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BMW E28 Five Series - Guide to Interiors

The E28 was blessed with an exceptionally comfortable interior in a decade where good ergonomics were seldom the case even in expensive cars. Everything just fell nicely to hand and all the knobs and switches worked in a pleasing manner. One touch I particularly liked was that the switch for the interior lights was next to the headlights, easy to get at. I've never seen that anywhere else.


BMW E28 dashboard

M535i dashboard.

The standard seats supported the occupant on metals springs with a quality padded base. You sank into them by just the right amount and they were supremely supportive, not to use the word too often, comfortable. The rear bench was the same and came with optional rear headrests, quite common on later cars, and a generously proportioned centre armrest. Rear passengers had ample leg and head room even for larger occupants.


BMW E28 lux interior

Standard front seats with Lux velour.

The standard seats were sometimes fitted with optional fold down armrests on the inner side. These were at just the right height and made long distance driving a real pleasure. They weren't available on the sports seats. Those sports seats were also used on the E24, E30 and E34, they must be some of the best seats ever made. Highly supportive and slightly firmer than the standard seats but made in the same way. On the M535i and M5 the centre of each seat back had a black plastic insert with the BMW Motorsport colours, if yours are worn they're easy and cheap to replace. About half the cars the with sports seats had a fire extinguisher mounted in a carrier at the base.


BMW E28 lux interior

Rear velour seats from my 525e Lux.

One side affect of the type of seat construction was that it made the seat breath very well, so cloth seats stopped you from getting sweaty on a hot day. Modern seats with their molded bases can't do this nor can leather.

The grade of leather used was very good and highly durable, except for the normal weak spot of the driver's side bolster on the sports seats which always get scuffed. A leather dashboard and other panels was fitted to a handful of UK cars, I knew of one in Aberdeen. I believe US cars had it too.


BMW E28 sports interior

Sports seats in my M535i.

Electrically adjustable seats were optional but rarely seen. A sunroof was fitted to almost all cars and was usually electric. I'm sure manual sunroofs were fitted but unlike the E30 they seem to be far less common than electric versions and I don't recall ever seeing one. American cars often had glass moon roofs but these are exceptionally rare in the UK and I don't think they suit BMWs.


BMW E28 lux interior

525e with aircon and armrests (which are just superb).

The standard steering wheel was a plastic four spoke model with four horn buttons but a three spoke leather upgrade was commonly fitted. On the //M cars an M-Tech 1 three spoke leather steering wheel was standard. They were all the same diameter, I always felt the //M version should have been a little smaller.

A lot of the post-86 cars had "Lux" trim. This was an excellent grade of velour which wore well and was warm to the touch. It's only downfall was that sunlight made it fade badly but after 30 years who can grumble. Lux cars had standard rear headrests and a few more optional extras such as electric front windows. They were extremely pleasant.


BMW E28 lux interior

An inviting E28 Lux interior.

The dashboard was almost identical to that of the E24 six series and was very well laid out. As standard it was accompanied by an analogue clock but most UK cars had a simple digital clock. The onboard computer (OBC) was a popular option on the lager engined cars and provided average speed, economy, range, outside temperature and a seldom used facility to lock the ignition with a four digit pin number. The OBC mode could be changed by pressing the indicator stalk. A check control was fitted to the larger engined cars to monitor fluid levels and check for blown bulbs.

Air conditioning was a rare and expensive option and was only standard on an M5. Unlike the six series the centre console storage bin wasn't very large so it protruded quite a bit.


BMW E28 check control

Check control panel.

E28s had a very large boot which was nicely trimmed for the time. Only the M5 had the battery in there at the expensive of the handy oddment tray. Normally the battery lived just behind the headlight so moving it to the boot makes excellent sense in terms of weight distribution. It's not uncommon for the boot to be a bit (or a lot!) damp. A blocked drain under the spare wheel can be to blame but often it's the result of the tail light gaskets. The trim panels had fibreboard backings and moisture does their longevity no favours. I only realised when I wrote this that the smaller engined cars also had a less well equipped tool kit in the boot lid, they used the same one as the E30. My M535i had almost the same one as my 635CSi.

A final word must go to the genuine BMW floor mats, heavy and amazingly durable items. Even today most cars still have the originals and they look like new. If the plastic section under the driver's feet has cracked and is missing bits just cut the rest off and it'll look like new again. Even German floor mats were well engineered!


BMW E28 tool kit large

The larger style tool kit.