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I really cannot bring myself to buy the new E60 5-series, so I'm seriously considering an E500. I'm concerned though since I've read differing views on the Airmatic suspension.

If you've owned (or driven) an E39, how did you find the suspension and handling on the E500? Was it as entertaining as the E39? I've got a 528i Sport, and before spending £50K on an E500, I want to make sure it's a real step forward in the handling department!!!
 

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E-39 BMW comparison to '03 E500

We're in California, so I don't know if my comparison between a US-spec E39 BMW and a US-spec M-B E500 would apply in GB.

We had a '97 BMW 528i from June 1996 to August of this year, when my wife had an unwanted encounter with a red-light runner. The BMW did what it was supposed to do - it gave its life to protect hers. She got off with a few bruises but our insurance company wrote off the car.

That left us with a real problem in finding a replacement car. We really, really liked our 528i and planned to keep it for several more years. The problem with getting another 5-series was that (a) the '03 models were about all gone and the '04 models wouldn't arrive for a while, and (b) the '04 models are unacceptably ugly anyway (Chris Bangle should burn in Hell). So, after looking at Audi A6 4.2, Volvo S80 T6 etc. we got a 2003 E500.

Is the E500 as much fun to drive as our BMW was? Um, no. Maybe it's because our BMW was a manual transmission and the M-B is an automatic, but the M-B just doesn't have the tossable, drives-much-smaller-than-it-is feel of the BMW. It feels heavier than the BMW, and it is, but the sporting feel just isn't there. What I really miss is the BMW's amazing combination of sporting feel and firm-but-luxurious ride. You would think that the E500 would repay its less-responsive handling with a very comfortable ride, but even with the air suspension on "standard", I feel little bumps and indentations much more than with the BMW. I get a lot more road noise, too. The BMW was quiet. The M-B isn't. The M-B has much lower-profile tires than the BMW, which might explain some of the harshness and noise - but if so, why did the BMW still handle better with higher-profile tires?

Frankly, I'm disappointed. The E500 is, regrettably, a dull car, except when I floor it - and how often can you do that in the city? I somehow expected something ... more for the serious money it cost. We've only had the car six weeks or so, and so I'm hoping that I will come to appreciate it more as time passes (or as I forget just how good our BMW was). The M-B is starting to display the electronic gremlins that many other people have reported, though (e.g., SRS and audio system error messages), so I don't know.
 
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