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E34 Five Series


The E34 was indeed a worthy successor to it's E28 five series predecessor. The E34 became the car your manager wanted to drive in order to appear successful to the rest of the world, a true icon of the late 1980's.

The car appeared much more streamlined than the older E28, but not overly round like some of its competitors. It also had a elegant aggression about it and the front grill was a reminder of the great E30 three series. Despite looking a fair bit larger than the E28 the new E34 was only about 5% heavier and boasted an even stiffer body which improved the handling.

The E34 is a very relaxed car to drive, as befits its luxury status. But a true performance car lurks just underneath and the handling is second to none in its class. In terms of driver involvement this car is on a different planet to its Mercedes Benz rivals, you only have to look at the M5 to see the potential of this design.


The E34 first appeared as a four door saloon and the vast majority or cars were produced in this style. Around 1992 an estate or "Touring" version was introduced with an incredible, but pricey, double sunroof option. Four wheel drive was even available in the shape of 525iX saloons and tourings using the a similar system as the E30 325iX.

The glorious M5 was the Motorsport divisions chance to show what the E34 could really do. The 24 valve 3.6 and later 3.8 litre sixes produced well over 300bhp with handling improvements to match. Yet in the best BMW tradition the styling on the M5 wasn't overdone making this a truly subtle Autobahn cruiser.

In about 1995 the front grill of the E34 was updated slightly, the one significant external change in almost ten years. Around late 1992 the wing mirrors were upgraded to look like those on the E36. Good styling is timeless I suppose. These cars are truly great second hand value.

525i with early grill and mirrors.

Rare 525iX four wheel drive saloon.

M5 showing the later style kidney grill.

Highly modified E34 with Azev wheels.


E34s in europe had a very wide choice of engines over their production run. The most popular in the UK was probably the 520i although the 518i was the choice of the company car driver stretching his budget. ABS may not have been standard on very early UK cars but I've never seen one without it.

Early 518i's had the M40 but it was replaced by the lower maintenance M43 in 1993ish.

The E34 520i/525i started life with the M20 12 valve engine. Around 1991 the marvellous M50 24 valve 2.0 and 2.5 litre engines replaced the M20, these need less maintenance and have more power. In mid-93 the M50TU was introduced with VANOS variable valve timing for better mid range power.

The larger engined fives were the M30 "Big Six" 530i and 535i, the 535i Sport being the one to have (and I did). There were duly replaced in 1993 by 3.0 and 4.0 M60 V8s.

The M5 started as a 3.6 but was later upgraded to a 3.8 gaining distributorless ignition and better brakes in the process.

In the UK the E34 was the first car to get a diesel engine, we never did diesel E28s or E30s. The M51 525d/td was worth the wait and started the reputation modern BMW diesels are famed for. In Europe early diesels had the older M21 engine.

Model Body styles Engine Weight
Power / Weight
(bhp / 1000kg)
Final drive ratio
(manual / auto)
518i Saloon / Touring? M40 / M43 1385 83 ? Disc/Disc ABS
520i early Saloon M20 1400 92 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
520i late Saloon / Touring M50 1488 101 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
525i early Saloon M20 1460? 116 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
525i / iX late Saloon / Touring M50 1533 125 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
524td Saloon M21 1480 78 3.45? Disc/Disc ABS
525 td Saloon / Touring M51 1480 78 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
525 tds Saloon / Touring M51 1490 96 3.25 Disc/Disc ABS
530i (6) Saloon M30 1510 125 3.07 Disc/Disc ABS
530i V8 Saloon / Touring M60 1565 139 3.25 Disc/Disc ABS
535i Saloon M30 1525 138 ? Disc/Disc ABS
540i V8 Saloon M60 1650 185 ? Disc/Disc ABS
M5 Saloon / Touring S38 3.6
S38 3.8
1724 183
3.91 Disc/Disc ABS


See the engine details page for power figures. Where several body styles exist or the engine was changed during the model's life the figures above are for late model saloons.

Known Problems

For the early 518i see M40 / M43 engine problems.

For the early 520i and 525i see M20 engine problems.

For the later 520i and 525i see M50 engine problems.

For the early 530i and 535i see M30 engine problems.

For the later 530i and 540i see M60 engine problems.

For the M5 see S38 engine problems.

For the diesels see M51 engine problems.

Suspension bushes can wear around 100,000 miles and the car will appear to wander. Parts are cheap, labour isn't too bad. Sometimes they last a lot longer.

Bodys are extremely durable if looked after but watch the bottom of the doors under the plastic trims.

Overheating in traffic may be a sign of a broken cooling fan clutch.

Ensure the heater blower fan works at all speeds and not just just full speed.

Some cars, such as the UK 535i Sport, have TRX tyres. These are old technology, expensive and offer bad wet weather grip. They also use a metric 390 or 415mm wheel so you can't fit normal tyres. Buying new alloys is the best solution.

The digital odometers on these cars can be reprogrammed by con men quite easily. Never trust a mileage reading without proof.

Odd problems with wipers, windows and central locking may be a failing fusible link. This is a large fuse which cracks with age, cheap fix.

There can be a problem with alignment of the wiper linkage causing the blades to park further down than they should.

Of all BMW models this is the one you hear the fewest complaints about. The E34 is a very well put together car.



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