A 535i with a manual transmission is probably the third most desirable version of the E34 5-series, after the M5 and the 540i/540i M-Sport. These cars came with the 3.5 liter “big six” M30 engine (technically a 3.4 liter mill) and represented the top of the non-M lineup until they were replaced in 1993 by the V8-powered 540i. While manual 540s are a hoot if you can find them, they are not without their faults (somewhat thirsty, and susceptible to the nikasil issue, in which the sulphur content of 90s era gasoline had the tendency to eat away at the nikasil lining of the block, requiring a replacement engine). The six-cylinder manual 535 on the other hand, which is perhaps even harder to find than a manual transmission 540, is torquey, smooth, reliable and fun to drive while returning decent fuel economy.
All posts tagged e34
The touring version of the E34 5-series maintains the restrained and boxy good looks of the sedan while adding the cargo-carrying versatility of a longroof. The result is a cool and understated hauler that flies under the radar. Unfortunately, these cars were let down by the rather uninspired engine choices that BMW gave US customers. Only two versions of the touring were available here: the 525i and the 530i. The 525i was a little slow (although the 2.5 liter inline six is otherwise a gem of an engine) while the 3.0 liter V8 that came in the 530i was a bit of a dud. It had all the thirst of V8 but with fairly meagre power output (around 215 hp). The far more desirable versions of the touring – the 540i and M5 – were never sold in the US. This means that if you want one with something special underneath the hood, you have to get creative. Which is exactly what this seller has done, transplanting the engine from a ’96 M3 and adding some M5 external styling accessories.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 BMW 525iT with S52 Swap on Bimmerforums
The other day I posted a 500E, which was Mercedes’ take on the Q-ship formula of stuffing a large, powerful engine and race-tweaked suspension into an ordinary looking mid-size executive sedan. What I didn’t mention was that the 500E was, of course, a response to the original (and some would say best) wolf in sheep’s clothing: the E34 generation M5. While I’ve posted a few E34s lately, I’ve so far avoided writing about the M-variant (though my colleagues have written up some really nice ones: see here and here, for example). This is only because my preference is to find cheap daily drivers to share with our readers and, as enthusiasts begin to seek out more affordable alternatives to the E30 M3, these M5s are increasingly becoming too expensive to count in that category. Still, when this lovely example popped up the other day on Bimmerforums.com, I couldn’t resist the temptation to write it up.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on Bimmerforums.com
Only yesterday I was lamenting, once again, the dearth of nice condition E34s on the market. Well, as if to prove me wrong, another neat example has popped up on eBay. When these cars crop up in this kind of condition, they serve as a reminder of just how handsome an E34 can be when cleaned up. The lines are crisp and unfussy and the overall impression given off by the well-proportioned design is of a purposeful sport sedan. This particular example is an unusually specified 535i with ultra low miles. Unfortunately, it also has a rather ambitious price tag.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 535i on eBay
I’ve posted a couple of non-M E34s recently (see here, and here), since I’m a fan of this iteration of the 5-series (I even daily drive one myself). I’ve noted before however that it’s quite hard to find one in good condition. While it’s relatively easy to find an inexpensive, equivalent-era Mercedes Benz in nice shape, BMWs of a similar age in the affordable sector of the market are often tired and worn. Perhaps it’s because Stuttgart simply made better cars during the period. Perhaps it’s because many Mercedes owners seem to feel it’s their responsibility to steward their cars into the future, and take care of them accordingly. In any event, when a nice E34 pops up it’s always a nice surprise.
Thanks to our reader Corbin for suggesting this Canadian 540i 6-speed. Not only does it look like a clean example, it’s a well equipped car with a few tasteful modifications.