Introduced in Europe in early 1988 and in North America a year later, the BMW E34 5-Series was the long-awaited successor to the aging E28. It was designed by a team operating under Claus Luthe, the same man who penned the E28, but it stayed true to BMW’s then-current design language with a noticeably less aggressive overall look inspired by the E30 3-Series and the E32 7-Series.
The E34 launched at an pivotal point in BMW’s history. The Munich-based automaker had decided to take on cross-country rival Mercedes-Benz head-on so it quickly adapted its products accordingly. As a result, the E34 was bigger in all directions than the outgoing E28 and it eventually became the first 5 to offer all-wheel drive as well as a Touring-badged station wagon body, two attributes that helped lure Mercedes w124 buyers into BMW showrooms.
Throughout its career, the E34 was offered with a wide selection of four-, six- and eight-cylinder gas-burning engines in addition to several turbodiesel mills. The car was praised by the public and the press for its exceptional comfort, its high-speed stability and its reliability, though the heavily-publicized Nickasil fiasco briefly tarnished the sedan’s image in the United States. BMW sold 1.3 million E34s by the time production ended in June of 1996.
Generally speaking, large non-M-badged BMW sedans have fared poorly on the collector car market because buyers have a tendency to gravitate towards the automaker’s sportier coupes. Will the E34 5-Series break that trend?