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2003 BMW 540

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105
Photos
Sedan
5 Seats
18-19 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
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Our Take

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

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.

Exterior
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...
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.

Exterior
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.

Interior
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.

Safety
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

What drivers are saying

4.9
15 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.9)
Performance
(4.9)
Interior Design
(4.6)
Comfort
(4.7)
Reliability
(4.4)
Value For The Money
(4.8)

Read reviews that mention:

(5.0)

Great 15 year old car

by Jvelas from Atlanta, Ga on August 7, 2018

Always wanted a E39 539i, and finally found the one, 2003 6speed Msport, fantastic car to drive, drove it from Salt Lake City all the way to Atl when I bough it, no issues whatsoever, tough previous ... Read full review

(4.0)

Nice to drive

by Lil Joker from San Jose on June 23, 2018

Runs great, i like the performance of the car. It will be a classic in the years to come. I think the car is a good value. Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2003 BMW 540 currently has 1 recall


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2003 BMW 540 has not been tested.

Latest 2003 540 Stories

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The 540 received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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