Timeless automotive classic - but not for everyone
I purchased a 2002 with 130K miles and drove it as my daily driver until the timing chain guides gave out at around 240K. I liked it so much that I bought another one for a preposterously low price at the beginning of the pandemic, which I still own. BMW is primarily an engine builder. This engine just feels so good, especially from 3500 rpm up, and it is extremely comfortable on long trips (lack of rear leg room is a common complaint though). There is a reason why the E39 M5 was one of the preferred Cannonball Run cars! It is heavy at around 4,000 pounds, but the handling is predictable and responsive and it is fun to get this car sideways. The old navigation system is showing its age, but at least you can easily add aux cable support and the Sirius satellite radio module. Don't get me started on how awful the cup holders are - certainly the most common complaint about E39s in general. High mileage cars are always a risk - particularly BMWs with lots of options - and especially if the previous owner didn't keep up with everything. You don't want one of these if you can't afford to light $5K on fire to fix e.g. an engine problem when you least expect it. That said, this is one of the most reliable engines BMW ever made, especially if you have a code reader and keep up with pre-emptive maintenance (e.g. timing chain tensioners! Ask me how I know.) The ideal owner of this car is a weekend mechanic who can do most of the maintenance, especially the cooling system, control arms, and bushings. BMW designs their suspension components to be regular wear items, and the parts are surprisingly inexpensive except for the front shock absorbers. M5s are not great cars for showing off - most people have no idea what an M5 is. To the untrained eye it just looks like a boring family sedan that your accountant might drive. That said, you will regularly encounter people who give a thumbs up or want to do a quick drag race. This car was the BMW flagship model during their most dominant years. if you enjoy a manual transmission, rear wheel drive, 4 doors, and want to enjoy a piece of automotive history, you simply can't do better than this car.
Unreliable, doesn't live up to the hype.
I purchased a higher mileage e39 m5 and the car was in the shop every month for repairs. At ~20 years old, the plastic is already brittle and worn, rubber is failing. There was abnormal, excessive oil consumption. Maintenance/repairs came out to a ridiculous $1 for every 1 mile driven. You do the math. The prices on these cars are ridiculously high and it's a bubble just waiting to burst. If you need a daily driver AND don't have an unlimited credit card, avoid buying this car.
Seats were way to stiff, and no where near as plush as the Mercedes c class. The ride was also too stiff and just bumpy for lack of a better word. Also in corners didn't exactly give you the sensation that you were on rails as many other top of the line German engineered cars do. Other things to complain about would be the bland design inside, the average sound system, the cheap and easy to break cup holders, and most of all the fact that i had it in the shop for some considerable repairs 3 times within the first 2 years of purchasing it.The worst of which was the cam sensor failing, and the timing belt breaking. While the outside of the car looks great with the body styling, performance rims, and dual exhaust its a shame to say i regret buying this car. I feel i should have gone with my gut instinct and bought Mercedes, or even Audi.