Back in the late ’80s, the boxier the better, when it came to car design in Europe. Just look at some of the boxy, wedge-shaped cars of the late ’80s and early ’90s and you’ll see what I’m talking about. German cars from this era are some of my personal favorite. The third-generation E34 BMW 5 Series showcases this design theme better than most.
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The E34 5 Series was designed together with the E32 7 Series that debuted just two years before it and it’s quite obvious. In fact, at quick glance, it takes eagle-eyed BMW fans to spot the difference between the two. The lower-slung wedge-shaped nose and higher, larger rear end are clearly reminiscent of its 7 Series sibling. Despite its standard three-box body design, it was actually an incredibly aerodynamic car, with a drag-coefficient of .30, which set the standard at the time and was the benchmark for sedans for many years afterward. Though, its exterior design never managed to capture the hearts of enthusiasts like the E28 5 Series before it. While intelligent and well made, it just wasn’t as pretty.
On the inside, the E34 5er gained a significant amount of space, luxury and technology. Like the E28, the cockpit was very driver-oriented, but featured far more passenger space up front and was more luxurious. It was clearly more of a move to luxury than the sort of luxo-sport sedan its predecessor was. It also had better technology, with new driver-assistance systems, like ASC (Stability Control) and ASC+T (Traction Control).
With new engine changes, the E34 5 Series packed the largest engine range of any 5 Series model before it. So it went from four-cylinder engines all the way to eight-cylinder engines. Ever since, the 5 Series has had such an engine range, with small, efficient four-pots to big, powerful V8s. It was also the first 5 Series to offer a Touring (wagon) model, something BMW has offered ever since.
This was also the first 5 Series to be offered with all-wheel drive. At the time, it was a highly innovative system, with EDC (Electronic Distribution Control), which was completely variable in its deliver or power to the front and rear axles. This was unrivaled at the time and an important step for BMW.
While the E34-generation 5 Series isn’t the most loved 5 Series of all time, it was a very important car for BMW and a pivotal one in the 5 Series’ history. It brought many new innovations, luxuries and technologies that are still offered today.