BimmerFest BMW Forum banner
1 - 19 of 19 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,362 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I'm looking to purchase a 1997 540i in the near future and I'm planning on test driving several over the coming weekend. I currently own a 1992 325i, 5-speed, and need to upgrade to a larger vehicle (I'm 6'4", 250 on a good day). I've been reading and researching the pros and cons of the 1997 model year, so I kinda know what to look for and what issues to beware of.

My biggest quandry is actually whether to opt for the 6-speed or the auto. I've heard rave reviews about the auto on this model in particular but I've always considered buying an automatic BMW close to sacrilege (sp?), and also I understand that mileage can be noticeably better with the newer autos than the manuals, with better fuel usage technology incorporated in transmission "brains." Of course, driving habits are the greatest determining factor for mpg regardless of what transmission is used.

I'll have a better idea when I get behind the wheel on some 540s this weekend, but my question is to those of you who have the 6-speed version. How reliable has it been? Any unusually fast clutch wear on "normal" driving? Most particularly, how does the 6-speed "behave" in stop-go traffic? How quick will it engage in shifting on steep hills (there's always the a-hole three inches off your rear bumper in those cases)? I'm a very experienced driver of manuals in several different vehicles and I know that there are huge variances in how a manual reacts on a given vehicle. I figure that many of you have had some long experience with the 6-speeds and can help me out.

My 325 has been the best in recent memory, especially in slow or stop-go traffic. You can tick along, fully in gear, very slowly without needing to work the clutch too much in those cases. That can be a blessing as some of you surely know (your feet sure do!). My old 93Jeep Cherokee 5-speed was probably the worst in this regard--VERY rigid clutch, with a deep throw: a very bad combination. Too damn much work; I dreaded getting stuck in traffic. I'm thinking and hoping that the 6-speed in the 540 is much like my 325--deep but easy clutch throw, tight-shifting tranny, quick-engaging on hills, and geared to creep in slow traffic if necessary. Am I right? Or should I pay more attention to the auto, but it wouldn't be as much fun, I'd imagine.... Any opinions from those In The Know would be greatly appreciated!
 

·
swinging a big stick
Joined
·
3,940 Posts
Doesnt really answer your question because I have a 525, but I find that the car is easy to drive in traffic because the engine can get down pretty low in first without having to clutch in. My Acura starts stumbling much higher in the rev range, but luckily the clutch in the ol' Acura is much easier to manipulate in traffic.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
720 Posts
Can you really live with having an automatic tranny between you and your BMW V8?

I suggest a clutch stop for traffic and a 6 speed tranny for endless smiles. I could never drive an automatic BMW, but that's just me.

Whatever you choose, the 540 is a great car. But more often than not we have customers call in about an intake or about a supercharger and comment about how they wish they'd picked up the manual tranny! It would be horrible to have buyers remorse on a purchase that large.
JL
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
185 Posts
the gearing is good enough to allow a pretty fine touch - even hooked to the 6 (as you already know) it's wonderful. The torque of the 8 makes it even easier to drive -

Reliability will be much better - I'd worry about eating the tranny if it was an auto, sooner or later, not to mention it's a more desirable combo IMHO..

rjp
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
954 Posts
I have thousands of miles experience in both, and the 6-speed is definitely best. BMW (ZF) makes a fantastic automatic transmission, but the 6-speed is so much more fun to drive. The clutch is plenty durable for 100k+ spirited miles, and I have had no problems with it in stop and go traffic. I can already tell that you are someone who will prefer the manual.
 

·
Beemedobleve
Joined
·
235 Posts
I am probably out of my league here being that I drive a 3-series 6-speed, but, in my short experience I would lean towards the 6-speed because of the control when accelerating, but also when slowing down. I like to be able to briefly put the clutch in if I need to slow slightly.
I have also noticed that many people are making their decision of stick or not stick based on traffic. If traffic will be a big part of your life, you might not be happy with stick.
 

·
Z4 Mvangelist
Joined
·
4,254 Posts
I've only driven a 540 stick, but I own an M5 and have only had clutch wear problems due to driver error ;) The 540 was very easy to drive, and with a SSK would be pretty fun too.

Given your height, you may be interested in a Euro dash conversion. That frees up appx. 2.5 inches of front leg/knee room be reverting back to the euro lower dash panels. If you don't have extended leather it not too expensive ($4-500 for parts), and can be done at home with some time and a dremel. I chose to have mine done professionally (lack of time) for my M5 and my wife's 540iT and being a passanger (front seat or back) is much more comfortable. The cars can now be occupied by four 6'ers with no problems.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
91 Posts
I've driven sticks my whole life but purchasing my 540i, I went w/an auto. I don't drag the car, race the car, do burnouts, etc. I drive it to work. Sometimes I'm on the phone, sometimes I've got a drink in my hand. The auto is pretty plush if you drive it that way but if you slide back a notch into sport mode, the tranny becomes much more aggressive as far as holding rpms and shift points. And there's never ANY pros to driving a stick in heavy traffic.

Now in the other bay of my garage, I've got a 6 speed 350Z which keeps my shifting skills honed. But as far as the 540i, I'm happy with the 5 speed auto.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
43 Posts
Spinout said:
I've driven sticks my whole life but purchasing my 540i, I went w/an auto. I don't drag the car, race the car, do burnouts, etc. I drive it to work. Sometimes I'm on the phone, sometimes I've got a drink in my hand. The auto is pretty plush if you drive it that way but if you slide back a notch into sport mode, the tranny becomes much more aggressive as far as holding rpms and shift points. And there's never ANY pros to driving a stick in heavy traffic.
Exactly the same for me as well.

With that said, there are times I wish my car was stick.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
100 Posts
6-speed

Hey, how are you? 6-speed manual, definitely. I've never driven the 540iA, and I don't really care to do so. Ha. Seriously, unless you are driving two cities blocks every day, the 540 manual eats up the highway. Stay cool.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
333 Posts
If you have the chance to pair the V8 with a 6-speed manual, you should really take it. No question in my mind at all.....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,362 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks much for the input and insight. Definitely leaning to the 6-speed, but I'll give the auto a chance to move my heart and soul. I live out in the "country" for the most part, but often drive in various cities, such as DC, where traffic is a major issue. I'll get behind both trannys this weekend and get the whole experience. Plan on trading my 2002 Suburban Z71 for the second beamer (I'll keep my little 325 and likely sell it privately). Love that 'Burb, but it's gotta go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
52 Posts
I was planning on getting an auto when I bought mine, simply so my wife could drive it easier on occaision. My dream car popped up in a 6 speed though so thats what I got.

I'm so glad I did. I love the 6 speed, and think it makes a driver more involved in the "driving experience".
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
91 Posts
Palantirion said:
-You forgot one thing: The stick gives you something to do while you're creeping along.
Oh, you mean while you wear out your clutch and wear the syncros with your hand resting on the shifter? You go boy! :rofl:
 

·
Z4 Mvangelist
Joined
·
4,254 Posts
Spinout said:
Oh, you mean while you wear out your clutch and wear the syncros with your hand resting on the shifter? You go boy! :rofl:
No, not really. You should never drive with your hand resting on the shifter. :confused:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
52 Posts
The only way I'd buy an auto, is if I was stuck in stop and go traffic daily.

Fortunately I'm not, so I get to enjoy the 6 speed. Another benefit to small town life!
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
Top