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1,333,412 built
PredecessorBMW E28
SuccessorBMW E39
ClassMid-size (E) luxury
Body style(s)4-door sedan
5-door station wagon
VehiclesBMW 5 Series
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BMW E34 M5 with M Parallel 18 inch wheels

The BMW E34 is the version of the BMW 5 Series automobile built from mid-1987 to 1996, with the Touring model ending June 1996. It replaced the BMW E28 in 1988 and was replaced by the E39 in 1996.

The E34 succeeded the BMW E28 in 1989 with two models. The 525i used the BMW M20 engine 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. The E34 also had a much stiffer body and was more streamlined than its predecessor, looking very much like the BMW E32 7-series.

The E34 was among the most reliable luxury cars on the market, earning the best-in-class reliability rating from Intellichoice in 1991. It is still considered one of the most reliable BMWs 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. The E34's 60-0 mph (97 to 0 km/h) stopping distance of 130 feet (40 m) was the best of any production sedan in 1990. It was also equipped with dynamic stability control (DSC) or skid control in later years on higher-specification variants.

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 2.5L engines built in September 1992 and later.

E34 models

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  • 518i (1989–1994) M40B18 Engine, 53,254 built[1] (all versions)
  • 518i (1994–1996) M43B18
  • 520i (1987–1990) M20B20, 427,122 built (all versions)
  • 520i ECE (1987–1990) M20B20 (higher compression than 520i non ECE)
  • 520i (1990–1996) M50B20
  • 525i (1987–1990) M20B25, 434,567 built (all versions)
  • 525i (1990–1996) M50B25
  • 525iX (1991–1996) M50B25 (four-wheel drive version), 9,366 built
  • 524td (1987–1991) M21D24, 70,901 built
  • 525td (1993–1996) M51D25UL, 19,334 built
  • 525tds(1991–1996) M51D25OL, 122,401 built
  • 530i (1987–1990) M30B30, 20,279 built
  • 530i (1992–1996) M60B30, 37,292 built
  • 535i (1987–1993) M30B35, 99,861 built
  • 540i (1992–1996) M60B40, 26,483 built
  • M5 (1988–1995) S38B36, S38B38, 12,254 built
  • 518g (1995–1996) CNG Engine (Touring body only), 298 built

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.


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1991-1995 BMW 525i

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 167 to 189 horsepower (141 kW) also increasing fuel economy by ten percent, while 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 a moderate horwepower increase, but flattened the torque curve from about 3,000 rpm up to redline at approximately 6,300 rpm.


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BMW 525i, E34 Touring version

The 525iX was the only four-wheel drive version in the E34 series. It was available both as a sedan and a wagon (touring version). It features a computer-controlled rear and middle differentials. The middle differential normally would divide 36% torque to the front axle and 64% to the rear axle, but could alter the ratio according to driving conditions (in case 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 185 bhp (138 kW). This European version of the 530i was discontinued in 1990. The eight cylinder 530i model was introduced to North America in 1992. 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.


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E34 Alpina B10

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 car can get 14-17 miles per U.S. gallon (17 to 14 L/100 km) city and 20-23 mpg (U.S.) highway. A rare 535is model was available in some markets (not North America). It featured a limited-slip differential and sport trim.


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 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 1357 examples of the 95 540i 6spd were produced.

M60 Engine

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.

E34 M60 Nikasil/Alusil Engine Codes M60B30 (530):

  • 1 725 970 - Nikasil
  • 1 741 212 - Nikasil
  • 1 745 871 - Alusil

M60B40 (540):

  • 1 725 963 - Nikasil
  • 1 742 998 - Nikasil
  • 1 745 872 - Alusil

These numbers are stamped into the engine block, and are visible from under the vehicle.


All versions of the 540i had the same 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time of 6.4 seconds, except the 540i 6spd manual (6.2) and could get 14-17 miles per U.S. gallon (14-17 L/100 km) city and 23-29 mpg (U.S.) (8-10 L/100 km) highway.

0-100 km/h times:
body transmission 100 km/h
Sedan 1994 manual 6.3 seconds
Sedan 1995 manual 6.2 seconds 1/4 mile 14.8 @ 98.1
Sedan automatic 6.8 seconds
Touring automatic 7.0 seconds

540i M-Sport

A rare 540i M-Sport model was built in 1995. This package included not just a firmer suspension and sport seats, but used many parts from the M5, save for the engine and transmission. 200 "Sport" models were built, 135 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 M5 enhanced 1995 540i 6 speeds. 70 '540i Manual Limited Edition's' were produced, all manual and all individually numbered. They all came with full M5 running gear and interior and the 'throwing star' M-System II wheels, but didn't have the M-tech exterior kit fitted.


The M5 version of the E34 was produced from 1988-1995. It featured an S38 straight-6 engine, originally a 3.6 L with an output of 231 kW (Template:Convert/PS hp), later upgraded to a 3.8 L producing 250 kW (Template:Convert/PS hp).

In its last two years of production, it also sported the 6-speed manual gearbox that had been given to some of the 540i 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.

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.



  • Length = 185.8 in (4.72 m)
  • Width = 68.9 in (1.75 m)
  • Wheelbase = 108.7 in (2.76 m)
  • Weight = 3484 lb/1584 kg (525i), 3570 lb/1623 kg (535i), approximately 3850 lb/1750 kg (M5)
  • Weight distribution F/R = 50%/50%
  • Trunk capacity = 16.2 ft³ (0.46 m³)
  • Drag coefficient = between 0.30 and 0.32, depending on model


535i with 5-speed Getrag manual transmission:

  • 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 7.1 s
  • 1/4 mile (0.4 km) in 15.5 s
  • Top speed (computer-limited, as on non-European models): 128 mph (220 km/h)
  • Top speed (drag-limited):146mph, 235 km/h
  • 60-0 mph (97-0 km/h) in 130 feet (40 m)

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 : 137 mph (220 km/h)

525i (M20) with 4-speed ZF automatic transmission:

  • 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 10.5 s

M5 1991-1993 (USA) (S38) with 5-speed Getrag gearbox, 3.6 liter:

  • 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 6.3 s
  • Top speed (computer-limited): 155mph (250 km/h)

M5 1989-1992 (Euro) (S38) with 5-speed Getrag gearbox, 3.8 liter:

  • 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 5.9 s
  • Top speed (computer-limited): 155mph (250 km/h)

M5 1992-1995 (Euro) (S38) with 5-speed (1994-1995 with 6-speed)Getrag manual transmission gearbox, 3.8 liter:

  • 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in 5.6 s
  • Top speed (computer-limited): 155mph (250 km/h)


European Models

  • 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.

U.S. Models

U.S. 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, 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, Automatic Stability Control (ASC, also ASC+T with traction control), 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.


  1. Production figures: Kittler, Eberhard (2001). Deutsche Autos seit 1990, vol.5. Stuttgart: Motorbuch. pp. 165. ISBN 3-613-02128-5. 

External links