BMW 5 Series (E34)

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. Development ran from July 1981 to 1987, with design specifications chosen in 1983.
In the North American market the E34 succeeded the BMW E28 in May 1988 with two models. The 525i's use of the BMW M20 engine while the 535i used the larger M30. The vehicle is a blend of BMW tradition and modern technology. Used BMW traditional FR layout and straight-6, which provides smooth engine and optimal weight distribution BMW customers expect. Also the new 5-series has a much stiffer body and more streamlined than its predecessor, and had design cues introduced in 1986 7-series by designer Ercole Spada.
E34 is among the most reliable luxury cars on the market, achieving best-in-class ratings from Intellichoice in 1991, and is still considered one of the most reliable BMWs ever made. It is also one of the safest cars on the road during its production, providing airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, and rigid body structure to protect occupants in the event of an accident. Also it is equipped with automatic stability control (ASC) or traction control (ASC + T) in later years on higher specification variants.
1988 – 1996 (1,333,412 built)
Dingolfing, West Germany
Toluca, Mexico
Mid-size, executive car
Body style
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
FR layout
1.8- L four-cylinder BMW M40
1.8 L four-cylinder BMW M43
2.0-2.5 L six-cylinder BMW M20
2.0-2.5 L six-cylinder BMW M50
3.0-3.4 L six-cylinder BMW M30
3.6-3.8 L six-cylinder BMW S38
3.0-4.0 L V8 BMW M60
2.4 L six-cylinder turbocharged BMW M21
2.5 L six-cylinder turbocharged BMW M51
4-speed ZF
5-speed ZF
5-speed Getrag
6-speed Getrag
2,761 mm (108.7 in)
4,720 mm (185.8 in)
1,751 mm (68.9 in)
1,412 mm (55.6 in)
1,417 mm (55.8 in) (touring)
Curb weight
1,565 kg (3,450 lb)
Claus Luthe; Ercole Spada (1982, 1985)


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".
BMW E34 sedan (Europe)
BMW 525i Touring (Europe)
BMW 525i sedan (US) – with narrow grille


BMW 525i M20 I6 engine
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 192horsepower (141 kW - US Specifications were: 168 to 189 hp gain.) 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. Torque on the US VANOS Engine was raised from 181 ft-lb to 184 ft-lb. 0-60 mph times with automatic transmission dropped to 9.1 sec. vs. 10.0 from the Non-VANOS equipped M50 motor - a significant improvement. M50 engine was the most popular variant sold in NA. The 525i was also the most popular E34 model globally - close to 250,000 units were produced.


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. This version was equipped with M50B25 engine, and automatic or manual transmission. 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. Only 9366 BMW e34 525iX were made, this model is very rare today.


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.


BMW 535i M30 I6 engine
Despite the 535i designation and '3.5' casting on the intake manifold, 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 Nm (225 lbft) at 4000 rpm. US Specifications were 208 hp and 225 ft-lb torque. The car can get 14–17 miles per U.S. gallon 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. ASC was first available on 1991 models. Just over 5,000 535i's were made with the 5-speed transmission, making this combination very sought after by BMW enthusiasts. Production of the E34 535i and its engine ended in 1993, replaced by the V8 530i and 540i models.

Sport 535i & 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 245 Nm (181 lbft) @ 4700 rpm.
  • 535i Sport 1989–1993 211 bhp @ 5700 rpm and 305 Nm (225 lbft) @ 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.


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:
  • 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 "M-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.


BMW M5 S38 I6 engine
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.
As with many M-Series cars, the body's styling was upgraded with aerodynamic and cosmetic enhancements to outline its sportier nature.

Engine 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.

Petrol engines

Cars produced
Engine code
Body version
83 kW (113 PS) @ 5500
162 Nm (119 lbft) @4250
85 kW (115 PS) @5500
168 Nm (124 lbft) @3900
(gas version)
77 kW (105 PS)/85 kW (115 PS)
168 Nm (124 lbft)
95 kW (129 PS) @6000
164 Nm (121 lbft) @4300
110 kW (150 PS) @6000
190 Nm (140 lbft) @4700
110 kW (150 PS) @5900
190 Nm (140 lbft) @4200
M50B20 (TÜ)
125 kW (170 PS) @5800
222 Nm (164 lbft) @4300
141 kW (192 PS) @6000
245 Nm (181 lbft) @4700
141 kW (192 PS) @5900
245 Nm (181 lbft) @4200
M50B25 (TÜ)
141 kW (192 PS) @6000
245 Nm (181 lbft) @4700
141 kW (192 PS) @5900
245 Nm (181 lbft) @4200
M50B25 (TÜ)
138 kW (188 PS) @5800 rpm
255 Nm (188 lbft) @4000
160 kW (218 PS) @5800
290 Nm (210 lbft) @4500
155 kW (211 PS) @5700
305 Nm (225 lbft) @4000
210 kW (286 PS) @5800
400 Nm (300 lbft) @4500
232 kW (315 PS) @6900
360 Nm (270 lbft) @4750 rpm
250 kW (340 PS) @6900
400 Nm (300 lbft) @4750


Cars produced
Engine code
Body version
85 kW (115 PS) @4800
220 Nm (160 lbft) @2400
85 kW (115 PS) @4800
222 Nm (164 lbft) @1900
105 kW (143 PS) @4800
260 Nm (190 lbft) @2200

Alpina petrol engines

Cars produced
B10 3.0 Allrad
170 kW (231 PS) @5800
312 Nm (230 lbft) @4200
B10 3.5/1
187 kW (254 PS) @5800
325 Nm (240 lbft) @4000
B10 4.0
232 kW (315 PS)
410 Nm (300 lbft)
B10 4.6
250 kW (340 PS) @5700
480 Nm (350 lbft) @3900
B10 Biturbo
265 kW (360 PS) @6000
520 Nm (380 lbft) @4000

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 (M50) with 4-speed Automatic transmission ZF and GM derived transmission:

  • 0-60 mph in 10.0 sec. US-spec 1991-1992 non-VANOS.
  • 0-60 mph in 9.1 sec. US-spec 1993-1995 VANOS (GM derived transmission)
  • Top Speed - M50 Motor: 128 mph (electronically limited)

525i (M20) with 4-speed 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): 250 km/h (155 mph)

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): 250 km/h (155 mph)

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): 250 km/h (155 mph)



  • 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 (535i, 530i, 540i, M5).
  • Standard Power Accessories: 10-way electronically adjustable front seats, 4x power windows with driver's side one-touch up, electronic one-touch sunroof [After 1992].

ASC was 1st available on 1991 535i models and is quite rare. LSD (limited slip differential) was optional on 525i models. Most 1995 525i models came with ASC.

Identifying Models and Model Years by Styling Cues (USA)

  • US models were never equipped with headlight and foglight washers or rear foglights.
  • 1989 models did not come with wood trim.
  • 1989 525i models did not have the 4-spoke SRS steering wheel. The passenger Airbag was introduced on 1994 models, and replaced the classic BMW upper dash storage tray dating back to the 2002.
  • 1989-1990 models had black upper dashboards regardless of interior color, from 1991-1995 they matched the interior trim (black, parchment, grey, ultramarine, etc.). 1989-1991 525i models came with cloth interior - Leather was optional. Leatherette replaced cloth as standard equipment in the following years.
  • Some 1989 535i models did not come with cross-spoke wheels. All `90`-93 535i and `94-`95 530i models came with cross-spoke wheels. 540i models (excluding 540i sport) were equipped with a unique honeycomb cross-spoke wheel. `89-`94 525i models were equipped with multi-spoke wheels. Most `95 525i models had cross-spoke wheels.
  • Iceland Green was available from 1990–1993, and was replaced by Oxford Green from `94-`95. Glacier Blue, Calypso Red and Azure Blue are some of the rarer colors - the latter especially. Glacier Blue identifies a `89-`91 model. Ultramarine is the rarest interior color, avail. pre `93 (non M5).
  • Pre 1991 models had yellow and blue back lit buttons for the A/C, recirculation and rear defogger activation - later models had a small green light indicating activation.
  • All models from 1992-1995 have italic model badges on the trunklid. For example, a `91 535i reads 535i, whereas a `92 535i reads 535i.
  • Pre `93 models had a larger driver's side wiper wind deflector.
  • In 1993, the side rearview mirror were modified for better aerodynamics and wind-noise.
  • Wood Grain hue, pattern and finish was unique each year from 1993-1995.
  • 1994-1995 texture and gathering on leather seats was slightly more pronounced than previous years.
  • In 1995, lower trim (rocker panels and lower front and rear valance panels) were now body-color where previously they were black. `95 models can also be identified by an additional turn-signal lamp aft of the front wheel housing. In addition, the 1995 interior door cards on premium package 525i models and all 530i and 540i models were upgraded to a more luxurious diagonal semi-overlaping leather pattern. `95 models came with redesigned 4-spoke SRS wheel now incorporating colored BMW roundel badge. This wheel was unique to only 1995 E34 models.
  • M5 models came with supple leather and front seat and headrest design unique to the M5, though the `95 540i front seat and headrest design is a close clone. M5 models, like they were in the E28 chassis, came with luxurious Velour trunk lining and carpeting - Black Headliner was also standard fare. No M5 models were equipped with ASC due to the racing engine induction properties in which ASC was not compatible. The M5 was the only model equipped the rear headrests. Most M5 models did not come with wood trim.


On-board computer (standard on all US-spec), 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 and foglight washers with larger reservoir, Servotronic power steering, sport suspension upgrade, passenger airbag, Automatic Stability Control (ASC, also ASC+T withtraction control), keyless entry system with deadbolt, curtains in rear window and rear side windows (non-US-spec), 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 (toruing), Telephone between the seats, Nubuck leather head liner (non-US-spec), Complete leather including dashboard, rear shelf (non-US-spec).

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.

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Last updated on 25 August 2013 at 19:24.


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