reliable, its paid for so I dont mind when it goes in the shop for a $400-$1060 job (most of them I could of DIY) because the cost of owning one has been less than my buddies $600 monthly payment for his B8 S4. You basically pay the price to own a vehicle that once cost $75,000. Well built cars mixed with proper maintenance and quality parts gives less headaches.

      Expect to pay a little less for 540s and those with a six-cylinder engine, but common problems can be easily be avoided with preventative maintenance. This is my first BMW and it has been great, I would drive another if I was to sell. I wouldn't mind switching to a clean ZHP some day.

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      10-06-2012 04:54 PM #19
      540i E39's have notorious cooling system issues, among other things. The V8 E39's also have the electric power steering as opposed to the straight six cars' hydraulic rack, for whatever that's worth to you. I owned a 525iT with the sport package and loved it, but it began to get expensive. Mechanical bits aren't that hard to work on (I did a lot of maintenance myself), but electrical items were very frustrating. It handled very well for a large and heavy car - ie lots of grip, great steering, etc, but it definitely was NOT as tossable and fun as a 3 series. Needless to say, I loved the car, but if faced with the same options, I'd probably go 330 ZHP, even if the E46 does lack the heft and solidity of the E39.
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      10-06-2012 05:04 PM #20
      Quote Originally Posted by PJA View Post
      540i E39's have notorious cooling system issues, among other things. The V8 E39's also have the electric power steering as opposed to the straight six cars' hydraulic rack, for whatever that's worth to you.
      Whoa now. I think you meant to say the 540i's use a recirculating ball steering setup vs. rack and pinion on the 6-cylinder models.
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      10-06-2012 05:15 PM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by TangoRed View Post
      Whoa now. I think you meant to say the 540i's use a recirculating ball steering setup vs. rack and pinion on the 6-cylinder models.
      Her durr, ****, that's exactly what I meant! This is what day drinking and posting looks like, kids! Yes, recirculating ball as opposed to rack and pinion, thanks for catching that.
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      10-06-2012 05:24 PM #22
      I would prefer the 540 over 330 as a ex 98 540 onwer (mine is a Euro spec car so 98 got the same equipment level with the 2000 in US)
      Prepare for cooling system, suspension wear(control arm, bushing, EDC(not sure if all 540 come with it, mine did and it is expensive to replace).
      If you take good care, not too much different than other Euro make ( My family stable have E38 740i, W140 600SEL to keep in mind what my standard are). Good luck!!

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      10-07-2012 02:56 AM #23
      There is no comparison. My 330i zhp handled better than my brother's e39 m5. The e39 is too big and heavy. Maintenance is cheaper on the 330 as well. Really, the only thing that was missing in the zhp was an lsd and more aggressive final drive.

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      10-07-2012 11:59 AM #24
      I owned an E46 330i and my dad owned an E39 540iA. The E46 is a fairly tossable little sports sedan and the 3.0 liter engine is a great match with just enough power. The E39 540i is a luxurious, sporty family sedan with a hot rod V8 engine.

      You sort of guide the E39 through corners and then stomp on the go pedal for a nice shove in the back. The corner itself is more fun as you balance the E46 through it, with obviously a little less oomph on corner exit. The difference in acceleration times between the two isn't really even that great, but the 540 just feels and sounds a lot more muscular.

      My dad had two separate radiators go bad in his 7 years of ownership, and a dash button or two actually snapped in two. I had no significant problems at all in 7 years of ownership of the 330. They're both great cars, take your pick.


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      10-07-2012 12:16 PM #25
      How a 540 feels mid corner depends on the 540. A 540ia non sport on 225s or 235 Michelin MXV4's is going to feel really boaty, reluctant to turn in, and heavy.

      An M Sport like mine on Direzzas is more fun mid corner, and has higher cornering speeds than an E46, save a ZHP or M3.

      The OP needs to drive both to see what he likes more. Different strokes for different folks. My best friend had an E46 Sport/Premium for years, and I really loved it. Coming from my car though, it was torque less, had low limits, couldn't be throttle steered easily, and it felt cramped.

      He thought my car was a boring, sterile, fast couch.
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      10-07-2012 03:17 PM #26
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      Its awesome but out of my price range
      Not to be an ass, but if that is out of your range, you are probably looking at the wrong cars. Just because a 540i may only cost you $9,500, it still has the repair bills of a 14 year old $65,000 luxury car.
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      10-07-2012 04:00 PM #27
      Quote Originally Posted by SchnellFowVay View Post
      Not to be an ass, but if that is out of your range, you are probably looking at the wrong cars. Just because a 540i may only cost you $9,500, it still has the repair bills of a 14 year old $65,000 luxury car.
      This. I've been driving my LEAF for a month, and when I took my 540 to the wine country on my day off, it started to misfire.

      I dropped it off to my friend, and I'm having him down bank 1 cam sensor, solve the misfire (hopefully a coil), left rear window regulator, fix the clunk in my sunroof casette, see of the pixel campaign is still on, rear shock mounts, and an oil change.

      If I walk away without spending $2k, I'll be happy, and I already spent $3k on it earlier in the year.

      Moral of the story? BMW's are odd, cranky b*tches. I went years without issues other than consumables, but this year has been brutal (and my friend works on it for really next to nothing, parts just above cost, $40/hr for the time he's working on it, as he beats book time).

      Purchase price is a small measure of total ownership cost, and you don't want to neglect an E39 or E46.
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      10-07-2012 04:34 PM #28
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      Which one do you guys like better?
      Will you ever carry adults in the back seat and expect that they'll have comfortable leg room?

      yes - get E39
      No - get E46

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      10-07-2012 05:55 PM #29
      Quote Originally Posted by SchnellFowVay View Post
      Not to be an ass, but if that is out of your range, you are probably looking at the wrong cars. Just because a 540i may only cost you $9,500, it still has the repair bills of a 14 year old $65,000 luxury car.
      That helps me out, I don't want to think I found a good deal then have to put money into a ton of repairs.

    30. Member 1985Jetta's Avatar
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      10-07-2012 08:52 PM #30
      E39. My dad has one with 171k miles going strong

    31. Member Br1zzy's Avatar
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      10-08-2012 02:16 PM #31
      Seems to me theres only anything being talked about the E39...

      No news is good news, right?

      E46 ZHP
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    32. Member SchnellFowVay's Avatar
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      10-08-2012 02:48 PM #32
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      That helps me out, I don't want to think I found a good deal then have to put money into a ton of repairs.
      I was very serious when I said that if you can't withstand the thought of a sudden $3,500 repair bill, then neither of these cars is for you. My guess is that if $12,500 for a well-kept 328i ZHP is too much for you, hten you might be looking at the wrong cars.

      Hell, I am potentially looking at a $3,000+ repair bill for my 135i (still fully warrantied) beause it looks like my ECU is fried and they will void my warranty because of a JB4.
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      10-08-2012 03:03 PM #33
      what do you guys think of an e36 m3? I found a 328 with a swapped m3 engine and trans

    34. Member SchnellFowVay's Avatar
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      10-08-2012 03:07 PM #34
      Quote Originally Posted by CAH8 View Post
      what do you guys think of an e36 m3?
      Not a bad car, but it will require a lot of maintenance. It is easier to work on than an e46, so if you can wrench yourself, it may be closer to what you are looking for


      I found a 328 with a swapped m3 engine and trans
      This is probably not the greatest idea.
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      10-08-2012 03:36 PM #35
      Do you have any specific reasons or just that it probably will have alot of problems
      Last edited by CAH8; 10-08-2012 at 03:40 PM.

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