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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 09-02-2010, 08:16 AM
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What are the meaningful (i.e., performance related) advantages of the E39 sport pkg?

What are the meaningful (i.e., performance related) advantages of the E39 sport package over the non-sport package?

DETAILS:
I bought my E39 off a friend years ago without even thinking about BMW so it never occurred to me to consider a "sport" package versus the non-sport package.

In a recent thread lambasting someone with a fake "M" badge, I was confused about the performance difference between the non-sport (which I have) and the sport and the M.

When I asked what the difference was between the three (sans the cosmetic marketing BS), I was shocked that (so far) the only differences that show up are the lowered ride, potentially larger wheels, and possibly wider transmission choices.

There must be more than that???

Rather than continue to hijack that thread, I figured I'd ask outright in a separate thread.

What are the MEANINGFUL differences between the E39 non-sport and sport and M packages?

Note: By meaningful, I mean performance benefit, not the meaningless cosmetic differences.
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  #2  
Old 09-02-2010, 08:27 AM
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These are the "performance" differences:
1. Different wheels and tires (17")
2. Different springs (slightly lower and different spring rates)
3. Different shocks & struts (different damping rates)
4. Slightly larger anti-sway bars
5. Different seats (arguably less comfortable with more features)

Overall, the sport package provides improved handling characteristics without degrading the quality ride (significantly).
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  #3  
Old 09-02-2010, 08:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
These are the "performance" differences:
1. Different wheels and tires (17")
2. Different springs (slightly lower and different spring rates)
3. Different shocks & struts (different damping rates)
4. Slightly larger anti-sway bars
5. Different seats (arguably less comfortable with more features)

Overall, the sport package provides improved handling characteristics without degrading the quality ride (significantly).
3 spoke M steering wheel too
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  #4  
Old 09-02-2010, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King 5 View Post
3 spoke M steering wheel too
I discounted that (and the moulding) as a non-performance improvement although some might say otherwise.
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  #5  
Old 09-02-2010, 08:58 AM
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this is what you got w/ the $3450 sport pkg for the 528i in 1998.
-electrically adjustable leather seats (default:montana leather)
-Technical surface trim
-sport suspension
-235/435R17 93w high perf tires 17" cross spoke wheels
-Shadowline exterior trim, choice of standard or metallic paint

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sport pkg in '99 for 528i:
-Mtechnic sports suspension, 17" alloy wheels w/ performance tires
-Msport 3 spoke steering wheel multi function. shadowline trim

Sport-Premium pkg in '99 for 528i:
all of the above plus:
-Montana leather uphostery and door trim
-Vavona redwood trim
-auto dimming rr view mirror
-stnd or metallic paint
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sport pkg in 2002 for the 525/530:
-17x8star spoke wheels -525 only
-17x8 cross spoke bolted wheels - 530 only
-shadowline trim -530 only
-mtechnic sport suspension
-mtechnic sport steering wheel w/ multi function controls
-12 way front sports seats w/ adjustable thigh support
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  #6  
Old 09-02-2010, 09:20 AM
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After I installed H&R sport springs, billstien sports, and 17" wheels on my 2002 530i, someone told me that I essentially had a sport package. Well, with regard to handling anyway--not trim. I did go on to add a stress bar and eibach front and rears sway bars. My ride is considerably tighter than the factory sport setup now.

After riding in my friend's 2002 540i with the sport package, his ride was noticeably smoother than mine. At that time, however, his original struts were tired. His car had much more roll than mine until he installed coilovers.

I wonder how much it costs to swap to a sports suspension with OEM parts? I imagine that after-market is less expensive. But, which combo of after market parts would be equivalent to OEM? Koni struts and eibach springs, perhaps?

Oh, one more thing. I measured the steering wheels. The diameter of the 3-spoke wheel is only about 1cm smaller than the standard 4-spoke wheel. The 3-spoke is considerably thicker and I think that makes it feel smaller. Hand position is closer to 10-2 on the sport while it's 9-3 on the standard wheel. I guessing hand position based on button postions and thumb grooves.
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  #7  
Old 09-02-2010, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anomal View Post
I wonder how much it costs to swap to a sports suspension with OEM parts? I imagine that after-market is less expensive. But, which combo of after market parts would be equivalent to OEM? Koni struts and eibach springs, perhaps?

I don't think you can (exactly) recreate the OEM ride and handling with aftermarket parts, unless you use OEM parts. Every post I have read indicates that Bilstein and Koni shocks/struts provide better handling and greater life but sacrifices some level of ride comfort. The unique balance between very good handling with impeccable ride characteristics is what makes the e39 sport suspension so special. A drawback is the relatively short lifespan of the Sachs struts. Changing any component will change those characteristics. Whether that is better or worse is in the eye of the beholder.
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  #8  
Old 09-02-2010, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
These are the "performance" differences:
1. Different wheels and tires (17")
2. Different springs (slightly lower and different spring rates)
3. Different shocks & struts (different damping rates)
4. Slightly larger anti-sway bars
5. Different seats (arguably less comfortable with more features)

Overall, the sport package provides improved handling characteristics without degrading the quality ride (significantly).
Thanks Fudman for understanding the question (I too would discount any surface trim, bumpers, badges, and steering wheel marketing bs and I am constantly surprised anyone falls for that sophomoric and very obvious trick by the BMW marketing team in their desperate attempt to differentiate that which isn't any different).

For the items that really are different (and which really do provide a performance enhancement), may I ask someone to clarify the performance enhancement of the following sport vs non-sport actual (i.e., measurable) differences?

WHEELS & TIRES:
1. Larger wheels & wider tires (I can easily assume this gives better traction overall?)

SPRINGS & STRUTS/SHOCKS:
2a. Lower springs (I can only presume better aerodynamics is the result?)

2b. (Stiffer I presume?) springs (do stiffer springs allow more control over bumps at speed?)

3. (I presume stiffer?) front struts and rear shocks (ditto on the more control over bumps at speed?)

ANTI-SWAY BARS:
4. Larger (presumably fatter?) anti-sway bars (dunno anything about them ... what is the performance benefit of fatter anti-sway bars? Do fatter anti-sway bars allow less roll in hard cornering maneuvers?

SEATS:
5a. (presumably stiffer) seats with better thigh support (I guess to keep you from bouncing about at speed?)

5b. Seats with more features (what other seat features are performance related, if any, e.g., my non-sport seat has electrical controls, heating, lumbar support, tilt, etc. ... none of which I would consider a "performance enhancement").

Last edited by bluebee; 09-02-2010 at 09:50 AM.
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  #9  
Old 09-02-2010, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebee View Post
Thanks Fudman for understanding the question (I too would discount any surface trim, bumpers, badges, and steering wheel marketing bs and I am constantly surprised anyone falls for that sophomoric and very obvious trick by the BMW marketing team in their desperate attempt to differentiate that which isn't any different).

For the items that really are different (and which really do provide a performance enhancement), may I ask someone to clarify the performance enhancement of the following sport vs non-sport actual (i.e., measurable) differences?

WHEELS & TIRES:
1. Larger wheels & wider tires (I can easily assume this gives better traction overall?)

SPRINGS & STRUTS/SHOCKS:
2a. Lower springs (I can only presume better aerodynamics is the result?)

2b. (Stiffer I presume?) springs (do stiffer springs allow more control over bumps at speed?)

3. (I presume stiffer?) front struts and rear shocks (ditto on the more control over bumps at speed?)

ANTI-SWAY BARS:
4. Larger (presumably fatter?) anti-sway bars (dunno anything about them ... what is the performance benefit of fatter anti-sway bars? Do fatter anti-sway bars allow less roll in hard cornering maneuvers?

SEATS:
5a. (presumably stiffer) seats with better thigh support (I guess to keep you from bouncing about at speed?)

5b. Seats with more features (what other seat features are performance related, if any, e.g., my non-sport seat has electrical controls, heating, lumbar support, tilt, etc. ... none of which I would consider a "performance enhancement").
Actually the outer circumference of the tires does not change much. The wheel diameter increases from 16" to 17". This requires a tire with a short sidewall but same outer circumference. This improves tire's responsiveness but trades off a little ride quality. 17" is a good compromise for handling and ride. 18" and 19" wheels are progressively bigger, with smaller sidewalls, excerbating the tradeoff. See a recent Car & Driver article on the pros and cons of plus wheel sizing. Bigger wheels does not automatically equal higher performance. They can actually slow your car down and increase gas consumption. Much of it is the appearance (bling) factor.

Lower springs have minimal improvements to areodynamics unless you have ground effects fairing but lowers the center of gravity of the car, which improves handling. However, the reduced spring travel means they must be stiffer to prevent the car from bottoming out. This sacrifices some ride quality. Stiffer springs do not necessarily mean better control over bumps. Better control is defined by the complete suspension system (shocks+springs+suspension design+tires+etc.). Wider tires do mean more rubber on the road=more friction=better handling. However, that also increases rolling resistance which reduces gas mileage. Also wider tires will hydroplane more easily.

The struts/shocks must be mated to the travel range of the springs. The damping coefficients are also optimized for that balance between ride and handling. Too much dampening is too stiff and harsh, too little is a bouncy, wallowing ride. Struts/shocks also can have different dampening coefficients in compression and extension. This formula is what makes one shock/strut better (for handling or ride characteristics) than another.

Sway bars with increased torsional stiffness (usually thicker or fatter) reduce body lean in a turn. While this can be perceived as improved handling, it is possible to overdo it. A neutral handling car (e.g. midengine like the Porsche Boxster) is the optimal design. Most cars are designed with inherent understeer to keep drivers, who act like Nikki Lauda, from killing themselves. The Porsche 911 is the opposite, as the rear engine weight bias creates inherent oversteer. Sway bars can change that tendency as can wider tires in the rear. A stiffer rear bar induces more oversteer, which is why many e39 owners with sport suspensions change over to the M5 rear sway bar, to create more neutral handling.

Ultimately, the suspension is simply a system of components. Changing any component will change the overall characteristics of the system. When I redid my front suspension I left everything OEM except the thrust arm bushings. I went with HD Meyle bushings to improve durability. I had considered changing to Bilstein struts but wound up staying with Sachs because I did not want to degrade the ride for a small improvement in handling (but much better durability). I have to say that changing suspension components is basically a crapshoot, unless you have actually experienced the change in another car. It amazes that people will buy things and install them onto an extremely well-designed car (at least the e39 engine & suspension are well designed) without doing their due diligence research. But to each their own.

Bigger side bolsters are usually used to keep the driver from sliding off the seat during cornering maneuvers. While the sport seat has a thigh support, I find it essentially useless. Not really much "sport" to these sport seats and the comfort seats sound like a much better proposition. I for one am all about comfort!

Last edited by Fudman; 09-02-2010 at 02:11 PM.
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  #10  
Old 09-02-2010, 12:14 PM
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The Sport Pkg is lowered about 20 mm.
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  #11  
Old 09-02-2010, 12:27 PM
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larger wheels give faster acceleration
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  #12  
Old 09-02-2010, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tema View Post
larger wheels give faster acceleration
Sorry but this statement is not entirely accurate, assuming that the outside tire circumference doesn't change. Larger wheels will usually make the car accelerate slower, in most cases, because the larger wheel (plus tire) weighs more than a smaller wheel (plus tire). The heavier wheel-tire combination will accelerate in rotation, slower than a lighter one, given the same torque available.
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  #13  
Old 09-02-2010, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King 5 View Post
3 spoke M steering wheel too
Not in 97 and 98.
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  #14  
Old 09-02-2010, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by fudman View Post
sorry but this statement is not entirely accurate,
+1
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Old 09-02-2010, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fudman View Post
Actually the outer circumference of the tires does not change much. The wheel diameter increases from 16" to 17". This requires a tire with a short sidewall but same outer circumference. This improves tire's responsiveness but trades off a little ride quality. 17" is a good compromise for handling and ride. 18" and 19" wheels are progressively bigger, with smaller sidewalls, excerbating the tradeoff. See a recent Car & Driver article on the pros and cons of plus wheel sizing. Bigger wheels does not automatically equal higher performance. They can actually slow your car down and increase gas consumption. Much of it is the appearance (bling) factor.

Lower springs have minimal improvements to areodynamics unless you have ground effects fairing but lowers the center of gravity of the car, which improves handling. However, the reduced spring travel means they must be stiffer to prevent the car from bottoming out. This sacrifices some ride quality. Stiffer springs do not necessarily mean better control over bumps. Better control is defined by the complete suspension system (shocks+springs+suspension design+tires+etc.). Wider tires do mean more rubber on the road=more friction=better handling. However, that also increases rolling resistance which reduces gas mileage. Also wider tires will hydroplane more easily.

The struts/shocks must be mated to the travel range of the springs. The damping coefficients are also optimized for that balance between ride and handling. Too much dampening is too stiff and harsh, too little is a bouncy, wallowing ride. Struts/shocks also can have different dampening coefficients in compression and extension. This formula is what makes one shock/strut better (for handling or ride characteristics) than another.

Sway bars with increased torsional stiffness (usually thicker or fatter) reduce body lean in a turn. While this can be perceived as improved handling, it is possible to overdo it. A neutral handling car (e.g. midengine like the Porsche Boxster) is the optimal design. Most cars are designed with inherent understeer to keep drivers, who act like Nikki Lauda, from killing themselves. The Porsche 911 is the opposite, as the rear engine weight bias creates inherent oversteer. Sway bars can change that tendency as can wider tires in the rear. A stiffer rear bar induces more oversteer, which is why many e39 owners with sport suspensions change over to the M5 rear sway bar, to create more neutral handling.

Ultimately, the suspension is simply a system of components. Changing any component will change the overall characteristics of the system. When I redid my front suspension I left everything OEM except the thrust arm bushings. I went with HD Meyle bushings to improve durability. I had considered changing to Bilstein struts but wound up staying with Sachs because I did not want to degrade the ride for a small improvement in handling (but much better durability). I have to say that changing suspension components is basically a crapshoot, unless you have actually experienced the change in another car. It amazes that people will buy things and install them onto an extremely well-designed car (at least the e39 engine & suspension are well designed) without doing their due diligence research. But to each their own.

Bigger side bolsters are usually used to keep the driver from sliding off the seat during cornering maneuvers. While the sport seat has a thigh support, I find it essentially useless. Not really much "sport" to these sport seats and the comfort seats sound like a much better proposition. I for one am all about comfort!
Well spoken : )

I'll add that w-a-y too many people degrade their E39 suspension in the name of "improvements"... I am going to 9Jx18 style 42s with 265/35ZR18s as my experience with two other BMWs is that the wider contact patches during "normal" spirited driving provide a "stuck" to the ground feeling and handling improvement when you are at 80%-85% (max of most of my driving) and I like the 18" low profile look. I presume that this is because I'm not outside the envelope where the torque of the I6 cant overcome the added rotational weight (right where you DONT want it) of the 18" rims. I suspect any 1/4 mile checks would show my 530i just got slower for my $1900 investment but the other 99% of the time, they sure feel good!

My struts have 69000 miles on them and are next to be replaced (after my VANOS seals). Struts are one component that you WILL feel in the seat of your pants mile 1. I'm leaning in your direction of sticking with the stock Sachs sport struts even though they wont last as long as alternatives.

On a non-performance basis, I like the overall lower look, the shadowline trim, the sport steering wheel and the fact that if you adjust the sport seat low and raked, on a long drive you can move it back slightly, extend the thigh supports, go upright, tilt and have a totally different seat (different pressure points), I find it can keep you fresh when the miles get long... other then that, they are not as comfy as the stock seats or close to the comfort seat option.
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Last edited by Hooray!; 09-02-2010 at 04:58 PM.
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  #16  
Old 09-02-2010, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hooray! View Post
Well spoken : )

the fact that if you adjust the sport seat low and raked, on a long drive you can move it back slightly, extend the thigh supports, go upright, tilt and have a totally different seat (different pressure points), I find it can keep you fresh when the miles get long... other then that, they are not as comfy as the stock seats or close to the comfort seat option.
I do not like the sport seats at all. The right side bolster on my 6'-2' frame exerts pressure points on my thigh that make it uncomfortable and a bit painful. No amount of adjusting seems to work. I have long legs that cannot be out anywhere near straight since if I move the seat way back, the steering wheel is too far away. Never had this issue on my other vehicles. Seems to be different ergonomics in the Bimmer compared to American iron.
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  #17  
Old 09-02-2010, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tema View Post
larger wheels give faster acceleration
Uhhhh... No. As stated earlier, taller overall tire/wheel combos slow you down, not the other way around.

And if it's just bigger rims with a shorter tire profile, maintaining close to stock rolling diameter, nothing changes.

RE the LP, I love my sport seats- it took me about a month to get them right, but after a lot of fooling around they're perfect! Hold me in tight, and look great, too! Bigger folks are definitely jammed in there, though!
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Old 09-02-2010, 06:32 PM
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I'm also 6'2" and though I've only had my E39 a couple of weeks I'm really liking the sport seats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gtxragtop View Post
I have long legs that cannot be out anywhere near straight since if I move the seat way back, the steering wheel is too far away. Never had this issue on my other vehicles. Seems to be different ergonomics in the Bimmer compared to American iron.
The only guys I know of who drive with their legs anywhere remotely close to fully extended (which is what I assume you meant by straight) are in open wheel purpose-built race cars. Most driving/race instructors will coach that you should have plenty of bend in both your legs and arms for optimum control of the car and reaction time.

After a quick search...



and

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=164706
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agent15 View Post
I'm also 6'2" and though I've only had my E39 a couple of weeks I'm really liking the sport seats.



The only guys I know of who drive with their legs anywhere remotely close to fully extended (which is what I assume you meant by straight) are in open wheel purpose-built race cars. Most driving/race instructors will coach that you should have plenty of bend in both your legs and arms for optimum control of the car and reaction time.

After a quick search...



and

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=164706
I'm 6'-0" so should fit pretty much in the middle of the curve... I do find adjusting the seat closer then you would think to the wheel and then using the angles to get the seat just right takes some time with these sport seats, once you get them there, the memory setting is great... my M2 is then the pulled back a little, tilt, thigh out mode, also very comfortable, lots of playing with it though, hope the memory settings last a while!
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  #20  
Old 09-02-2010, 07:31 PM
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On the V8's the sport packaged automatics will have a 155 mph speed limiter. I believe all the v8's with manual will have a sport suspension (cranked up a notch if S62) and 155mph limit.

Drive any Toyota, it should be night and day, in the differences in handling. Maybe less so in a non sport suspended car, but noticeable. Toyotas should not be rushed, BMW's are difficult to drive slowly. Drive a 3 series, its noticably sharper the the 5, although I have the non-rack and pinion steered, v8 model. The BMW sport suspension will usually have better transient response (a change in steering input will yield a quick response, and you dont need to overcorrect for sluggish response). The transient response improvements are from the suspension components mentioned. This is meaningful for many people.

I think the sport seat side bolsters can be tighter. The Recaros in the '84-'86 Alfa GTV-6 are perfect.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:50 PM
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Excuse me for getting a little off topic here, but it's called a sport package. Not a performance package.

Why do people expect so much out of a sport package? That's what the M-division is for.

/rant
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Old 09-03-2010, 04:21 AM
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The autos also get a higher stall converter.
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Old 09-03-2010, 04:22 AM
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Quote:
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larger wheels give faster acceleration
BwaHAHAHA - fail.
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Old 09-03-2010, 06:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LaCrosse540i6 View Post
Why do people expect so much out of a sport package? That's what the M-division is for.
Now that we've narrowed down the meaningful (i.e., measurably sport related) differences between the E39 regular and sport ... may I ask ... (for all to be edified) ...

What are the meaningful (i.e., performance-related) differences between the E39 "sport" and the "M"?
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  #25  
Old 09-03-2010, 06:11 AM
PepePerezz PepePerezz is offline
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Location: Largo, FL
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 1
Mein Auto: 2000 528i
My 528i has the M sports package an it drives much better than my previous 528i without.
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