1 Sep 1988
Finally the 5 Series that BMW should have built from the beginning.
A complete departure from its look-a-like predecessors, the third-generation 5 Series impressed with its sophisticated drivetrain, modern wedge styling, classy cabin presentations and – at last – the return of a high-revving BMW in-line six to rival the lamented E28 528i.
By now all 5 Series included anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning, power steering, central locking and power windows.
The 125kW/222Nm 2.5-litre single-cam 525i ‘6’ opened the range initially, in either four-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox guises.
Two disparate 535i range-toppers were also introduced: the Executive with a 136kW/290Nm 3.5-litre single-cam in-line six, or a twin-cam version of the same engine offering 155kW and 305Nm. This formed the basis of the ‘Executive Pack’ and 535iS E34s.
But the early ‘90s recession saw BMW re-introducing the 520i opener from November ‘90, powered by a 110kW/190Nm 2.0-litre in-line ‘6’, and mated to a new five-speed automatic (or continuing five-speed manual).
At the same time the 525i was boosted with body-coloured bumpers, revised cabin trim, the availability of a five-speed auto and a thoroughly revised 2.5 six now using twin-cams for a 141kW/245Nm performance output.
This powerplant also underpinned the brilliant 525i Touring (wagon) from June ’92. A first for the 5 Series, it combined excellent dynamics, wagon versatility and great looks.
Yet the real jewel in the fantastic E34 crown came with the arrival of the M5 from July ’90.
BMW coaxed 232kW of power and 360Nm of torque from a hand-built 3535cc 3.5-litre twin-cam 24-valve in-line six-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, and a modern legend was born.
Among this stealth-mobile’s features were a limited slip differential, hugely updated suspension and brakes and self-levelling suspension. Importation ceased in May ’93.
The E34 M5 was replaced in BMW’s line-up by the V8 powered 540i from April ’93.
It offered 210kW/400Nm from a 39822cc twin-cam 32-valve V8 tied to a five-speed automatic gearbox, along with a host of luxury features. A six-speed manual gearbox was also available.
Reflecting the design and technological inroads the E34 made, BMW built 1,321,184 between 1987 and 1996.