BMW’s second generation M5 followed the same recipe as the outgoing E28; manual transmission, rear-drive, howling inline-6 under the hood. But the E34 was far from a copy of the car that was really credited with being the first super sedan. BMW upped with power first with the 3.6 liter version of the S38; though the increase in displacement was a scant 82 ccs, the result was impressive. BMW Motorsport GmbH fit a new cam, a higher compression head, and a new engine management system to yield 311 horsepower at a rev-busting 6,900 rpms. They weren’t done.
In 1992 M upped the capacity again, this time to just 5 cc shy of 3.8 liters. Even higher compression, a further revision in electronic management, and a few other odds and ends now netted 340 horsepower and 300 lb.ft of torque. Again, they weren’t done. Perhaps tired of Audi cornering the go-fast-5-door market with their 200 20V Avant, in 1992 BMW launched the M5 Touring. Production began in March 1992 and ran through 1995. All E34 M5 Tourings were left-hand drive 3.8 models, and a total of 891 were produced.
BMW opted not to bring the enlarged motor or the M Touring model to the United States, as the 540i took over the top rungs of North American production. As a result, this car has been the subject of many M enthusiast fantasies until today, when you can finally buy and drive them here!
Newer cars are, in general, not the subject of this page. I can walk down to any dealership just like anyone else, and provided I have a pulse, probably walk out with financing for most mid-range cars regardless of whether or not I could actually afford them. Indeed, easy credit has led to the proliferation of many of our favorite brands and cars to the point where most don’t feel all that special anymore. That $2,500 Jetta, for example, is much more rare to see today in that condition – or, at all, truthfully – compared to a new M car.
So all modern cars aren’t really all that exciting? That’s far from the truth, too, as there are many special examples that float by our feed. So while the F10 M5 isn’t a model often featured, it’s probably our loss for not doing so. It’s also easy to forget that even though it feels pretty new, the F10 has been out of production for 2 years and the earliest examples are now 7 years old. Plus, as most M5s do, the entry price point on the antiquated models has dropped considerably compared to their original MSRP, while their performance is still contemporaneous to today’s cars.
The S63B44T0 found under the hood of this particular example was good for 550 plus horsepower; not much more than the model it replaced with that wicked V10. But torque? That’s another matter. While the S85 cranked out an impressive 380 lb.ft at 6,100 rpms, the two turbos tacked onto the S63 V8 produced 500 lb.ft of torque with a curve as flat as the Salt Lake from 1,500 rpms through over 5,000. That massive power could be channeled through a manual gearbox, and it could also be outfit from BMW’s Individual arm. These are the most fun to see, albeit very rarely do they come up for sale:
The M5 might not have been the original super sedan. It wasn’t even the first hot 5-series. But just like the GTI is synonymous with the hot-hatch segment, the M5 became the standard by which all other super-sedans were judged the moment it rolled onto the scene in 1985. Power seemed other-worldly; 280 plus horsepower from the race-derived M88/3 hunkered down with beefy suspension upgrades and huge (for the time) alloy wheels linked with a limited-slip differential. At a time when “fast” cars had 180 horsepower, BMW’s first M-offering in the sedan range might as well have been a space ship.
BMW promised limited production for the U.S. market, too – and, indeed, only 1,200 were produced for the U.S. with the slightly de-tuned S38. Unfortunately, that was 700 more than BMW had promised to make, and that led to a lawsuit. It also wasn’t very long before the M5’s power reign was eclipsed; first by its replacement E34 model, then by the whole range of new V8 models emerging on the market, from the 1992 Audi V8 quattro to the 500E. Values quickly fell as these old-looking (even when new) boxy rockets fell out of favor, and they remained there for quite some time.
But recently there’s grown a much greater appreciation for all things 80s M, and though the E30 has grabbed the headlines as the market star, outside of the M1 it is the E28 M5 that was brought here in fewest numbers. Even fewer have survived, and finding clean, lower mile examples can be tough. It can also be very, very expensive – Enthusiast Auto Group currently has four great ones on offer, but the lack of listed prices is an indication of some of the market volatility. Hagerty now values condition 1 cars at $98,000, and even poor examples are quite pricey.…
Just because it’s got an exotic name or badge doesn’t mean it’s automatically out of your reach. That’s the lesson for today’s twin E34s. If you’re willing to undertake a bit of a project you can certainly save money up front. Just like we saw with the S65 AMG Andrew wrote up, the initial cost you pay only going to be part of your total outlay but for the price of a small economy car, you can grab another league of luxury, performance and exclusivity that a Nissan Versa could never dream of matching. So which of these project E34s is the one you’d chose, or are both busts?
As we drove home in our E61 the other day, an E60 M5 with temporary plates sat in front of my wife and me at a light. She commented “Are those getting cheap? Because I’m seeing them more often…” She’s right. The E60 M5, with its screaming 500 horsepower V10, now can be had for around the same price as an entry level Hyundai. Pound for pound, they’re now the cheapest way to get into an M-branded 5-series. But though we own a fifth generation five, I’ll admit frankly that it’s not a car that’s for everyone. It’s big, heavy and complicated – and can be quite expensive to fix. Couple that with any M engine and drivetrain, and these cars are capable of draining your wallet as fast as they can accelerate.
So although the power levels are lower and they’re not as flashy or modern, for many the E39 model that preceded the one we saw is still the epitome of M5s (though they’re often challenged by an equally vocal group who says the first one is the only one!). We’ve seen them start to trend upwards after dipping a bit low over the last few years, and now places such as Enthusiast Auto Group have a plethora in the $35,000 – $80,000 range depending on mileage. So you missed out on this fan-favorite, as well?
Not so fast.
There are a few select automotive tuners who can take an impressive package and refine it into an even better entity. That group includes legends such as AMG, Alpina and Ruf – all of which are staples of this segment.
Yet they are far from alone. Given the task of improving on what is generally considered to be one of the greatest sedans ever made is no small feat, but if there was one group up to it, it was Steve Dinan’s eponymous company in California.
While just about anyone can take a turbocharged engine and crank up the boost, slap a few stickers on it and call it done, the E39 M5 didn’t come with forced induction. On top of that, it was a motor which wasn’t exactly underdeveloped before it went into production. Nor were the brakes, suspension, or any other aspect of the third gen M5. But Dinan thought they could improve upon them, and with a tremendous amount of work, did.
Dinan went to town on the S62 from start to end. Out came the factory air boxes, air meters and velocity stacks, replaced by Dinan units of larger diameter and better flow qualities, along with larger throttle bodies bored out by the company. This necessitated reprogramming of the computer controls for the engine to match the new flow characteristics. To help the exhaust side of the motor, unique tubular headers were fit to a free-flowing, lightweight exhaust system. While this sounds a bit like old-school engineering, it was successful; the result was an additional 76 horsepower and 51 lb.ft of torque – basically, this was like adding a 1980 Rabbit’s worth of power to an already powerful car.
Dinan coupled the engine mods with a shorter final drive and higher rev-limiter to reach fantastic speeds. The S2 was capable of 0-60 runs around 4 seconds flat and, in unrestricted mode, geared out around 190 mph in 6th.…
From the “Cars that need no introduction” file, witness the M5. So ingrained into the halls of automotive Valhalla is the M5 that it seems as though there was never a time without one. Yet while there were fast sedans that predated the Motorsport 5-series, the reality is that this was the blueprint which all subsequent fast sedans (tried to) emulate.
If you look up “benchmark” in the dictionary, the M5 should appear as an alternate definition.
But enough of the hyperbole, hoopla and heady praise. You know the details of what makes this car great. So what makes this particular one special?
While I love my W126, I miss the E34 that I sold back in May. Mine was only a lowly 525i, but with its tight suspension and fun-to-use 5-speed manual gearbox, it drove more like a go-kart than I was expecting, when I picked it up on a whim. I hope to own another E34 someday, perhaps one with a bit more grunt than my old car had. So I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the M5 market for a while now. Values on these cars have risen steadily over the last few years, as buyers looking for a bit of old-school, hand-built M GmbH magic have woken up to the charms of this generation 5-series, with its 3.6 liter inline six powerplant. Of course, this means that an E34 M5 will most likely be out of reach before I can afford one. But for those with cash on hand right now, the last year or so has seen a steady supply of neat examples coming to market. Right now, buyers looking for a tidy, daily-driver quality example can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000. Grab one while you can.
Neither the E24 M6 nor the E28 M5 need an introduction on these pages. Legendary even when new, they both captured the imagination of generations of German car enthusiasts and established the benchmarks for sedan and GT performance in period. Both went through a relatively long downturn in value, as well. And today, as each has moved firmly into classic status and the market ///Madness continues, each has increased in value considerably over where they stood a few years ago.
But with so many shared components, which is the one to get? While a lot of that boils down to personal preference, more so than ever it’s also dependent on your budget. We’ve seen asking prices for nice examples of each chassis hovering between $50,000 and $80,000 depending on mileage and condition, and with a hot market there’s no letup of good ones to choose from.
But what I have today is not the best examples of each. Both are higher mileage and neither is pristine. However, the real draw here in both cases is a no reserve auction format, giving us the opportunity to really see what’s what in the M market today.
The E28 M5 that Carter wrote up the other day was a nice piece of kit. But the E34 remains my favorite version of the M-powered 5-series. Sure, it was heavier than it’s predecessor. But even with the additional heft, the dynamic chassis and dialled-in suspension setup meant it was still a spritely, potent car. It was also subtle, distinguished from lower models only by a few, discreet M-badges, restyled lower valances and unique alloys. That’s no bad thing. Super sedans should be understated, in my view, and the conservatively styled E34 was handsome then and remains so now. That understated exterior conceals a glorious, screaming 3.6 liter inline six, replete with six individual throttle bodies, a motor that was good for just over 300 hp when new.