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BMW 5er Series

Generation 3

The BMW E34 is the version of the BMW 5 Series automobile built from February 1988 to 1995 with the Touring model ending June 1996. It replaced the BMW E28 in 1988 and was replaced by the E39 in 1996.

BMW 5er Series
© Michel Muller

In the North-American market the E34 succeeded the BMW E28 in May 1988 with two models. The 525i used the BMW M20engine while the 535i used the larger M30. The cars were a blend of BMW tradition and modern technology. BMW's traditional FR layout and straight-6 were used, providing the smooth engine and optimal weight distribution BMW customers had come to expect. New 5-series also had a much stiffer body and was more streamlined than its predecessor, and had design cues introduced in 1986 7-series.
The E34 was among the most reliable luxury cars on the market, earning the best-in-class ratings from Intellichoice in 1991, and still considered one of the most reliable BMWs ever made. It was also one of the safest cars on the road during its production, providing airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, and a very rigid body structure to protect occupants in the event of an accident. It was also equipped with automatic stability control (ASC) or traction control (ASC+T) in later years on higher-specification variants.

While Europe was given a large selection of engine choices and combinations, the North American market was more limited. While North America received only the 525i, 525i Touring, 535i, 530i, 530i Touring, 540i, and the M5, the European market also got the E34 518i, 520i, 6-cylinder 530i, diesel 525td/s, 525iX, M5 touring and 540i Touring. The cars were also available earlier in Europe than in America.
Models were distinguished in the same fashion as BMW E32 7 series cars - by the grille. V8 models (and 520/525 after 1994 for the 1995 model year) were equipped wide grille, while other sported narrow "kidneys".

The 525i was built throughout the E34 production, and in 1992 was offered as a wagon (touring version) in the USA. In June 1990 (1991MY), the engine was switched from the single overhead cam M20 engine to the double overhead cam M50B25 engine, raising power from 170 to 192 horsepower (141 kW). Also, fuel economy improved by ten percent, and a change from a timing belt to a timing chain improved reliability. A further revision of the 525i engine took place in 1993, when VANOS was added to the M50 engine which was designated the M50TU. The TU represents a Technical Update, reflecting the variable valve timing technology (VANOS) added to the intake camshaft. VANOS brought no horsepower increase, but flattened the torque curve from about 3,000 rpm up to redline at approximately 6,300 rpm. M50 engine was the most popular variant sold in NA.[citation needed]

The 525iX was the only four-wheel-drive version in the E34 series. It was available both as a sedan and a touring wagon version. It features a computer-controlled rear and centre differentials. The centre differential normally would divide 36% torque to the front axle and 64% to the rear axle, but could adjust the ratio according to driving conditions in case wheels of one of the axles started to slip.

The six-cylinder E34 530i was available in Europe starting in 1988 but it never arrived in North America. It had a M30B30 3.0-liter inline-6 engine producing 188 bhp (140 kW). This European version of the 530i was discontinued in 1990. In 1992, a new eight-cylinder 530i model was introduced in Europe, later arriving in North America in 1994. Replacing the 535i, it had the new M60, 32-valve DOHC 3.0-liter V8 engine producing 218 bhp (163 kW). It was also offered in a touring version.

The E34 535i was introduced in Europe as a 1988 model but was not available in North America until 1989. Production of the E34 535i and its engine ended in 1993, replaced by the V8 530i and 540i models. Despite the 535i designation, the M30 engine found in the E34 535i was actually 3430cc (3.4 liters). The M30 is rated at 211 PS (155 kW; 208 hp) at 5700 rpm and 305 N•m (225 lb•ft) at 4000 rpm. The car can get 14–17 miles per U.S. gallon (17 to 14 L/100 km) city and 20-23 mpg (U.S.) highway. In North America a limited slip differential was available, together with heated front seats, as an optional winter package. Just over 5,000 535i's were made with the 5-speed transmission, making this combination very sought after by BMW enthusiasts.

535i Sport & 525i Sport (UK)
The E34 535i Sport was introduced to the UK market as an 1989 model. Production of the 535i Sport and the iconic M30B35 engine ended in 1993 to be succeeded by the 525i Sport powered by the modern M50B25 24-valve engine.
- 525i Sport 1992–1995 192 bhp @5900 rpm and 181 lb•ft (245 N•m) @ 4700 rpm.
- 535i Sport 1989–1993 211 bhp @ 5700 rpm and 225 lb•ft (305 N•m) @ 4000 rpm.
All official UK Sport models came factory fitted with aerodynamic M Technic body styling consisting of front and rear bumpers, side skirts and M Technic rear boot spoiler. In addition to this they also came factory fitted with the following standard equipment - cloth or leather BMW sports seats - leather trim was a £1079 optional extra, M Technic I or II steering wheel, limited-slip differential, 30 mm lower M Technic sports suspension manufactured by Boge/Bilstien, close ratio 5-speed manual gearbox or the switchable (EH) 4-speed ZF automatic transmission which was an £1860 optional extra, Blaupunkt Cambridge radio/tape unit + 6 stereo speakers, On board computer and cruise control (standard equipment on 535i sport and options on the 525i sport), front fog lights, ABS, electric windows front and rear, electric steel sunroof, shadowline tail pipe trim, chrome exterior trim or shadowline trim which was a £389 cost option, 15" BBS alloy wheels - the very earliest Sport models came with larger 415 mm BBS forged TRX alloys with metric tyres. The very last 525i Sport models came with a black roof lining and dark maple wood veneer interior trim. The optional extras list for both Sport models was extensive and could push the standard £34,480 (1989 535i sport manual) list price up considerably.

BMW 5er Series

In 1993 BMW added a 4.0-liter V8 to the 5 Series lineup. It was available in both sedan and touring models (the latter not in US). Its large, torquey engine, upgraded brakes, and 5-speed automatic or rare optional 6-speed transmission (offered in 1995 in North America, and from 1993 to 1996 in Europe) made it very competitive in the sports sedan market. Only 3203 examples of the 540i 6spd were produced, in the following versions;

HE51 LHD European Limousine; 797 Examples
HE52 RHD European Limousine; 249 Examples
HE53 LHD North American Limousine; 1524 Examples
HK31 LHD European Touring; 499 Examples
HK32 RHD European Touring; 62 Examples
HE98 RHD South African Limousine; 72 Examples

The HE98 was made in Rosslyn South Africa for the local market.

540i M-sport (North America)
A rare 540i M-Sport model was built in 1995. This package included not only a firmer suspension and sport seats, but also used many parts from the M5, save for the engine and transmission. 204 "Sport" models were built, 139 of them with a 6-speed manual. Canada also got a special version — the M540i — which was similar to the American 540i Sport but had even more M5 parts, such as 345 mm floating front rotors, 18-inch M-Parallel wheels, and various trim pieces. Only 32 of these cars were built, all with a manual transmission. Australia was the final market that received one of the M-Sport 1995 540i 6 speeds. 70 "540i Manual Limited Editions" were produced, all manual and all individually numbered. They came with full M5 interior and the "throwing star" M-System II wheels, but did not have the Motorsport S38 engine nor the M-tech exterior kit fitted.

The M5 version of the E34 was produced from 1988 to 1995. It featured an S38 straight-6 engine, originally a 3.6 L with an output of 232 kW (315 PS; 311 hp), later upgraded to a 3.8 L producing 250 kW (340 PS; 335 hp).
In its last year of production, it also sported the 6-speed manual gearbox that had been taken from 540i/6 E34. This gearbox then followed through to the next generation of 5 series: the E39.

BMW 5er Series

As with many M-Series cars, the body's styling was upgraded with aerodynamic and cosmetic enhancements to outline its sportier nature.
Along with a modified suspension, the M5 was outfitted with 17 and 18-inch (460 mm) alloy wheels. Interestingly, one of these wheel models was the 17-inch (430 mm) M System wheels, which had two interchangeable fascia known as Turbine and Throwing-Stars (or T-Stars). These wheels are still highly sought and praised amongst BMW enthusiasts, and are sometimes worn without any fascia.

Engines and performance

A few enhancements to the body's cosmetics and functionality, as well as a slew of engine and transmission evolutions, have appeared throughout its years of production. Among those, BMW's VANOS variable valve timing technology made its first appearance in the M50 2.5 L engines built in September 1992 and later.
Both the E34 BMW 530i and 540i shared the M60 engine, which used Nikasil bore linings. In America and the United Kingdom this made both susceptible to premature engine wear, as high sulphur content in petrol in those markets resulted in deterioration of the linings. BMW then introduced an Alusil version of this engine, which solved the problem. In the USA and UK sulfur rich fuel is being phased out. Nikasil engines are unlikely to be a problem today, as cars with affected engines are off the road or have received replacement engines, and or were not affected.

Performance figures

525i (M50) with 5-speed Getrag manual transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 8.2 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 128 mph (206 km/h)
- Top speed : 144 mph (232 km/h)
525i (M20) with 4-speed ZF automatic transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 10.5 s
535i with 5-speed Getrag manual transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 7.5 s
- 1/4 mile (0.4 km) in 15.9 s
- Top speed (computer-limited, as on non-European models): 128 mph (206 km/h)
- Top speed (drag-limited): 146 mph (235 km/h),
- 60-0 mph (97–0 km/h) in 130 feet (40 m)
540i 1995 (USA) (M60) with 6-speed Getrag manual transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 6.0 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 129 mph (208 km/h)
540i 1993–1994 (USA) (M60) with 5-speed ZF automatic transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 6.4 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 149 mph (240 km/h)
540i 1995 (USA) (M60) with 5-speed ZF automatic transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 6.4 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 129 mph (208 km/h)
M5 1991–1993 (USA) (S38) (3.6 L) with 5-speed Getrag manual transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 6.3 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 155 mph (249 km/h)
M5 1989–1992 (Euro) (S38) (3.6 L) with 5-speed Getrag manual transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 5.9 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 155 mph (249 km/h)

BMW 5er Series Touring

M5 1992–1995 (Euro) (S38) (3.8 L) with 5-speed (1994–1995 with 6-speed) Getrag manual transmission:
- 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 5.6 s
- Top speed (computer-limited): 155 mph (249 km/h)


- Standard Equipment: AM/FM cassette with 6 speakers, rear defroster, dual-zone heating, programmable interval windshield wipers, driver's side airbag (after 1990), 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (after 1991), heated door locks and heated windscreen washer nozzles.
- Standard Power Accessories: Steering, side mirrors, central locking system, including trunk and gas filler door locks.

US models feature all the standard and power equipment of the European models, plus the following.
- Standard Equipment: Air conditioning, AM/FM Cassette with 10 speakers and external amplifier (some models pre-wired for factory CD Changer after 9/90), leather interior.
- Standard Power Accessories: 10-way electronically adjustable front seats, 4x power windows with driver's side one-touch up, electronic one-touch sunroof.

On-board computer (standard on 535i and above), trunk-mounted 6-disc CD changer, cruise control, fully automatic dual-zone air conditioning, heated seats, seat and mirror memory, lordosis support in seats, heated headlight washers, Servotronic power steering, sport suspension upgrade, passenger airbag, Automatic Stability Control (ASC, also ASC+T with traction control), keyless entry system with deadbolt, curtains in rear window and rear side windows, leather interior, arm rests on front seats, ski bag integrated into rear seat bank, light package with focused reading lights front and rear, refrigerator built into rear seat back, wood panels on center console, glove compartment and door panels, fold-down rear seat bank, Park Distance Control (PDC), Telephone between the seats, Nubuk leather head liner, Complete leather including dashboard, rear shelf.

On-board Computer
The BMW E34 offered an advanced on-board computer integrated into the center console and dash cluster. The computer could be set to calculate: average gas mileage, average speed, fuel range, Estimated Time of Arrival, and distance remaining to destination. The computer could also display basic information such as outside temperature, date, and time. BMW on-board computers of this generation also allowed a numerical pass code to be set and required to start the vehicle.

BMW 5er Series Touring

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