1980s / 1990s / BMW / Future classic / German

Is the BMW 5-Series (E34) a future classic?

bmw-5-series-e34-10Introduced 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?

8 thoughts on “Is the BMW 5-Series (E34) a future classic?

  1. I voted yes, but then again I think the barrier to entering the classic club is pretty low. In contrast, to be considered a future collectible, I think the car would have to wear either an M5 or an M540i decklid badge (and that’s not counting tuner variants from Alpina, Hartge, and so on). The more pedestrian 525i, 535i, and everything in between will continue to live on as unassuming, affordable classics.

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  3. I’m hoping to find a clean E34 with manual transmission for a weekend car–pretty thin on the ground in SLC.

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  5. I have covered 460k km in my 525i Auto from 1990 (new), until the transmission died last week. Even the wreckers don’t want it now! So have decided to replace trans (rest of car is rock-solid) with used box NZ$400 + labour $NZ300 and keep it as a sentimental classic. (Wife prefers reliability of new 320d Mseries purchased today)

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