The E34 BMW 530i might not be the enthusiast choice in terms of a fast 5er, but looking over this low mileage example, I can’t help but thinking how honest this car is in its mission. Sure, this one has a whole lot of grey going on, but its appearance could best be described as tasteful. And while the M60 V8 produces a nominal amount of horsepower in comparison to today’s engines (218 bhp), you still have plenty of power and a nice eight cylinder to go along with it. Many of the new BMWs are just a bit too radical for my tastes in terms of styling, but there wasn’t a BMW I met that I didn’t like back in the 1990s, including the E34. While the E39 is certainly a favorite, the styling here is just a bit more crisp in nature and a good balance of old and new when it came to BMWs of the era.
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We’re all fans of fast wagons here at GCFSB; Andrew’s owned a S4 Avant 6-speed and I’m on my third sporty 5 door. There’s something wonderful about these versatile vehicles; they’re the automotive equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. You can literally throw everything including the kitchen sink at them, go blasting down back roads with lurid 4-wheel drifts, or simply tote the family along in smart style. It’s not that having a wagon makes you smug, in my mind, it’s that those who have opted for that route simply are a higher evolution of thought. It’s the difference between the Australopithecus SUV market and the Homo Sapiens; sure, “Sport Utilities” may be the rage now, but the reality is many are just heavily disguised wagons or are doomed to extinction in the near future. But for right now, it seems the other way around in the U.S.; though some are on the horizon, fast wagons are currently hard to come by and that makes us look towards the past for some evolutionary inspiration. Since we love looking at older cars anyway, that’s not a bad thing – so let’s consider these two utility vehicles that are actually sporty:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW “M5” Touring on eBay
If ever there was a company car for The Hamptons, it would be the luxury estate vehicle. No surprise, then, that this 1992 BMW 525i Touring finds itself not far from those beaches in Syosset, New York. The E34 Touring was BMW’s second attempt at an in-house estate car, following on the five-door version of the popular E30 3 series that was never sold new to US customers. With the dawn of a new decade, BMW decided to gift the US the 5 series Touring, which would become a hit for families looking for something a bit more dynamic for the school run. Sadly, one of the company’s tastiest offerings, the M5 Touring, would still be out of our reach. Nevertheless, BMW would continue to offer the 5 series Touring for two more generations of 5 series, but sadly, we are now stuck with the awkwardly proportioned 5 series Gran Turismo. This 525i Touring has under 60,000 miles on the odometer, a rarity these days as many of these long roof E34s have been run hard and put up wet.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 BMW 525i Touring on eBay
One could argue, pretty convincingly, that the E36 M3 is the best value if you want an M car right now. Good examples can still be found under $10,000, parts are plentiful, and there’s a huge selection of examples to choose from. But for me, the best value has to be the E34 M5. First off, if you’ve never seen a used advertisement for a second-generation M5, you might have missed that these supreme sedans were the last of the handbuilt M models. If you hate movies, you might have missed that a M5 was also an unsung hero in the cult classic Ronin, even if it couldn’t get away from a Citroen and the S8 was more memorable. If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that it’s father – the original M5 – is currently on a fairly steep appreciation curve. Yet the second generation M5, while considered a bit softer than the E28, was a potent sleeper nonetheless. And for me, it’s the ultimate M car; not because it’s the fastest, prettiest or most valuable; but because it expresses the ethos of what made BMW great. A Spartan warrior wolf in taxi-cab clothes, the M5 combined literal race-bred technology into an easily digestible package; it was a pleasure to drive fast or slow, it was reasonably reliable (and especially so considering the performance envelope), and yet unlike Porsche Turbos, Lotus Esprits, Chevrolet Corvettes or any other “sports” car that offered similar performance, it was a stealthy package – it was the adult choice. In 1991 if the M5 was graduating high school, it would have been Valedictorian and voted “most likely to succeed”, but it would have gotten my vote for “most athletic” and “prom king” as well – it’s that good. Despite these superlative qualities, a reputation second to none in terms of quality and driving experience, the E34 M5 still hasn’t caught on as a market darling: