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The History of the BMW E34: An Enduring Classic

Have you ever wondered how this iconic model came into being? What makes it so special and beloved by classic car lovers? Join us on this journey back in time as we explore the evolution, design and features that make the BMW E34 a true timeless classic.

The beginnings of the BMW E34

The BMW E34 represents the third generation of the BMW 5 Series and was produced from 2 November 1987 until 1996. Initially, this model was launched as a sedan in January 1988, but also saw the introduction of a family variant called “Touring” in September 1992, the first time the 5 Series had this option. Although BMW officially replaced the E34 with the E39 5 Series in December 1995, E34 Touring models continued in production until June 1996.

Advances and Highlights

The E34 generation marked important advances in the 5 Series. For the first time, all-wheel drive was incorporated into a 5 Series model, with the 525iX model. In addition, the E34 was the first 5 Series model to feature a V8 engine. Innovative features such as stability control (ASC), traction control (ASC+T), a 6-speed manual transmission and adjustable suspension (EDC) were also introduced to the 5 Series range.

Engines and Variants of the BMW E34

One of the most striking features of the BMW E34 is the wide variety of engines that were offered throughout its lifetime. A total of nine different engine families were used, including inline four-cylinder, inline six-cylinder and V8 engines. The iconic BMW M5 E34, for example, was equipped with the S38 inline six-cylinder engine and was produced in both sedan and estate versions.


518i
518g520i525i530i535i540iM5
Years1989-19941994-19961995-19961988-19901990-19921992-19961988-19901990-1992
BodySedan, TouringTouringSedanSedan, TouringSedanSedan, TouringSedanSedan, Touring
Engine identificationM40 B18M43 B18M20 B20M50 B20M50 TUB20M20 B25M50 B25M50 TUB25
Type of engineL4 8vL6 12vL6 24vL6 12vL6 24vL6 12vV8 32vL6 12v
Cylinder capacity1796 cm³1990 cm³1991 cm³2494 cm³2986 cm³2997 cm³3430 cm³3982 cm³
CV (kW) @ rpm113 CV (83 kW) @ 5500115 CV (85 kW) @ 5500129 CV (95 kW) @ 6000150 CV (110 kW) @ 5900170 CV (125 kW) @ 5800192 CV (141 kW) @ 5900188 CV (138 kW) @ 5800218 CV (160 kW) @ 5800
Maximum torque: Nm @ rpm162 Nm @ 4250168 Nm @ 3900164 Nm @ 4300190 Nm @ 4700190 Nm @ 4200222 Nm @ 4300245 Nm @ 4700250 Nm @ 4200

Development and Launch

Development of the BMW E34 took place from July 1981 to early 1987. The initial design proposal was created by Ercole Spada in 1982, under the supervision of chief designer Claus Luthe. Much of the design was based on the BMW 7 Series E32 model. Following Spada’s departure from BMW and approval of the design in 1983, J Mays finalised the design for production in mid-1985. Special attention was paid to aerodynamics, achieving a drag coefficient of 0.30 for the basic E34 sedan.

Series production began in November 1987, and in December of the same year, the E34 sedan was officially presented to the world press. The model aroused great excitement and was praised for its elegant design and innovative technical features.

During its production run, the BMW E34 was assembled at various locations around the world. The main plant was in Dingolfing, Germany, where most of the vehicles were produced. Units were also produced in Rosslyn, South Africa, and in Bangkok, Thailand, specifically the 520iS model.

The E34’s engine line-up ranged from the efficient 1.8-litre M40/M43 four-cylinder petrol engine, to the powerful M20/M50/M30/S38 six-cylinder petrol engines, and the robust 2.4 to 2.5-litre M21/M51 turbocharged diesel engines. Each engine offered its own balance of power, performance and efficiency to suit individual driver preferences and needs.

In terms of dimensions, the E34 had a wheelbase of 2,760 mm and a length of 4,720 mm. Its width was 1,750 mm and the height ranged from 1,412 mm to 1,420 mm, depending on the variant. With an unladen weight ranging from 1,440 kg to 1,800 kg, the BMW E34 offered a solid construction and agile handling that made it a vehicle of high performance and comfort.

The Legacy of the BMW E34

The BMW E34 left an indelible mark on automotive history as one of the most outstanding vehicles of its time. Its elegant design, combined with its excellent performance and cutting-edge technology, made it a favourite among classic car enthusiasts and lovers of the BMW brand.

Over the years, the E34 has gained cult status and acquired value as a collector’s car. Its timeless design and build quality have stood the test of time, and many owners and enthusiasts are dedicated to maintaining and restoring these vehicles to preserve their heritage.

To this day, the BMW E34 remains a popular choice for those looking to experience the thrill of driving a classic and sophisticated automobile. Its balance of luxury, performance and reliability continues to be admired by brand connoisseurs.

In addition, the community of BMW E34 owners and enthusiasts is very active. Events, gatherings and clubs dedicated exclusively to this model are organised, where enthusiasts can share their passion for these vehicles and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from having common interests.