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The New Daily: 1995 BMW 540i 6-Speed

May 26, 2013 by Matt

1995 BMW 540i 6-Speed Arktisgrau Arctic Gray

1995 BMW 540i 6-Speed Arktisgrau Arctic Gray

Here it is. Just arrived Friday morning. And the important stuff:

1995 BMW 540i 6-Speed Arktisgrau Arctic Gray Shift Knob

BMW M60B40 Engine Motor E34 540i

Yes folks, I have obtained one of the 1,524 6-speed BMW 540i E34s to be imported during the single model year they were available here: 1995. Arctic Gray (Arktisgrau) over Dove leather interior; I love the color combination. The engine is a 4.0l DOHC V8 with a rated output of 282 hp and 295 ft-lbs of torque. The car weighs just north of 3,500 lbs, which makes for a 0-60 time very close to 6 seconds. Needless to say, it offers a healthy bump over the 189 hp of my ’95 525i. The added displacement provides a very meaty torque curve as well, which translates to neck-snapping acceleration from most anywhere on the tach, and the DOHC head keeps the engine breathing well and pulling hard right up to its 6500 rpm redline. 2nd and 3rd gear acceleration is relentless, and the engine makes a lovely noise.

1995 BMW 540i 6-Speed Arktisgrau Arctic Gray Dove Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

One of the main selling points of the car is displayed above: Its immaculate interior. Aside from some repairable door weatherstripping shrinkage, the interior looks new. The sport seats are firm but comfortable, the color scheme is very pleasing and it even features the optional 6-disc CD changer my 525 is hard-wired for but didn’t come with.

I found the car on Autotrader in Denver a couple of Fridays ago. I messaged a BMW forum member in the area asking if he’d be willing to check it out for me. Not only did he graciously agree to do so, he actually offered to deliver the car to me the following week if I would pay his expenses and the flight home. How could I refuse?

After leaving the dealership Wednesday afternoon, he rolled into central NC last Friday morning and met me at my office. He hung out for the morning and I drove him to the airport over lunch, after reimbursing him for gas and his expenses, which turned out to be amazingly inexpensive. Needless to say, I’m incredibly grateful, and the forum member has earned himself a gold star from me now and forever.

It does have a few issues, including dampers in need of replacement, cracked/missing foglights and a touch of rust along the bottoms of the doors (most frequent E34 rust area). New dampers are on order, I’m in negotiations with BMW friends over foglights from parts cars, and taking care of the rust for good is simply a matter of locating replacement doors and swapping everything over. It’s easier than it sounds.

The idea in replacing the 525 with a 540 from the same year was to retain as many of the qualities that I love about the E34 525 and shore up those areas in which I’m less than satisfied. So far, mission accomplished. Here’s what I wrote on the forums:

Alright, driving impressions compared to my 525. Overall, very similar. The 540 definitely feels more hunkered-down. Where the 525 would dance through the corners the 540 seems to take a set and bite down. If the 525 is a ballet dancer, the 540 is more of a Barry Sanders-type running back. I’ll have to post another review once I get the new dampers installed because I’m sure that’s coloring my impression of the 540. The new car does feel a bit heavier in the nose, but the car still feels like it pivots around the driver’s seat bottom—my all-time favorite quality of the E34. Overall the 540 doesn’t feel quite as “flickable” as the 525, but it’s not as floaty either, if that makes sense. Again, I’m sure new dampers will make a huge difference.

The 6-speed has taken some getting used to. I know the 5-speed in the 525 so well, the ratios and gearchanges are completely second-nature. Now I’m wondering if I’m on the highway, loping along in 6th and need to gun it to pass, do I drop 1 gear? 2 gears? Gotta get used that, and the stiff throttle cable isn’t helping with learning the car’s rev-matching/heel-and-toeing behavior.

And the power…oh the power. I’ll just come out and say it (some of you will laugh): This is the fastest car I’ve ever owned. The surge in 2nd and especially 3rd reminds me of my old 1JZ-swapped Supra for the 24 hours or so it was running correctly (long story), and that makes sense: Similar power (282 for the E34 vs. 280 for the Supra) and weight (3500 for the E34 vs. 3450 for the Supra). I remember distinctly pulling onto a country road in the Supra, opening it up and muttering “Holy crap” at the wave of power; I had exactly the same reaction in the 540 not 20 minutes ago when I laid 20 feet of rubber at the 1-2 upshift and kept it buried… It is addictive like nothing else.

So far, so good. Working through the laundry list of little things that need to be taken care of upon acquiring a new-to-me car is always kind of fun, and satisfying. Onward…

Filed under: BMW, Car Stories, Our Cars


  1. Mike B. says:

    I haven’t been on BF.C in a while, but congrats on the new car! Glad I saw this story. I am sure you will love it. The M60 does make lovely power and glorious noises.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Mike! Yeah, we miss you around there. And I do love it. It’s an incredible car. :)

      • Michael B. says:

        Thanks, I miss the BF.C scene, too. I have seen my 540i around town and sad to say it is no longer well loved. The new owner has beat it. The GF and I talk about getting an E30 from time to time, but it really makes no sense until we have a house. Did you sell your 525i or do you still have it?

        • Matt says:

          I’m really sorry to hear that, Mike. :( When I sell someone a car I almost hope they’ll take it far, far away so I won’t see it in a grocery store parking lot or on the highway and reminisce.

          I’ve all but sold the 525i to another member in the E34 subforum. They’re coming to pick it up on Friday. I will be sad to see it go; it’s been a fantastic car for us.

          • Michael B. says:

            Glad to hear your car is going to another BF.C member, here is hoping it treats its new owner as well as it has treated you.

            I agree, I’d rather not see my car as it usually saddens me. It is odd, I am glad to not have to deal with the headaches, but I still miss it. When it was working, it was so much fun.

            Hopefully I’ll get a chance to see your new ride this year! :)

            • Matt says:

              I hear you. And I still maintain (as would most other forum members) that your car was a true outlier, and that the vast majority of M60 cars give their owners many more trouble-free miles that yours gave you. At least, that’s what I hoping. :)

              Coming down in September again?

              • Michael B. says:

                Yea, I just seemed to have really bad luck. I’ll be honest, my E34 really soured me on used cars. If I buy another old BMW in the future, it will be from a club or forum member and it will be a manual.

                Yea, I will most likely be down in September once again. I’ll PM you once I know when.

  2. Phillip says:

    Congrats! That is a clean E34! I have the younger generation E39 540i 6spd with the M62 (vanos). These cars are such an animal on any road. After I got my E39 I took to Asheville to visit my best friend who had a 400,000 mile E36 325is. This was the car that got me into BMW’s and we took my E39 up the same road that we had gone up in his E36. Once we got to the top and looked down I was like did we really just come from there in the E39? I daily drive my E39 and it is such an awesome drive. Im also on BF.C as well and look foward to seeing more of it. Congrats again and have fun with it!

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Phillip! You’re right; it is an animal. But it can settle down and be a cruise missile mile-eater as well. That bandwidth is one of the best things about it.

  3. Ryan says:

    Congrats on the purchase Matt! I have to say I’m kind of surprised, but happy, to see you purchased a “behemoth” of a V8. Now we just have to work on that being the fastest car you’ve ever driven. ;) What kind of S/C or turbo setups will fit on that 4.0L? :)

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Ryan. :) Oh it already is the fastest car I’ve ever driven. Kind of embarrassing, no? Haha

      It’s very difficult, but not impossible, to fit a turbo to the M60 in the E34. Part of the problem has to do with the location of the vacuum brake booster, which BMW decided to locate up just behind the driver’s side headlights, instead of its normal location on the firewall. There’s an elaborate, beefy linkage connecting the brake pedal to the booster and master cylinder and that takes up most of the room on that side of the engine bay.

      The bottom line is that the E34 540 is kind of a factory hot rod in the sense that the chassis was never really intended for the engine, but BMW really shoehorned it in. I love that they did; take an E34 and check off every enthusiast option (big engine, sport suspension, 6-speed) and you’d have the car above. How many automakers were so in tune with the desires of car buffs back in ’95?

      All that’s to say that a turbo won’t easily fit, so the preferred method of applying forced induction is supercharging. ESS Tuning, among others, offers a kit:

  4. Aaron says:

    Nice ride! I’ve kept an eye on the 540i since a family friend bought one in the mid-late 90s and impressed me with its power…Worlds fastest sedan of it’s time, no?

  5. K Fox says:

    Oh yeah – I was gonna tell you about an easy way to deal with the shrinking door seals and forgot. If you can find any E34 in a junkyard, just pick up one of the door seals – you only need one. Then you remove your door kick plates, cut the existing seal right in the middle, then fit it properly to the door frame. When you’ve done that you’ll have a gap in the bottom of the door frame, right under the kick plate – then you just cut a piece of the extra seal you have to fit and keep it from ‘shrinking’ back in. Do this for all 4 doors and it’ll look like new. I’ve already done this and it works great!


    • Matt says:

      I’ve heard that tip, and that was the plan, although I wonder: Do the cuts in the weatherstripping show under the kick plate? And does it seal well enough down there?

      Thanks Fox. :)

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