The '95 540i is among the last understated, genuinely beautiful cars from BMW. It is tremendously powerful and the routine maintenance consists of little more than oil changes and brake jobs. The downfall is the transmission. It is a sealed unit with "lifetime" fluid (complete nonsense). It _will_ fail at 100k mi. and cost $5k to replace. The car is worth $4k. My trans has disgorged it's fluid on the driveway fully 4 different times. Each episode requires a limping trip to the shop and a bill of $300. On the road, the car is heavy and ponderous and not in the least bit fun to drive. Brakes have only two modes: off and full lock up. Zero finesse. Big disappointment.
Bought the car with 140K and drove it home (eBay...1000 miles away) getting 28 MPG all the way. I thought I wanted a 540i till I saw the MPG. Kept it mainly as a road trip vehicle for a year, then started driving it daily. Here we are 2 years and 25000 miles later. My only monetary investment has been tires, brakes, a/c compressor, spark plugs and a radiator. Not bad for a car with 166,000 miles. Still runs very strong, corners like a dream, great curb appeal. My wife tries to trade vehicles with me on an almost daily basis (Grand Cherokee Overland). The valets all ask me to let them know when I may be selling it!
Driving comfort, timeless lines, MPG, road feel, brakes are awesome, cornering, durability, reliability, turbine smoothness, broad flat power curve, enough trunk space for several bodies (or so I am told), full size spare, factory sound system is pretty good, factory tool kit is actually useful!
A little more power would be good, as well as a little better support with parts for the older cars. I find some parts are easier to get from friends in Europe than through the dealer.
This car is a mixed bag. It is extremely comfortable in front but cramped in back. It gets fairly poor gas mileage, about 19 mpg in mixed driving. OTOH it is fast even by today's standards; the engine is a joy, and it handles amazingly well for such a big car. The steering is perfect, the brakes are excellent, and the controls are generally within easy reach. One exception is the window controls, which inexplicably take up most of the area between the front seats, where a console should be instead.