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Old 03-23-1999, 01:06 PM
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we know the 500E blows away the '94 BMW i wont even go there...

now, how do these two cars match up? how much better is the E420? speed? handling? reliability? holding its value? etc.

thanks for the comparison info.....

Old 03-23-1999, 04:50 PM
Lee Scheeler
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You hit the nail right on the head with the 500E blowing away the E34 540's. It would also make a tidy snack out of an E34 M5 as well. As far as E34 540 vs W124 4.2 V8... Although they are essentially similar configurations they are different cars. The MB 4.2 engine(covered in detail in the 400E review of this site) is much stronger than the BMW 4.0. Where the bimmer wins some points is with a very sweet tranny. The 5 speed electronically controlled automatic in those cars drives very similarly to the new electronic 5-speeds in the MB's. Since you have an E420 I don't need to tell you what a pain in ass the combo of that 2.24 diff and tranny can be. Saying it has a stubborn mind of its own is being kind... The character is different. The BMW has the peaky engine and sweet tranny. The E420 has the torquey engine but a transmission that hinders it somewhat. It comes down to the driver's preference; what traits you like better. Braking between the two is about equal despite the bimmer having a bit more rubber on the road(stock). Handling: the BMW is the better performance handler out of the box but it isn't anything that couldn't be met or exceeded with a good set of aftermarket rubber on the Benz. Without getting into a "modified this vs modified that" debate let's just say both handle well and both have room for improvement. The BMW did not have the solid/quality tactile feel of the MB when it came to all the interior bits, switches, levers, etc. Test drive both, the individual you are will determine which is right for you. Note* The 4.0 V8 in the BMW was plagued by very premature compression loss problems.(the block dissolves!) BMW has warranted certain examples under certain circumstances but it is a definite case of caveat-emptor! Because of this resale will be very poor. If your really interested, I will go into specifics of the BMW problem... Aftermarket on the BMW is a bit different. Short of what I have already covered in previous posts the E420 can't be tuned much further without 4-5 figure AMG or Renntech stuff. The 540 can be fit with a supercharger to get it to 500E performance ballpark for about $8000. Since the engine longevity was already a problem area on 540's any supercharged example may not live long. Bottom line...test drive, test drive, test drive. Even among the same model, individual cars will drive differently. Drive a few of each and pick your fave.

Best of Luck...Lee

PS I assume you would examine each potential car closely to make sure it had maintenance records and had not been in any serious wrecks. An independent professional inspection prior to purchase can be the best investment you make.
Old 03-23-1999, 10:26 PM
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Looking at these two cars, i guess the BWM was looking for a more younger, aggressive driver type demographic while mercedes was still sticking to the refined upper market. but in any event there is one thing for sure, the E34 540i looks a lot outdated than the 124 E420. MBs seem to last longer without looking outdated. except with this new s class and soo to arrive c class and 2002 e class will all the cars looked dated soon.

the problem with the 540i V8s is the small block. i did a little research. since USA gas contains high amounts of sulfur, this seemed to wear away the block and the valves experienced leakages. a big problem that doesnt sit well in my stomach if i was to own this car for a long time. BMW has a full replacment warranty, but that is also a headache since it may or may not be honored. i heard they will honor it only if the problem arrises. i would want to problem to be solved before it happens!! so, on this stand point alone i would MUCH rather go with the MORE RELIABLE and STURDY as a TANK MB. its so typical for BMW to have problems. i hear about BMW problems all the time. the only thing that attracted me to the E34 540i is the low price i can get a decent german V8 sedan for..but in reality its not low since resale in the next few years will be ****! a used MB is still one of the best car buys since you wont lose much money.(some used jap cars are good buys too)

I do agree that the 5 speed auto in the 540i is nice. i wish the E420 had a more aggressive rear axle ratiod but like how you so eloquently stated...somethings has to be saved for 500E

love this forum....
Old 03-24-1999, 02:17 PM
Lee Scheeler
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For more specifics on the BMW shortblock problem check out this link

The MB were designed to last much longer than the BMWs. BMW targets a younger audience (in the past anyhow) but they also target a particular type within the market. That type being the ones who lease a car then forget about it. Many more mercedes owners buy their cars or buy them used to keep for many more years. Exampe: how many MB's do you see with more than 100K on the odometer? how many 540's do you see that old? ...exactly. I've often heard talk of retrofitting the ZF electro 5-speed(540 and MB's I'm told) but it would be more of a headache than it would be worth. In addition to the tranny you would need another "brain box" to interface the computer of the engine and the tranny, associated wiring...etc. Not much you can do about the rear axle of the 420(short of swapping it with more headaches) Only short term recommendation is to shift manually most of the time. If your dead set on performance and the 500E isn't an option there are others possibilities. Try picking up an old 190 2.6, 300E, or early C280 and putting twin-turbos on it. Kits are available....Lee
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