Doog's Mercedes-Benz E350: My Biggest Update Yet

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Doog

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Phoenix, AZ
Doog's 2003 BMW 530i

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Before December of last year, I didn't pay too much attention to BMWs. They were alright, I heard they were fun to drive, but I preferred what Mercedes had to offer most of the time. I appreciated the handling prowess of my mom's '06 Mini Cooper S, but it rode like a truck and was rather sparse as far as the amenities went. I preferred driving the LS430, with its excellent ride quality and isolation from the road, but it wasn't too entertaining, and it wasn't supposed to be. I wanted something that had a balance between these two cars that were both near the extremes of the comfort-performance spectrum.

After reading various reviews, lurking on dedicated forums and educating myself, I decided that a BMW would be the right car, specifically an E39 or an E46. Within these two model ranges, I preferred the 330Ci coupe, 530i and 540i the most, but was open to 325Cis, 330is or 525is in exceptional condition. Near the start of nearly a year of Craigslist lurking, I found a '92 535i that in the advertisement, appeared to be in good shape. We went to look at it a few days later, and it was in less than stellar condition. Screw that.

The better part of a year went by before I found a silver '03 525i with 74,000 miles asking for $10k in early December. The seller turned out to be a dealer in disguise, so that obviously wasn't going to happen. The same day, I found a dark silver '03 530i with 64,000 miles for $11.6k. The seller turned out to be a Romanian BMW enthusiast who had owned several 5ers and a handful of 3ers, always used, and maintained them religiously. He was selling the 530i because he had purchased another '03 530i, but with the elusive M-Sport package. He had been looking for such a car for two years.

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I didn't look at the car myself. My mom went to see it while I was at school on December 13th. The deal was done, and I left school that day and noticed a dark silver E39 in the pickup line, strikingly similar to the one I'd seen on Craigslist the day before. In fact, it was the same E39. My mom had purchased it, and both parents had came along to pick me up from school in it.

We went to the usual spot where we switched places and I took over the wheel, where the sliding center armrest attempted to eat my finger when I tried to open it. Said finger was sore for the rest of the day, but the driving experience overshadowed it for sure. The steering is a bit heavy at low speeds but lightens up in normal driving. It has a good amount of response without being twitchy like the Mini. Handling is better than expected for a 3400 lb sedan (of course it is a Bimmer, so...) and it stays relatively flat through corners. Only the major bumps and cracks in the road are felt, but the way they're transmitted into the cabin makes you feel like you're in a tank. It's a firm but comfortable ride.

When I first drove the car, I started to become worried that the power would become too intoxicating. While the Lexus was more muscular as far as power was concerned, it was geared in a way that made it feel much more tame than it actually was. The Bimmer has a very good transmission-engine combination, meaning it's quite responsive. When I first drove it, I wasn't expecting it to accelerate so quickly without any drama, but luckily for fuel economy's sake (as well as any possible speeding tickets), I adapted quickly. Now it's a gradual, smooth surge of acceleration. I should note that the brakes are excellent as well, though the brake dust they create makes cleaning those million spoke wheels a royal pain in the ass. It's worth it, though.

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The Bimmer just had its eleventh birthday on December 2nd (assembly date: 02.12.2002), and it feels like an eleven year old car, but not in a bad way. It has one small rattle coming from somewhere within the center console that I'm having trouble locating, but it's not very annoying. It's a relatively basic 530i, with no navigation, climate-controlled seats, or a sport package, although it does have sport wheels. The cold weather package option is left unchecked, as is the premium package...well, maybe (it does have the premium package, thanks @Ferraridude308). The car has a power rear sunshade and manual sunshades for the rear doors, which seem like things that would be included on a premium package. If anyone could clarify what the premium package entails, that would be greatly appreciated.

The car itself is in excellent condition. The paint still sparkles in direct sunlight with no evidence of fading or oxidation. There's only one real chip on the front of the car, leading me to believe this car spent most of its life in town and off the highway. There's one chip above the driver's side taillight that I'd like to touch up, as well as the aforementioned chip on the front of the car. The interior is in pretty good shape, minus some wear on one of the driver's bolsters. I plan to use Leatherique on the surfaces once temperatures rise again in two months or so. There's also two very small, but noticeable holes on one of the backseats, but it doesn't bother me much. Compared to the endless supply of E39s in appalling condition that I saw on Craigslist during my search, this is nothing.

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I'm pretty happy with the car as it sits, bone stock. The only thing I've done thus far is give it a wash and remove all the rear headrests (visibility was atrocious with them in), which was a job easier said than done. I picked up a key chain from the local BMW dealer and a sun shade for the front windshield yesterday. I've also ordered a vanity plate (just for the looks, not for a witty saying) that should arrive within a week. I'd also like to pick up a chrome BMW front plate in the near future, much like this one:

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Replacing the stock angel eyes with silver units would be nice, but I could live without it. A subtle lowering (maybe an inch at the most) would look good, but if it compromises the driveability or causes rubbing, screw that. Other than that, there's not much else I'd like to do, other than preventative maintenance and keeping it clean.

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1,289
United States
Salt Lake City
Ferraridude308
If anyone could clarify what the premium package entails, that would be greatly appreciated.

Package PricingBMW 530i Sedan
Premium Package (PP)
$2,300
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Universal garage door opener
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Auto-dimming rear view mirror
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Rain sensing windshield wipers
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On-board computer
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Leather upholstery
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Vavona high gloss wood

Taken from: http://www.new-cars.com/2003/bmw/2003-bmw-530i-sedan.html

FIRST!!1!1!11!!1
 
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2,235
Norway
Norway
I don't understand why you'd want a chrome front plate saying "BMW" when your state requires none and your bumper therefore has no holes.. The badge says BMW, less is more.. :)

I do love E39 facelifts though (pre-facelifts are rust buckets if you live in a salt belt and they don't look as good imo), the color looks amazing and this one looks to be in good shape.. Just make sure to keep up with maintenance, they're pretty kind cars but like all once slightly premium cars they'll be costly if not maintained.. Just an heads up.. I've seen plenty of people go into ~$10k German cars not remembering maintenance costs don't depreciate like the cars themselves and run em into the ground. For lowering you should look into H&Rs, one of the few brand coilovers I've ridden/driven on to this day that can match oem like ride quality.. Pricey, but check out Bimmerforums for used ones.

I wouldn't even change the wood trim inside this car.. Damn I'm getting old! :(
 

Katiegan

Wrenching Wench
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5,905
United Kingdom
West Yorkshire
Katiegan
KatieB53
A nice clean Bimmer you've got there! Treat her well! :sly:👍
 

MedigoFlame

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6,057
United States
Maine
MedigoFlameX
Nice! Love the E39 generation always thought it was a handsome sedan. Perfect color and wheels. Great write up too! 👍
 

Doog

Thread killer
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6,080
United States
Phoenix, AZ
I don't understand why you'd want a chrome front plate saying "BMW" when your state requires none and your bumper therefore has no holes.. The badge says BMW, less is more.. :)

If I can find a license plate mount that doesn't necessitate drilling holes in the bumper that isn't offset, the chrome roundel plate will come. If not, I don't want bumper holes or an offset plate, so it will stay stock.

I do love E39 facelifts though (pre-facelifts are rust buckets if you live in a salt belt and they don't look as good imo), the color looks amazing and this one looks to be in good shape.. Just make sure to keep up with maintenance, they're pretty kind cars but like all once slightly premium cars they'll be costly if not maintained.. Just an heads up.. I've seen plenty of people go into ~$10k German cars not remembering maintenance costs don't depreciate like the cars themselves and run em into the ground. For lowering you should look into H&Rs, one of the few brand coilovers I've ridden/driven on to this day that can match oem like ride quality.. Pricey, but check out Bimmerforums for used ones.

I wouldn't even change the wood trim inside this car.. Damn I'm getting old! :(

Ain't nothing wrong with a wood interior if it's done right. The aluminum trim that so many E39 owners like to swap to just doesn't seem as luxurious. Wood with black leather is cozy. Aluminum isn't.

A nice clean Bimmer you've got there! Treat her well! :sly:👍
Nice! Love the E39 generation always thought it was a handsome sedan. Perfect color and wheels. Great write up too! 👍

Thank you.
 
1,793
Antarctica
Xanadu
I like it. I love it. I want some more of it. Personally, I like the stock angel eyes - but that's just me.

Great car Snoop Doogy Doog. Am jelly.
 

Azuremen

Wizard of Sky Diamonds
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509
Azuremen
SC2: gtAzire.359
Don't bother with the front plate saying BMW, it will just look tacky in my opinion.

Any chance you can get the name of the color? Should be on a shock tower in the engine bay, quite curious to see if it is the same gray as my friend's 530i.
 

McLaren

Premium
43,271
United States
Texas
What Azure & eiriksmil said; ditch the idea of a front plate. The car will look a hundred times better. An extremely solid car, though. Like many BMW guys, the E39 holds a soft spot in my heart; very conservative yet great design that gives the car a perfect blend of sport & luxury in its look. The M54 may not have the surprising power of the M62, but it's still a good pick up-and-go engine. Good purchase as well with a last model year. 👍
 

Doog

Thread killer
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Phoenix, AZ
Don't bother with the front plate saying BMW, it will just look tacky in my opinion.

Any chance you can get the name of the color? Should be on a shock tower in the engine bay, quite curious to see if it is the same gray as my friend's 530i.

The color is Sterlinggrau Metallic.
 

Crash

I wish somebody would have told me
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6,041
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Puget Sound
Crash852
Great looking Sterling Grey E39. The 530i was the nice middle of the road, bang for the buck car. You don't have the power of the V8, but you still have a decently quick car (as you've found out) and you've got the rack and pinion steering. I've always loved this style of wheels, and thought they went really well, if not one of the best designs, with that generation of the 5 series.

I agree that you shouldn't have the BMW front plate. Keeps it classy.

Be careful with the front cup holders; they are fairly delicate and often break on people.

I don't recommend that you lower the car. I have a feeling that lowering the car would negatively impact the fine balance between comfort and sport the E39 is known for, especially since you do like a comfy ride.

You mentioned replacing the angel eyes with the "silver units." What do you mean by the silver units?

You're lucky you're getting this as your first car. Be nice to it, keep it well maintained and hope you enjoy it. :cheers:
 

Doog

Thread killer
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6,080
United States
Phoenix, AZ
Great looking Sterling Grey E39. The 530i was the nice middle of the road, bang for the buck car. You don't have the power of the V8, but you still have a decently quick car (as you've found out) and you've got the rack and pinion steering. I've always loved this style of wheels, and thought they went really well, if not one of the best designs, with that generation of the 5 series.

I agree that you shouldn't have the BMW front plate. Keeps it classy.

Be careful with the front cup holders; they are fairly delicate and often break on people.

I don't recommend that you lower the car. I have a feeling that lowering the car would negatively impact the fine balance between comfort and sport the E39 is known for, especially since you do like a comfy ride.

You mentioned replacing the angel eyes with the "silver units." What do you mean by the silver units?

You're lucky you're getting this as your first car. Be nice to it, keep it well maintained and hope you enjoy it. :cheers:

The stock angel eyes are yellow, but I'd like white/silver units.

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1,301
United States
Pennsylvania
Congrats on the Bimmer! Good call with keeping it simple, too. With what I've learned from my M3, the best thing to do after purchasing the car is to fight any urge to start pouring money into aftermarket parts and set money aside for maintenance/all the little things that might go wrong. But when the time comes to buy what you want for it, I vote suspension (M5 maybe? don't know much about E39s) then an M5 bumper (can't stand the stock bumpers) followed by headlights.

Once again, congratulations on the purchase 👍.
 

Doog

Thread killer
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Phoenix, AZ
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Finally had a chance to take the Bimmer out for a joyride this afternoon. Wasn't too long of a drive to get to the point pictured here, and once I got out to the desert, I was pretty much the only car on the road, something to be thankful for, as the last mile is a narrow road with rocks and bushes right along the edge with plenty of dips. The dips were deep enough that you're pretty much blind to what's coming up after, but I remained cautious, and there were no close encounters.

The area pictured here was whisper quiet, devoid of the usual sounds of the area (birds, rustling bushes, straight pipes, etc). I saw no hikers on the mountains, and not an animal in sight; I was probably the only soul there. The drive back was more spirited now that I knew what to expect from the road- taking it easy on the dips, of course. Pulled the shifter into the pseudo manual mode and finally cleared the straight six's throat a bit. The revs built up smoothly and never once did the car feel thrashy. If you've ever been to the Phoenix area, you'll know that it's pretty much devoid of proper curvy roads, and Scottsdale isn't much of an exception. There were a few wide curves there and the car took them competently, so at least I have a bit of an idea as to what its handling characteristics are like. It was a nice little drive.
 
228
United States
Louisville, Kentucky
NINJA_FOOD97
Lovely E39 you got there. If you want to get some new pads for your brakes anytime soon look into getting akebono pads. They say the stoping is superior to the stock pads. I have them on mine and its perfect! No brake dust! Any who nice car and if you have any mechanical problems you pm me. My brother use to have that m54 motor in his e46. Although he just sold it i could still offer some insight. He traded it in for a 08' 335i N54 twin turbo
 
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Doog

Thread killer
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Phoenix, AZ
Lovely E39 you got there. If you want to get some new pads for your brakes anytime soon look into getting akebono pads. They say the stoping is superior to the stock pads. I have them on mine and its perfect! No brake dust! Any who nice car and if you have any mechanical problems you pm me. My brother use to have that m54 motor in his e46. Although he just sold it i could still offer some insight. He traded it in for a 08' 335i N54 twin turbo

Good to know! I knew from the get-go that Bimmers were notorious for brake dust, and this one's no exception. In the four days it went between washes, it accumulated more dust on its wheels than the Lexus has in the three or four weeks since its last wash. When the time comes to get new brakes, I'll have to look into it. 👍
 

Doog

Thread killer
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Phoenix, AZ
So the Bimmer's been a bit unhealthy lately. The radiator, which is the second the car's had if I recall correctly, wasn't installed very well. It also needs replacing. It'll also need radiator hoses (which were ordered today) and a thermostat. The torque converter that was replaced under a recall five years ago needs replacing as well. A perk- well, not for my desire to drive the car- of having four cars is that the Bimmer can be parked until the radiator is replaced to prevent further damage. A retired master mechanic we know owes my parents some money, so he'll be able to do this work free of charge. Until then, the Bimmer's parked and I'll be using the Lexus for the time being. Took a picture of the two cars together today with the camera I got over Christmas:

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...still working out all the settings.
 

Doog

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Phoenix, AZ
Rich 🤬.


Nice car though. :bowdown:

I have only years of my parents' safe decision-making and management of finances (and their generosity to me) to thank to be able to have this car.
 

homeforsummer

Bonbonbonbons!
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27,048
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Great-looking example of an E39. They're among my favourite BMWs, which I suspect I'm not alone on. Hope you get the radiator and torque converter done and dusted with no problems 👍