1983 BMW 528e

My recent coverage of the 5-series BMWs seems timely. Just last week, I looked at a 1982 BMW 528e. Since it’s been so short a time, I won’t reiterate the major highlights of the model again – click HERE if you’d like to read those details. So why look at what many consider the least excited E28 so quickly again?

Well, in part it’s because of what occurred this past weekend. If you weren’t paying attention, a stellar 1988 BMW 535i came up on Bring a Trailer. It was probably the most impressive older 5-series I’ve seen in a long time. So it was expected to bring pretty big numbers when the auction closed, and like looking through the picture gallery, it didn’t fail to disappoint. The final bid was $50,000 – unfathomable to this point for most of the E28 lineup.

Admittedly, the example I have today isn’t as nice. But it shares many things in common. First, it’s not a top-flight model, though again the Eta motor isn’t what many would prefer. So what does it have going for it?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 528e on eBay

Eye of the Survivor: 1983 BMW 528e

It’s funny how priorities change. A decade ago, I would not have given a second look to a 528e. Growing up with a E28 M5 in the garage created both an appreciation for the E28 and the dichotomous dismissal of lower range vehicles. Sure, the M5-look 535is was cool, and alongside the M5 we even had a very nice ’85 535i that was a pretty good driver. But below that? No, I seldom gave the 533i, 528e or even 524td a second look on the road. Today, though? Even if it’s not a performance car by most standards, a survivor 528e is certainly worth a second look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 528e on eBay

1985 BMW 528e

1The 528e is a bit of an odd duck. The product of the oil crisis of the late 70s and early 80s, this was essentially a gasoline engined car that attempted to mimic the frugality of a diesel, at a time when BMW was yet to bring a diesel engine to the US market (the e stands for “efficiency”). Powered by a 2.7 liter, de-tuned version of the inline-six cylinder M20 motor, what you got was a car that offered all the good looks of the E28 5-series, but with none of the performance to back it up. In other words, you bought this car to drive cheaply and slowly with a bit of German style and sophistication.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 528e on eBay

1987 BMW 528e

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This beautiful Burgundy 528e is one of the nicer non-M E28s we’ve seen in a while. The red and brown tones come together to underscore what this model is all about. The eta-engined Bimmers of the late 80s were value judgments from the get-go – are you ok with going a little slower in exchange for torque and fuel mileage? If so, you’ll still get the handling and killer good looks of the E28 while being primed to crush long miles without heading to the gas station every few minutes like in my M5. There are some compromises to be made with this particular example as well, like accepting that the real mileage is unknown due to a replaced cluster and knowing there are a couple small spots of surface rust hiding in the Burgundy next to seams. The flip side is extremely conservative bidding on the no-reserve auction for this nice daily-driver quality E28.

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1987 BMW 528e Euro-Spec

The allure of European specification cars from the 1980s is great with me. Beyond being equipped with items that never made it to the U.S., there’s the look – especially when it came to BMW and Mercedes-Benz models. Audi’s mid-80s refresh and updated bumper skins meant that by 1985 it was hard to tell the difference outside of the headlight glass; contrast that with this BMW 528e. While I’m sure there is a devoted U.S.-spec 528e fanbase somewhere, it is really low on the appeal spectrum when you consider the 535is and M5 that ran alongside it. Usually presented in drab and unpolished tones, the 528e has always struck me a bit as a German speaking Eeyore. However, revert the car to its original European specification, and suddenly it’s a different ball game. Slimmed down and cleaned up, it’s a smart looking sedan again – and few appear in this condition:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 528e on eBay

1986 BMW 528e

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The eta-engined BMWs from the late-80s may be maligned, as are automatic BMWs in general, for placing comfort and efficiency above sportiness – a confusing conflict for the Ultimate Driving Machine. As the 80s drift further into our collective rearview mirror, however, any clean example deserves plenty of love. This 528e has survived beautifully with just a few blemishes over almost 30 years and has tons of life left after just 113k miles. Please, someone, buy this as a daily driver or a first car for your kid and keep the E28 population living strong!

Click for details: 1986 BMW 528e on eBay

1986 BMW 528e

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The ’80s “eta” engine from BMW eschew top-end screaming power for low-end torque and efficiency and make for great commuters. Today’s 528e is a gem, having covered less than 40,000 miles and looking outstanding in Burgundy over the like-new Natur comfort interior. It needs a few points of attention to be perfect, but I’m not sure perfection is the way to go with this car. As the number of clean E28s still alive dwindles, this is a great candidate to be a fun and reliable DD that stands out from the rest of the bubbles rolling down the highways.

Click for details: 1986 BMW 528e on eBay

1986 BMW 528e

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After a 5000+ mile road trip in an F350 with a 50-ft trailer, getting to drive my E28 yesterday was a total joy. Low, direct, quick – all of the reasons I bought it become immediately apparent when I climb back in. For those interested in 80s German cars, I highly recommend the E28 for it’s midsize versatility, excellent handling, and clean styling. Today’s 528e brings all of those elements in a commuter-friendly package, rocking an autobox and the efficiency-minded eta 2.7-liter inline-6 in an epically clean package inside and out that belies its 135k miles. And it’s from Tennessee, where I bought my M5. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Click for more details: 1986 BMW 528e on eBay

Low-mileage 1988 BMW 528e

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The long, low and mean add-ons of the 535is and M5 are what initially drew me to the E28, but after having spent so much time with it admiring the unique lines I find myself caught by even the most bunk examples. Yesterday a car in my mirror caught my eye, a car that came out of the factory exactly like this one. As it passed, I was a little sad that the paint was entirely sun-damaged, but still sent the owner some “I like that you drive an E28!” vibes.

While that car showed a hard life left in the sun, this car has no such history. Inside and out, this tan-on-tan base model 5er looks like we’re still waiting for the 90s to arise (or sink in, rather…). It’s yet another example of how nice it can be to soak in a completely original and well cared-for 80s car even when it’s not the rarest or fastest. This is certainly neither of those things, with the efficiency-before-power Eta engine and a slush box, but it would still be a joy to drive and own.

Click for more details: 1988 BMW 528e on eBay

1983 BMW 528e

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My E28 predilections clearly tend towards the special-edition, but I’m down with exceptional examples of pretty much any 80s BMW – even the most basic. Here we have a 1983 528e that is in the “sweet-spot” of just over 100k miles. This seems to be the mileage where a lot of owners who lovingly cared for their old cars decide it’s time to pass it on. A tan on tan ETA-engined BMW could be taken as bland, but I see it more as a lovely time capsule that highlights the outstanding simplicity of the E28.

Click for more details: 1983 BMW 528e for sale on eBay