If you’re in the market for a new set of shocks and struts for your E39, you’re in the right place. In this post I’ll go over the types of shocks available and how to choose the correct type that will suit your needs. The first thing you need to consider is what model E39 you drive. The 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i were available in either the base model or sport package. Those with the sport package require sport shocks and those without the sport package require base shocks. BMW and parts dealers refer to the sport model parts as M sport suspension.
E39 Base Model Shocks
The base model 5 series sedans are not as low as the sport package models, and the dampening is not as firm. The ride is much more comfortable and plush, which is really enjoyable for long commutes or rough New England roads. My first E39 was a 2001 530i base model, here’s a video of that car before I sold it. Driving that car was like rolling on a tub of organic melted butter. And I mean that in the most positive way possible.
E39 Sport Package Shocks
The sport package models are a rare breed for obvious reasons: the majority of BMW shoppers purchased less expensive base models. If you’re lucky enough to have a true sport package sedan, be sure to order the appropriate shocks.
There are several brands and options available to those of us who drive the sport package models. Bilstein, Sachs, Koni and OEM Sachs are the most common options. Bilstein sports have a great reputation on older applications such as the E30, but are not well received in the E39 community because of their harsh ride characteristics. If that’s your preference, then I won’t stop you from ordering Bilstein shocks here.
Sachs sport shocks are an OEM replacement for the original shocks and are my favorite option. These will restore your ride to that OEM ride quality without the price of the Sachs version that is sold at the dealership. They are the same shocks as the version sold by the dealer, just without the BMW stamp. Sachs sport shocks provide a firm ride but are not too harsh. The improvement over blown shocks with over 100k miles is immediately noticeable after installation. These are the best shocks for the money and are what I installed on my 530i sport. You can order the Sachs sport shocks here.
Koni yellow sport shocks are probably the high performance option available for E39 owners but are also the most expensive. The Koni sport shocks have adjustable dampening so you can enjoy a greater range of driving dynamics. Drive during the week on a softer setting and adjust to a firmer setting before track or auto-cross events. You can order the Koni yellow shocks here.
In conclusion, my favorite shocks that balance quality, performance, and cost are the Sachs Sport shocks. These OEM replacements are made in Germany and restore that firm factory ride without being too harsh or too soft. They cost hundreds of dollars less than the Koni Yellow adjustable shocks, money which I feel is better spent on Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires anyway.
If you’re looking for a video guide to installing new shocks in your E39, check out my suspension overhaul videos here.