Many enthusiasts believe that the E34 BMW is the pinnacle of the 5 Series range, being modern enough to be reliable and safe but old enough to be largely analogue and so easy to maintain and repair. That they were built during a period when BMW still built cars as the engineers intended them to be built rather than as the accountants dictated, is the icing on what is already a very tasty cake.
Initially offered only as an elegant three-box saloon, an estate later came a-calling. Known as a ‘Touring’ in BMW-speak, the result is as elegant and well-proportioned as the saloon upon which it is based – and, equipped with BMW’s four-wheel-drive system, the 525iX Touring might have been the template for every fast estate that ever followed.
A range of engines were on offer, from the 518i’s 1.8-litre four cylinder with just 111bhp and 122lb/ft of torque all the way to the 540i’s 282bhp/295lb/ft V8. Manual and automatic gearboxes were available, along with a choice of three six-cylinder diesel engines.
The top-of-the-range model was the M5, a car that started life with a 3.6-litre 311bhp straight-six engine before evolving into a 3.8-litre with 340bhp in 1991. The first ‘M’ car to be offered as an estate as well as a saloon, it ended life with a six-speed manual gearbox after having started life with one ratio fewer.
Born in 1987, the E34 5 Series eventually succumbed in 1996. The model that replaced it might have been faster, better handling and even better equipped but most think it was only half the car in reality, being less engaging and more shoddily built. The model, in fact, that led the race to find just how far customers’ expectations could lowered.
We might not have realized just how good a car the M5 E34 was when it was new, but we do now; it’s a genuinely legendary car and we’ve got a very nice example of the breed on offer here.