ⓘ BMW 5 Series, E34. The BMW E34 is the third generation of the BMW 5 Series, which was produced from 1987 until 1996. Initially launched as a sedan in January 19 ..


ⓘ BMW 5 Series (E34)

The BMW E34 is the third generation of the BMW 5 Series, which was produced from 1987 until 1996. Initially launched as a sedan in January 1988, the E34 also saw a "Touring" station wagon body style added in September 1992, a first for the 5 Series. BMW replaced the E34 with the E39 5 Series in December 1995, although E34 Touring models remained in production until June 1996.

The E34 generation marked the first time all-wheel drive was incorporated into the 5 Series with the 525iX, and the first V8 engine to be used in a 5 Series. The E34 also saw the introduction of stability control ASC, traction control ASC+T a 6-speed manual transmission and adjustable damping EDC to the 5 Series range.

There was an unusually large range of engines fitted over its lifetime as nine different engine families were used. These consisted of straight-four, straight-six and V8 engines.

The E34 M5 is powered by the S38 straight-six engine and was produced in sedan and wagon body styles.


1. Development and launch

Development ran from July 1981 to early 1987, with the initial design proposal penned by Ercole Spada in 1982. Under the guidance of chief designer Claus Luthe, BMW based much of the design on the E32 7 Series. Following Spadas departure from BMW and styling approval in 1983, J Mays finalized the design for production in mid-1985. Special attention was paid to aerodynamics, with the E34 basic sedan having a drag coefficient of 0.30.

Series production began in November 1987. In December 1987, the E34 sedan was unveiled to global press.


2. Body styles

Sedan models have a length of 4.720 mm 185.8 in, a width of 1.750 mm 68.9 in and a height of 1.412 mm 55.6 in. Wagon models have a length of 4.720 mm 185.8 in and a height of 1.420 mm 55.9 in. All models have a wheelbase of 2.760 mm 108.7 in.


3. Drivetrain

Manual transmissions

  • 5-speed ZF S5D 310 - M50 engines
  • 5-speed Getrag 280 - 3.6 L M5 model only
  • 5-speed Getrag 260
  • 6-speed Getrag 420G - 540i and 1994-1996 M5 only

Automatic transmissions

  • 5-speed ZF 5HP30 - 540i
  • 4-speed GM 4L30-E A4S 310R - M50 engines US only
  • 5-speed ZF 5HP18 - M50 and M51 engines except US and 1992-1995 530i.
  • 4-speed ZF 4HP22 - M20 and M30 engines

4. Suspension

Front suspension consists of double pivot MacPherson struts, with a replaceable shock absorber cartridge inside a steel strut housing. Control arms and thrust arms control front-to-back and side-to-side movement. Steering on most models is a recirculating ball design, however the all-wheel drive 525iX uses a rack and pinion steering system along with front suspension similar to the E30 3 Series 325iX model. All front suspension components are steel, except that the lower control arms on some models are aluminum.

Rear suspension consists of semi-trailing arms with coil springs integrated in a strut assembly.


5.1. Models Petrol-engined

The base model, available only in Europe, was the petrol-powered four-cylinder 518i. Only available with a 5-speed manual transmission, with a total of 53.248 cars were produced.

The next petrol model up was the six-cylinder 520i, which began production in January 1988. It was initially powered by the BMW M20 single overhead camshaft engine, which was replaced by the BMW M50 double overhead camshaft engine in 1990. The 520i was the second most popular E34 model globally, with 426.971 units produced. The 525i was the most popular E34 model globally with 434.549 units produced. As per the 520i, the 525i initially used the M20 engine, which was replaced by the M50 engine in 1990.

A rare E34 model is the petrol-powered six-cylinder 525iX, of which only 9.366 cars were produced. The 525iX was the first all-wheel drive 5 Series, and the only all-wheel drive model in the E34 range. It was powered by the BMW M50 engine and was the first 5 Series to use a rack and pinion steering system.

There are two versions of the E34 530i: an inline-six model produced from 1988 to 1990, and a V8 model produced from 1993 to 1995. The earlier model was one of the last applications of the BMW M30 inline-six engine. The V8 version, which replaced the six-cylinder 535i in the lineup, was powered by the new BMW M60 V8 engine and was available with a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. Initially, the V8 models were differentiated from other models by the wide grill; in 1994 the wide grill became available on other models. Between the two versions of the 535i, a total of 57.570 cars were produced.

The highest six-cylinder model except for the M5 was the 535i. Despite the 535i model designation and 3.5 casting on the intake manifold, the BMW M30 engine found in the E34 535i actually has a desplacement of 3.4 litres 207 cu in. A total of 97.679 cars were produced, including the Alpina B10 BiTurbo, 3.5 models. The 535i was replaced by the V8-engined 530i and 540i models in 1993.

In 1993, the 540i model was added to the top of the 5 Series lineup, powered by the BMW M60 V8 engine and available in both sedan and wagon body styles the latter not in US. Transmission options were a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic. A total of 26.485 units were produced. Initially, the V8 models were differentiated from other models by the wider grilles. In 1994 the wide grilles became available on other models as well.


5.2. Models Diesel-engined

The first diesel model was the 524td, which was introduced in 1988. This model was replaced by the 525tds in 1991, and a lower-specification 525d was introduced in 1993. All diesel models were powered by turbocharged inline-six engines.


5.3. Models North America

In the United States, the E34 model range was launched in October 1988 with the 525i and 535i 6-cylinder models for the 1989 model year. Over the course of the E34 generation, the 525i Touring, 530i, 530i Touring, 540i and M5 models were sold in the United States. The 3.6 L 220 cu in version of the M5 remained in production until 1993, by which time the 3.8 L 232 cu in version was being produced for other countries.


6. M5 model

Introduced in September 1988 and produced until August 1995, the E34 M5 was produced in both sedan and station wagon Touring body styles, the latter being the first M5 to be available as a wagon.

The E34 M5 is powered by the BMW S38 inline-six engine, originally with a displacement of 3.6 L 220 cu in and an output of 232 kW 311 hp, later upgraded to a 3.8 L 232 cu in engine rated at 250 kW 335 hp. This 3.8 litre version of the M5 was first seen by the public at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show, where the E34 M5 Touring also saw its debut.

In its last year of production for the M5, the transmission was upgraded from a 5-speed manual to the Getrag 420G 6-speed manual which was also used by the 540i model.


7.1. Special models 518g

A model which could run on natural gas as well as petrol and was only sold in Germany. The 518g was based on the 518i Touring model and the only transmission available was a 5-speed manual. The engine, also used by the 1995-2000 3 Series Compact 316g model, was a re-tuned version of the BMW M43 four-cylinder engine. When running on natural gas, the engine produced 73 kW 98 hp, compared with 84 kW 113 hp when running on petrol. It was only produced in 1995 and just 298 units were built.


7.2. Special models 518iev prototype

After unveiling the BMW E1 and E2 concept car electric vehicles in 1992, BMW began a project to show it was possible to make a full-sized electric car, despite the obstacle of the weight of the lead-acid battery technology at the time. The batteries were a lead-acid type and the electric motors used a rotating-field AC electric drive. To assist the electric drivetrain, the 518iev also had a four-cylinder petrol engine and a continuously variable transmission, a configuration similar to the first production hybrid cars produced by other manufacturers several years later. BMW built at least one fully functional E34 prototype, which was tested in the late 1990s by Deutsche Post and others.


7.3. Special models 540i M-sport / M540i / 540i LE

Because the M5 was discontinued for non-European markets in 1993, the 540i M-Sport model was built in 1995 for the North American market. On top of the regular 540i features, additional features included sports suspension equipped with EDC, bolstered sport seats, servotronic steering, and US-spec M5 brakes. 205 "M-Sport" models were built, 139 of them with the 6-speed manual transmission.

An M540i model was produced for in Canada. It includes the features of the North American 540i M-sport, plus upgraded Euro-spec M5 brakes, 18-inch M-parallel wheels, and various trim pieces. Only 32 of these cars were built, all with a manual transmission.

The 540i LE i.e. Limited Edition sedan was sold in Australia and the United Kingdom. The 540i LE included the interior from the M5, "throwing star" M-System II wheels, EDC suspension with self leveling rear, Servotronic power steering, and front air dam. 70 of these 540i LE sedans were produced, all with a manual transmission, each individually numbered using an engraved metal plaque stuck onto the centre console beneath the handbrake lever.


8. Model year changes

Most changes occur in September each year, when the changes for the following model year go into production, as is typical BMW practice. Therefore, the changes for 1988 represent the 1989 model year, for example.


8.1. Model year changes 1988

  • M5 model introduced
  • 518i four-cylinder model introduced
  • 524td diesel model introduced
  • Drivers side airbag introduced

8.2. Model year changes 1989

  • 520i engine updated to the BMW M50, the first model to use the new twin-cam straight-six engine

8.3. Model year changes 1990

  • 525i engine updated to the BMW M50
  • 525tds diesel model introduced
  • 525iX all-wheel drive model introduced

8.4. Model year changes 1992

  • Revised exterior mirrors and hubcaps
  • 520i and 525i engines updated to the BMW M50TU, which added variable valve timing VANOS
  • M5 engine enlarged from 3.6 litres to 3.8 litres
  • V8 engines introduced in the 530i and 540i models. The V8 models adopted a wider grille than other models.

8.5. Model year changes 1993

  • ASC became available
  • 6-speed manual transmission available for 540i model the first 6-speed manual available in a 5 Series
  • 535i six-cylinder model discontinued, marking the end of the 24-year production run of the M30 engine
  • 525td diesel model introduced

8.6. Model year changes 1994

  • 518i engine upgraded from BMW M40 to BMW M43
  • Wider grille previously used for V8 models only became available for other models
  • M5 transmission upgraded from 5-speed manual to 6-speed manual

9. Production

Production of the E34 commenced on November 2, 1987 for the 535i, with 535i market launch being in January 1988 and other variants following a staggered launch. 520i and 530i production began in January 1988, for March 1988 market launch. Production of the 525i began in February 1988, being launched to market in April 1988, with the 524td entering production in March 1988 for May 1988 introduction. Touring production began in July 1992, after presentation at IAA 1991. Production ended for the sedan in December 1995 and Touring in June 1996.

The production plants for the E34 were the Dingolfing plant in Germany and Rosslyn in South Africa. Total production was 1.333.412 units.

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