//M Car



BMW E28 Five Series


The E28 was the successor to the E12 five series and was thus the second incarnation of the five series. The new vehicle looked initially similar to the E12 but rode lower, had more engine choices and gained minor styling updates. It is perhaps a tribute to the old E12 that the basic design lived on until 1988. I once found a 1987 520i for a friend, it cost less than you would imagine and is one of the most well balanced all-rounder saloons I've ever driven despite having 90,000 miles under its belt. My own 525e was even better, but not as much fun as my M535i!

BMW E28 M535i

My wife's M535i with E38 16" cross spokes.

It is interesting to note the many similarities in chassis and drive train between the E28 and the classic E24 635CSi Coupe after it's 82 facelift.

In the 80's the E28 looked a bit dated against Saabs, Mercedes and Audis, personally I liked that. But under the skin things were very different. The engine management was a generation or sometimes two ahead of the competition. BMW were using Jetronic-L and Motronic where VW/Audi were still on Jetronic-K. The difference showed in the availability of ABS before it's competitors, the service indicator and in better handling. The E28 had classic looks but was bang up to date.

E28s are reliable cars and for some reason they seem to rust a bit less than 635CSi's and many of their competitors from other manufacturers. They were strongly engineered cars with quality materials and components. As such they make excellent buys today if you can find one without a sky high price because they are now very desirable. Parts prices are surprisingly cheap too. They're just a great car.

BMW E28 525e

525e with chrome bumpers and 14" Mahle alloys.

Model Body Engine Weight
Power / Weight
(bhp / 1000kg)
Final drive
(manual / auto)
518 Saloon M10 1140 85 4.27 Disc / Drum
518i Saloon M10 1160 90 4.10 Disc / Drum
520i Saloon M20 1260 102 4.10 / 3.91 Disc / Drum
524d Saloon M21 1330 65 3.91 Disc / Drum
524td Saloon M21 1355 86 3.15 Disc / Drum
525i Saloon M30 1310 130 3.64 & 3.46 Disc/Disc ABS*
525e / 528e Saloon M20 1300? 96? 2.93 / 3.07 Disc/Disc ABS*
528i Saloon M30 1340 137 3.46 (3.25 sport) Disc/Disc ABS*
533i(US) Saloon M30 1420 128 3.25 Disc/Disc ABS
535i Saloon M30 1370 159 3.07 / 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
M535i Saloon M30 1390 157 3.07, 3.25, 3.45 Disc/Disc ABS
M5 Saloon S38 1400? 204 3.91 (US) Disc/Disc ABS


US versions of this car were denied the smaller engines and had the Federal super-bumpers inflicted upon them. There was a super-Eta version of the 525e / 528e, see versions for more information. ABS was optional, only some later cars had it as standard.

BMW E28 525e

My 1987 525e Lux with 16" cross spokes.

Driving an E28

I've been fortunate enough to own and drive a few E28s. Many years ago I found a nice 1986 520i for my friend Francois, it was not only his first BMW but his first car. At the time I had a fairly new E36 318iS coupe and in comparison I found the 520i to be nearly as fast as it was only a little heavier and had less power but more torque. In no way could the ride be termed sporty but it held the road well and was predictable. It was a very pleasant car to drive in town and no slouch on the open road. I liked the open and airy feel of the car with it's low, by modern standards, waistline and I enjoyed the rattle free ride than only comes with good build quality But more power was needed, the same could be said of my E36 at the time.

More power came when my 635CSi was hit by a "blind" woman in a Corsa, I needed another car temporarily and 650 pounds bought me a 1987 525e. The car was less than mint cosmetically when I bought it but the fundamentals were all good and soon I was really enjoying her. Naturally she was automatic as the UK never had manual etas, but she was a Lux model with lovely velour interior and lots of extras. She was and is the nicest town car I have ever driven. The automatic perfectly suited the 2.7 eta, the suspension was perfect and the steering excellent. I cannot imagine a better car for town or main road commuting to this day. She had enough power for overtaking and a set of 16" alloys made her a pleasant although not sporty companion on B-roads. I sold here to a friend and a few years later bought her back again. Had she has the optional ABS and EH sport automatic she'd have been ever better.

But of course the nicest was my M535i with it's 3.5 M30 and 218 wonderful horses under the bonnet coupled to the famous dog-leg gearbox. Mine rode 16" cross spokes from an E38 and the wonderful //M-Tech suspension. This car loved B roads, it was made for them. It cornered on rails yet was sufficiently compliant to be a good long distance car, the balance was superb. The brakes were almost adequate but an E34 upgrade was on the cards just before I sold her.

The car didn't have an accelerator pedal in the normal sense, on this car the pedal was fitted to restrain the engine rather than ask for more power! The car just wanted to go all the time and was breathtakingly fast. It was an engine with some wheels and bodywork bolted on. There is no need for an E28 M5 as the M535i is in no way a car that needs more power to be enjoyed.

It had the sports seats of a similar design to those in my E30 318iS and E34 535i Sport, they are without doubt the best seats ever fitted to any car. The interior was well made, well designed and practical. I loved the way the interior light switch was next to the headlight switch it was so much more sensible.

So they all had their charms. The M535i was one of the best BMWs ever made, in the real world I'd prefer it to the M5 as it's cheaper to buy and run yet almost as much fun. But for the town driver the 525e was superior as the M car had a very heavy clutch and an automatic M535i would be like putting mayonnaise on a good curry. Every E28 was good in it's own way - it's just a shame so few are still with us. By the late 90's they were worth nothing and their numbers far exceeded those who wanted what was regarded as an old car. Part of the blame must go to the E34 as it was so good everyone wanted one. Now even a 518i is worth good money and an M535i or M5 is not a cheap car.