2003 BMW 540

Change year or car

Change year or car


starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

188.3” x 56.6”


Rear-wheel drive



2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • i


  • iT


Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2003 BMW 540 trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Sedans for 2024

2003 BMW 540 review: Our expert's take

Vehicle Overview
A 4.4-liter V-8 engine provides the power for the strongest member of BMW’s midlevel 5 Series family. Although they look virtually identical, the 525i and 530i sedans use inline-six-cylinder engines and the high-performance M5 sedan gets a larger, extra-potent V-8.

For 2003, BMW’s Head Protection System for rear passengers becomes standard. A new Sport Package, which is standard on the sedans, is equipped with the six-speed-manual shift; this addition includes front and rear spoilers, black side moldings, an M-type suspension II, a black roof liner, an M-type footrest, 18-inch wheels and visible exhaust pipes. Titanium rings go around the gauges in the instrument panel. BMW’s optional navigation system has been upgraded to DVD-based operation.

All 5 Series models are rear-wheel drive, unlike the 3 Series sedans, which may be equipped with all-wheel drive.

Like its 325xi twin, BMW’s 540 wagons competes primarily against other European-brand luxury wagons from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo.

The 540i rides a 111.4-inch wheelbase. Even though they seem more like midsize models, which is how cars.com classifies them, the 540 models fits into the compact-car category according to interior-volume standards by the Environmental Protection Agency. Measuring approximately 188 inches long overall, the 540i is nearly 9 inches shorter than the Lexus LS 430. In appearance, each 5 Series sedan closely resembles its smaller and larger mates, all of which sport BMW’s familiar twin-kidney grille. The 540i sedan has a standard moonroof and xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights.

From the front doors forward, the 540 wagons look identical to BMW’s 5 Series sedans. In overall appearance, they resemble the company’s smaller 3 Series and larger 7 Series, led by the familiar twin-kidney grille that’s been a BMW hallmark.

A wood-trimmed interior and seating for five occupants is provided. Upholstered in leather, the front bucket seats have 10-way power adjustment for the driver. Standard equipment on all 540 models includes rain-sensing wipers, dual-mode automatic air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, heated power mirrors and an alarm. Sedans can be equipped with an optional split, folding rear seatback and BMW’s navigation system.

The 540 wagon includes dual-zone automatic air conditioning, heated power mirrors with a memory feature, a CD stereo, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, keyless entry, a central locking system, a split, folding rear seat and a retractable rear cargo cover. Cargo volume behind the rear seat totals 32.7 cubic feet, but folding the backseat increases space to 65.2 cubic feet.

Under the Hood
Topping the regular 5 Series lineup, the 540i models get a a 4.4-liter V-8 engine that produces 290 horsepower. It teams with either a five-speed-automatic or six-speed-manual transmission. A manual shift actually costs more and is available as part of a Sport Package that includes a tauter suspension and 17-inch tires.

Dual-stage front airbags deploy according to crash severity and whether occupants are buckled up. Side-impact airbags for the front seats and BMW’s Head Protection System — which consists of curtain-type airbags that deploy to protect front-seat occupants — are standard. Side-impact airbags are optional for the rear seats. Safety features include antilock brakes, traction control and BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control system. Optional Park Distance Control detects obstacles to the front and rear of the car while parking.

Driving Impressions
Even more than in the less-expensive 525i and 530i models, BMW manages to blend big doses of both sport and luxury in the 540i. Drivers can expect the precise maneuverability and control of a 3 Series, coupled with a level of luxury that approaches that of the big 7 Series. The suspensions are undeniably firm, especially if the sedan is fitted with the Sport Package, but ride comfort remains pleasant over most pavement surfaces.

BMW manages to blend big doses of both sport and luxury in the 540i wagon. Drivers can expect the precise maneuverability of a 3 Series coupled with luxury that approaches the 7 Series. The suspensions are undeniably firm, especially if a Sport Package is installed, but ride comfort remains pleasant over most pavement surfaces.

In all 540i models, the V-8 engine unleashes a veritable sea of strength to deliver supremely confident highway operation. Easy-to-read gauges follow the familiar BMW layout.


Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
From the cars.com 2003 Buying Guide
Posted on 12/18/02

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.8
  • Interior 4.6
  • Performance 4.9
  • Value 4.7
  • Exterior 4.9
  • Reliability 4.3

Most recent consumer reviews


2003 BMW 540 M Sport - Excellent Design

2003 was the last year for this series, and the 540 M Sport was probably the best balanced option of this series. The 4.4 ltr motor is powerful and bullet proof from this Era. 220,000 miles on these engines before work needs to be done on timing chain guides, then good to go again... they just run great and pull hard. Much more reliable and fun than the "twin power turbo" BMWs that have come and gone from my garage (while the 540 M Sport has stayed.) The 6 speed stick is the way to go. Awesome match up with the motor, and with the performance and solid handling of the M Sport suspension there is no comparison even on the market today. Classic lines... always compliments from other drivers. These cars are fun and are just going up in value. Strongly recommend. More fun than an 80's Porsche 911 stick shift and WAY less maintenance.


Amazing car! Upkeep is constant, but worth it.

BMW did it right with this one. Perfectly balanced between a luxury and sport sedan...have to get the 6 speed manual though. Looks are timeless and on the aggressive side.


My 3rd E39 wagon, this 540iT has been my favorite

Legendary 540iT M-Sport Wagon, this BMW 4.4litre V-8 wagon has sport suspension, beefy front brakes, sport steering wheel, the coveted anthracite-colored headliner, shortened rear end and tuned transmission for sporty response, special aerodynamic front bumper cover and rear skirt, plus the super-rare factory rear spoiler. The E39 is a special car recognized by BMW fans world-wide as one of the finest series they ever produced. Less than 200 of the custom V-8 M-Sport Wagons were imported to the US in 2003 and very few have survived in this condition. If you know what it is, then you know what it is.

See all 18 consumer reviews


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by BMW
New car program benefits
48 months/50,000 miles
72 months/unlimited distance
48 months/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance
48 months/50,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Certified Pre-Owned Elite with less than 15,000 miles; Certified Pre-Owned with less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles from expiration of 4-year/50,000-mile new car warranty
Dealer certification required
196-point inspection
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors