Personally, I never liked the E34 BMW 5 Series. It always felt it was too boxy looking, its steering too floaty and its interior a bit too old-mannish. However, there’s something about the M5 variant that I like. Maybe it’s the lower stance, maybe it’s the bespoke BMW M engine or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s an ’80s/’90s BMW M car. BMWs, especially M cars, just aren’t made like they used to be. In this new video from Carwow, we see just why, with the E34 BMW M5.
First, Carwow’s Mat Watson shows us through some of the features the E34 M5 had that were state-of-the-art back in the day but seem positively ancient now. For instance, check out the little “infotainment” system, which can display trip information, temperature, mpg and various other vehicle info. Back then, this was great and I remember this unit specifically from my parents’ old E34s. Now, though, it seems like hieroglyphics carved into stone tablets, especially compared to BMW’s modern iDrive. Also, I sort of miss clamshell hoods, even if the E34 doesn’t have a true clamshell, it’s close enough.
We then get to see the back seat, which was uber-luxurious back in the day. Now, though, it almost seems boring without the myriad of touchscreens and LED lights of the modern 7 Series. However, the quality and materials are top-notch and bring us back to a time when automakers had to differentiate themselves with material and build quality, rather than just stuffing their cars with more gizmos than the other brand.
But where the E34 BMW M5 really starts to make a case for the old-school is when you get it on the road. The entire time he’s driving it, Watson can’t get the smile off of his face. Under the hood lies a 3.5 liter I6 engine that made 311 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. But it was real, blue-blooded horsepower, without any fancy turbos. It wasn’t low-tech, though. It had variable valve timing, individual throttle bodies and revved to 7,000 rpm. It also made a great noise.
That engine was mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and it looks like a blast to drive. Those long throws really make you work for each gear and remind you that you’re driving something old. It makes driving it an experience. While short, slick shifts are great in modern sports cars, there’s something truly lovely about driving an old manual and rowing those long-throw gears. Watson also seems to like the steering, which is slow by modern standards but provides a ton of feedback. There’s also a suppleness to the E34 BMW M5 that’s lacking in modern M cars.
Modern BMWs are excellent, with better performance, luxury and technology than ever before, obviously. But there’s just something so lovely about driving an older performance car like the E34 BMW M5. It really is true, they just don’t make ’em like they used to.