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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
CAR: 540i sport.

BUDGET: Not unlimited. The ground rules are to get the most bang for your buck. So, I guess I'm saying be practical.

APPLICATION: Aggressive street driving but unlikely to be driven on track.




If you wanted to upgrade your suspension, where would you start, what brands, etc. Everything is in play; bushings, shocks, springs, sways, etc. In other words, an A-Z how to guide for someone's suspension that is stock and wants to upgrade. Such as, as long as you're doing this, you might as well replace that - insider tricks/tips and such.

I'm looking to do mine and I'm sure more than a few might want to do theirs in the future.
 

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just havin a heart attack
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2,741 Posts
H&R sport or race
Bilstein Sports or Koni Adjustables. Maybe FSD's?

Coilovers for some reason don't do it for me, they feel odd to me on the heavy cars.
 

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Brevity= the soul of wit
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Coilovers for some reason don't do it for me, they feel odd to me on the heavy cars.
You've GOT to ride on the KW2's. They are well known for preserving stock ride comfort. In fact, the ride on my 540 *improved* over the BavAuto/Dinan(Bilstein adjustable) that I removed.

As for my answer:
KW2 coilovers
OE M5 front sway
Dinan rear sway
Dinan front strut

I am biased as this is my setup, but I am very, very happy.

One thing that will greatly improve your experience is taking away unsprung weight. Lighter wheels, a BBK with aluminum hats, etc. You'll be surprised how different it makes the car feel.
 

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You Lick It, You Own It
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14,417 Posts
for me so far:
H&R Race
Billy Sport
M5 rear
Dinan strut front strut bar

on
18 Fiske's.
 

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just havin a heart attack
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2,741 Posts
You've GOT to ride on the KW2's. They are well known for preserving stock ride comfort. In fact, the ride on my 540 *improved* over the BavAuto/Dinan(Bilstein adjustable) that I removed.

As for my answer:
KW2 coilovers
OE M5 front sway
Dinan rear sway
Dinan front strut

I am biased as this is my setup, but I am very, very happy.

One thing that will greatly improve your experience is taking away unsprung weight. Lighter wheels, a BBK with aluminum hats, etc. You'll be surprised how different it makes the car feel.
I rode in a 530i with the KW2's, it was a bit bumpy for my liking. It could have been the settings of the owner though.
 

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You Lick It, You Own It
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14,417 Posts
I rode in a 530i with the KW2's, it was a bit bumpy for my liking. It could have been the settings of the owner though.
if it doesn't ride like an 88 Deville, you wouldn't be happy. :p
 

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I'm running the following:

- Koni FSD's
- Eibach Pro Kit
- M5 rear sway bar
- Powerflex PP control arm bushings
- 18x9 wheels with 265's ALL AROUND*
- M5 3.15 LSD**
- Correct alignment***

Future Plans:
- Camber kit (not sure which one)
- Eibach sway bars (on sale at bavauto.com right now, tempting...)
- Upgrade to 275's all around
- Strut bar front and rear (not sure which ones)


Personally I LOVE my setup. It is comfortable, progressive and I have yet to really even touch the car's limits. It corners well but more importantly it TRANSFER's weight well both laterally and when acceleration or braking. I know a TON of my wheel hop issues were addressed with the new suspension and my braking increased significantly as well. There is not nearly as much pitch in the car as before.

I made note of a couple things above:

*If you're trying to go for "all out" handling, then wider front tires is a must. Not only will running the same sized tires all around make your car more tossable and neutral, but it won't dive or "plow" in corners nearly as much (big problem on the E39's) and you will drastically improve your braking.

**I put the diff in here because they REALLY help with traction when transfering weight across the car (especially the clutch based diffs like the M5's have). A good suspension is only as good as the amount of grip put to the road through the tires and the LSD has a lot to offer. Plus it is more fun and makes the car quicker :thumbup:

***This can make or break ANY suspension! Yo ucan have a $10k high tech AC Schnitzer doohaha suspesion but if you're running severaly negative or not enough negative camber or have the wrong toe then you're car will handle like S$it and all those nice parts will wear quickly. Find a qualified tech (preferably one ho sets up cars for the track) and make sure he gets you squared away with a proper alignment. I'm running almost identical to the M5's alignment per spec maybe a a touch more negative camber all around. It makes a difference...
 

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356 Posts
Vogtland Springs
Bilstein Sports
M5 rear sway
17 or 18 inch wheels NOT STAGGERED
Replace Thrust arms

Take girlfriend to dinner with money saved.
 

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I'm a Highway Star
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1,059 Posts
I'm running the following:

- Koni FSD's
- Eibach Pro Kit
- M5 rear sway bar
- Powerflex PP control arm bushings
- 18x9 wheels with 265's ALL AROUND*
- M5 3.15 LSD**
- Correct alignment***

Future Plans:
- Camber kit (not sure which one)
- Eibach sway bars (on sale at bavauto.com right now, tempting...)
- Upgrade to 275's all around
- Strut bar front and rear (not sure which ones)

Personally I LOVE my setup. It is comfortable, progressive and I have yet to really even touch the car's limits. It corners well but more importantly it TRANSFER's weight well both laterally and when acceleration or braking. I know a TON of my wheel hop issues were addressed with the new suspension and my braking increased significantly as well. There is not nearly as much pitch in the car as before.

I made note of a couple things above:

*If you're trying to go for "all out" handling, then wider front tires is a must. Not only will running the same sized tires all around make your car more tossable and neutral, but it won't dive or "plow" in corners nearly as much (big problem on the E39's) and you will drastically improve your braking.

**I put the diff in here because they REALLY help with traction when transfering weight across the car (especially the clutch based diffs like the M5's have). A good suspension is only as good as the amount of grip put to the road through the tires and the LSD has a lot to offer. Plus it is more fun and makes the car quicker :thumbup:

***This can make or break ANY suspension! Yo ucan have a $10k high tech AC Schnitzer doohaha suspesion but if you're running severaly negative or not enough negative camber or have the wrong toe then you're car will handle like S$it and all those nice parts will wear quickly. Find a qualified tech (preferably one ho sets up cars for the track) and make sure he gets you squared away with a proper alignment. I'm running almost identical to the M5's alignment per spec maybe a a touch more negative camber all around. It makes a difference...
Is your car lowered, and are there any downsides to 265s all around?
 

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The Usual Suspect
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Would you reccommend keeping the original strut housing and just replace the shock to save $$? Can they be reused?
 

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nope not rebuildable, must be replaced.
 

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Is your car lowered, and are there any downsides to 265s all around?
Definately lowered. Slight rake look (which I don't mind) but overall a decent drop. The top of the front is flush with the fender and in the rear there is about a 1-1.5 finger gap b/t the top of the tire and fender. I wish it was a hair lower but I like how it is. I actually think I can attribute the extra height in the rear to the fact that I took the spare tire, jack and just about everything else out which probably raised it a bit.

Downsides to 265's all around is that they cost a little more; big whoop. Some people have siad that their tires rub, mine NEVER have so you should be fine. If anything you get the benefit or better track and you can rotate your tires front to back; depending on the tires you run you may be able to rotate them on the whole car saving some of the tire's life for later...

Not a great picture but it gives you an idea of the car' height.

 

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CAR: 540i sport.

BUDGET: Not unlimited. The ground rules are to get the most bang for your buck. If you wanted to upgrade your suspension, where would you start...
Well the car is at least 5 years old now: I would start with new thrust arm bushings. The originals crack and deteriorate at 40 - 50K+. You can replace with OEM, urethane is better but squeaks. My preference is X5 thrust arm bushings which fit just fine in the original thrust arms. Others may have different ideas.

Second. Before doing major suspension stuff replace the most vital element, your tires, with some new ones. Buy the best - for my money that would be PS2s. Says you live in NJ but what the hell, summer's comin'...

Thrust arm bushings and fresh tires should be your first order of business. After that it's all up to you....
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
A couple of noob questions:

1. I'm staggered PS2's now. What are pro's and con's of staggered set up? I know the obvious con is you cannot rotate but what else, pro and con.

2. What are KW2's?

3. What are the basics of camber plates? I had a tech mention camber plates to me a while back but he wanted to see how my tires were wearing first (I've since replaced the tires).

4. bushings are a low cost item correct? pros / cons between oem X5 bushings and the urethane ones?

5. I remember reading there was a front end failure point at around 50k plus miles? What was it and it makes sense to replace it when you're doing the suspension correct?

6. I have the Dinan front strut, don't see many people do the rear....is it largely unecessary?

7. Had another tech tell me upgrading the rear sway was probably unecessary after upgrading the springs and shocks - in other words, he was implying it wasn't a big bang for your buck item.

8. What is the final word on lowering an oem sport suspension? I'm seeing with some of the spring literature out there that it doesn't lower the sport suspension. Short of coil overs, I'd like to get a bit lower. And, if my eye is not fooling me, I actually think I'm a tad lower in the rear now compared to the front. Is this unusual?
 

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Speaking strictly of bang for the buck on suspension components(meaning ignore LSD, etc.) for a 540i, I'd say:
Stock sport springs with Koni Yellow SA shocks or Bilstein Sports(I went with Konis on my E39s)
M5 rear sway
de-stagger the wheels and go as wide as you can with wheels and tires based on clearance and price

Those will make the car perform in the same ballpark as a stock M5, though substantially less sharp and energetic feeling. If you're really serious about getting around a corner as quickly as possible, absolutely get camber plates. I used to recommend them as a matter of course, but I've come to realize that 99% of even enthusiast owned but non-tracked cars aren't driven hard enough on the street to warrant them, and in that case they're unneeded and probably undesirable. If you are in that 1%, though, I feel they're tied with larger wheels/tires as the best bang for the buck you can find for an E39. The more rubber you can fit under an E39, particularly at the front, and the more negative camber it has, the better.

Springs:
The stock sport package springs are very nearly at the limit of what's physically possible to fit in the E39's rear spring perches, and as a result lowering springs necessarily must be softer in order to maintain sufficient free spring length while still offering a lower ride height. Short of going with coilovers, the early 540i sport/M5 springs are the stiffest you'll find as a matched set. Even Dinan had to go with softer progressive springs in the rear in order to actually lower the car.
Shocks:
I find Bilsteins to produce objectionable ride quality on a 5-series where they may be tolerable on another car. I currently have Billy Sports on two different 3-series, one of them my daily driver over rough roads, and they're perfectly fine in those applications. They are fairly stiff, but it fits the cars' character. On a 5er, even an M5, I personally think they diminish the ride quality to the point of defeating the purpose of the car to begin with. Why put up with a big, heavy boat of a 5er when it still rides like s*%$? But that's just my personal take, and why for example I'm not a fan of loud exhausts on these cars, either. Loads of folks run them and love 'em. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think the Koni FSDs make the car too soft and wallowy, and give me a sort of wierd, spooky feeling when driven hard. Again, they're all the rage now and tons of people love them, but I find even the stock sport shocks to be much better from a performance standpoint. I'm sure they're a fantastic choice for a cruiser with the occasional jaunt around an onramp, but I couldn't stand them on both FSD-equipped cars I've driven. I may catch some flak for dissing the Billies and FSDs, but so be it. :angel:
Koni Yellows are pretty soft in compression, expecially compared to Bilsteins, but the adjustable rebound is useful and I think they strike a good balance of handling and ride quality while still being superior to the OE dampers.
Swaybars:
Both ends of the E39 can do with tons more roll stiffness, so go ahead and slap on those Eibach or Dinan sways on both ends if you have the cash. However, on a budget the OE M5 rear bar is the best upgrade IMO. With just the M5 sway, there's no need to pay 5+ hours of labor for a front sway install, and the M5 rear bar balances the car better than stock and is an easy 30 minute DIY job.

I'm running the following:
...
- Powerflex PP control arm bushings
...
How do you like those? I've got PF LCABs on my E46 and they're great, but I spoke to Jon shortly after he had the bushings installed on his 540 and as I recall he didn't care for them. I'll need to replace mine this summer, so I'm looking to get multiple opinions.
 

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A US Autobahn supporter!
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344 Posts
Speaking strictly of bang for the buck on suspension components(meaning ignore LSD, etc.) for a 540i, I'd say:
Stock sport springs with Koni Yellow SA shocks or Bilstein Sports(I went with Konis on my E39s)
M5 rear sway
de-stagger the wheels and go as wide as you can with wheels and tires based on clearance and price

Those will make the car perform in the same ballpark as a stock M5, though substantially less sharp and energetic feeling. If you're really serious about getting around a corner as quickly as possible, absolutely get camber plates. I used to recommend them as a matter of course, but I've come to realize that 99% of even enthusiast owned but non-tracked cars aren't driven hard enough on the street to warrant them, and in that case they're unneeded and probably undesirable. If you are in that 1%, though, I feel they're tied with larger wheels/tires as the best bang for the buck you can find for an E39. The more rubber you can fit under an E39, particularly at the front, and the more negative camber it has, the better.

Springs:
The stock sport package springs are very nearly at the limit of what's physically possible to fit in the E39's rear spring perches, and as a result lowering springs necessarily must be softer in order to maintain sufficient free spring length while still offering a lower ride height. Short of going with coilovers, the early 540i sport/M5 springs are the stiffest you'll find as a matched set. Even Dinan had to go with softer progressive springs in the rear in order to actually lower the car.
Shocks:
I find Bilsteins to produce objectionable ride quality on a 5-series where they may be tolerable on another car. I currently have Billy Sports on two different 3-series, one of them my daily driver over rough roads, and they're perfectly fine in those applications. They are fairly stiff, but it fits the cars' character. On a 5er, even an M5, I personally think they diminish the ride quality to the point of defeating the purpose of the car to begin with. Why put up with a big, heavy boat of a 5er when it still rides like s*%$? But that's just my personal take, and why for example I'm not a fan of loud exhausts on these cars, either. Loads of folks run them and love 'em. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think the Koni FSDs make the car too soft and wallowy, and give me a sort of wierd, spooky feeling when driven hard. Again, they're all the rage now and tons of people love them, but I find even the stock sport shocks to be much better from a performance standpoint. I'm sure they're a fantastic choice for a cruiser with the occasional jaunt around an onramp, but I couldn't stand them on both FSD-equipped cars I've driven. I may catch some flak for dissing the Billies and FSDs, but so be it. :angel:
Koni Yellows are pretty soft in compression, expecially compared to Bilsteins, but the adjustable rebound is useful and I think they strike a good balance of handling and ride quality while still being superior to the OE dampers.
Swaybars:
Both ends of the E39 can do with tons more roll stiffness, so go ahead and slap on those Eibach or Dinan sways on both ends if you have the cash. However, on a budget the OE M5 rear bar is the best upgrade IMO. With just the M5 sway, there's no need to pay 5+ hours of labor for a front sway install, and the M5 rear bar balances the car better than stock and is an easy 30 minute DIY job.

How do you like those? I've got PF LCABs on my E46 and they're great, but I spoke to Jon shortly after he had the bushings installed on his 540 and as I recall he didn't care for them. I'll need to replace mine this summer, so I'm looking to get multiple opinions.
Now THAT's how you answer a question!! :thumbup: great info!!!
 

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Purple Label
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694 Posts
Vogtland Springs
Bilstein Sports
M5 rear sway
17 or 18 inch wheels NOT STAGGERED
Replace Thrust arms

Take girlfriend to dinner with money saved.
I have seen his suspension in person and it is really nice, perfect for 17" s nad no raked look.

NNY528i,

How does it ride?
:thumbup:
 

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I have seen his suspension in person and it is really nice, perfect for 17" s nad no raked look.

NNY528i,

How does it ride?
:thumbup:
Thanks for the props wade.:thumbup:

Just a note, I am still running SACHS Sport Shocks all around at the moment but that shouldn't change things too awful much.

As to the ride it is pretty smooth(not as smooth as a non-sport but not far off either) It is however much more controlled and poised on the twisties and cornering is radically improved. The 17 inch rims are an important part of the ride I think because it is a harsher ride than when I have the steelies on for the winter but there is still enough sidewall to smooth out the rough patches compared to an 18 inch wheel.

After seeing the cars at the meet I noticed that the Vogtland springs have a distinctly different stance than most of the others I saw. As Wade mentioned it is a very balanced, non raked stance. Both wheels sit about 1 finger below the tops of the wells(the front has settled a little but is slightly higher than the rear), all the others I saw have a slight rake to the front. I think this gives the car a very mature and OEM type look while also giving it a very solid looking stance that is noticeable but at the same time subtle. I was surprised, a lot of people commented on the drop as in general my car is pretty boring compared to most.





This is a really good shot to show the difference. The car on the left is virtually identical to mine(even the EZ pass is in the same place), Black, 1997 528. only difference is it is bone stock sitting on a stock, non sport suspension and wheels. What is neat is how different they look(at least in my little world that is.



Here is a shot of the side view.







Here is the stock view



a little more whoring just for good measure



 

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You've GOT to ride on the KW2's. They are well known for preserving stock ride comfort. In fact, the ride on my 540 *improved* over the BavAuto/Dinan(Bilstein adjustable) that I removed.
What are the spring rates on the KW variant 2?

My impression is that the springs on most coilovers (i.e. PSS9, KW2) are vastly stiffer than stock. Is this correct? If so, how does ride quality improve?

Aren't coilover springs made extremely stiff as an inherent requirement to prevent the individual coils from touching each other?
 

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Purple Label
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694 Posts
Thanks for the props wade.:thumbup:

Just a note, I am still running SACHS Sport Shocks all around at the moment but that shouldn't change things too awful much.

As to the ride it is pretty smooth(not as smooth as a non-sport but not far off either) It is however much more controlled and poised on the twisties and cornering is radically improved. The 17 inch rims are an important part of the ride I think because it is a harsher ride than when I have the steelies on for the winter but there is still enough sidewall to smooth out the rough patches compared to an 18 inch wheel.

After seeing the cars at the meet I noticed that the Vogtland springs have a distinctly different stance than most of the others I saw. As Wade mentioned it is a very balanced, non raked stance. Both wheels sit about 1 finger below the tops of the wells(the front has settled a little but is slightly higher than the rear), all the others I saw have a slight rake to the front. I think this gives the car a very mature and OEM type look while also giving it a very solid looking stance that is noticeable but at the same time subtle. I was surprised, a lot of people commented on the drop as in general my car is pretty boring compared to most.





This is a really good shot to show the difference. The car on the left is virtually identical to mine(even the EZ pass is in the same place), Black, 1997 528. only difference is it is bone stock sitting on a stock, non sport suspension and wheels. What is neat is how different they look(at least in my little world that is.



Here is a shot of the side view.







Here is the stock view



a little more whoring just for good measure



Geez...I keep drooling over your suspension setup!:eeps::thumbup:

Can you post a link for your springs?
 
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