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BMW E28 Five Series - M5 and M535i


An early E28 M5 with TRX alloys.


There had been an //M version of the earlier E12 five series towards the end of the model's life, the first M535i. There had also been various earlier E12s with tweaks from the recently formed Motorsport department. So it was only natural that a similar car be produced for the E28, a new M535i.

But this time there was to be a new twist, a second car using the 24 valve engine derived from the M1 supercar and shared with the E24 M635CSi. A car that was to become the start of a legendary series of fast saloons. The first BMW M5.

BMW M535i

M535i with shadowline trim.


In early 1985 the first M535i's were sold to their lucky new owners. These cars used the same 12 valve M30 3.5 engines as the normal 535i and also had the same brakes. This gives rise to the big question, was the M535i a true M car or a creation of the marketing department? The only mechanical changes to the car over a 535i were the sports suspension and the standard 3.07:1 limited slip differential (optional on the 535i). I had one of these cars and I never really thought of it as an //M car mainly because it was built alongside all the other E28s and not at the Motorsport facility (originally Preussenstrasse in Munich until September 1986 that at the newly plant in Garching). Another big factor for me was the lack of a four valve per cylinder engine with individual throttle bodies, always an //M hallmark. But don't let my view diminish in any way what is a fantastic car and one I'd actually prefer to the real M5 as it's much cheaper to buy and own yet gives 90% of the fun.

Cosmetically the car wore a very attractive body pack comprising new bumpers, plastic wheel arch extensions and side skirts. Supremely comfortable sports seats with //M logos on the backrests were standard and were accompanied by an M-Tech 1 leather steering wheel and standard on-board computer. A dog-leg manual gearbox was the shifter of choice, sadly automatics were also available (another reason it's not a real //M car). The boot wore a rubber spoiler with a body coloured insert.

Specially designed 390mm TRX alloys were fitted and their tyres compromised the handling especially in the wet. They were a terrible addition to the car. One UK magazine track tested the car on TRXs and on 16" wheels and left readers in no doubt which was better. The TRX's only saving grace is it's comfort on main roads.

BMW M535i

M535i with 17" Alpina alloys.

Not all M535i's had shadowline trim, as standard they had normal chrome. But the shadowline was a popular option and included the tail light surrounds. The boot badge was a simple //M on the right hand side, not //M535i.

The M535i was never sold in the US as it's distinctive bumpers would never have met Federal laws in a month of Sundays. Also the US M30 had lower compression and over 30bhp less, even with an easier final drive ratio it was much slower. A 535iS was offered instead.

Many options were effectively made standard by BMW UK, such as the on-board computer, sunroof and headlamp wash-wipe. But I've seen cars without rear headrests and I've seldom seen one with aircon or cruise control. Around half the cars had leather in my estimation.

The M535i is a true driver's car and I loved mine. It was the perfect companion on both A and B roads and it loved the corners. The suspension was stiff enough to be enjoyable and soft enough for long distance work. Both the springs and anti-rolls bars were upgraded compared to a 535i. My car had the dog-leg box which was easy to adapt to and I prefer it to a normal gate now. Never did I feel the car lacked power and it revved eagerly, for me the M5 would be overkill but in a fabulous way. The brakes are shared with the 635CSi and on that car they're not up to the job but on the 120kg lighter E28 they're almost enough. I intended to fit E34 brakes and even bought the parts but never found the time to bolt them on before I sold the car (five BMWs was too many alas).


A very original Norwegian M5.


M5s were produced a few months before the M535i at the end of 1984. The M5 was the real deal and was built around the new S38 24 valve engine with it's six individual throttle bodies and twin cams. On paper is made 286 bhp which was just amazing for the early 80's. But the even bigger difference was that this supercar had Motronic engine management which kept the fuel consumption to an acceptable level and made the car usable even in traffic. It was a bulletproof design and was constructed to the highest standards as is witnessed by the number of M5s with starship mileages under their belts today. For the time it was revolutionary, a true everyday supercar. There was nothing to touch it.

All cars were manuals, quite right too. The gearbox used was the Getrag 280/5 with the usual 0.81:1 overdrive ratio in fifth. Final drives were limited slip and had a ratio of 3.73:1 or 3.91 on American cars with catalytic converters.

Very sensibly BMW fitted 16" cross spoke alloys rather than TRX's but they were of a unique style. The outer edge was square and had no lip. A few very early examples actually did have TRXs but by now most owners will have fitted 16" or 17" wheels from either BMW or Alpina instead.

Brakes were four pot 300mm vented at the front and the same as the other E28s at the back, 284mm non-vented. As with the M535i ABS was standard. I seem to recall the steering box had a faster ratio but I may be confusing it with the E34 M5.

Outside the M5 was the original sleeper car. Only a unique but subtle chin spoiler gave the game away. The front and rear //M badges could be deleted and often were. The body pack from the M535i was an option and was fairly popular but by no means universal.


M5 with optional M-Tech body pack.

The interiors were as per the M535i but with the standard fitment of air conditioning, black headliner, M5 door kick plates and rear headrests. I believe the rear blind was also standard. One rare option was a full leather interior taking it's inspiration from the 635CSi Highline with a hand stitched leather dashboard and other panels, a friend's car had this and it was exquisite. On most cars the boot lid lining was black and there was a cargo net on the floor.

Early cars had Bilstein shocks and 21mm front anti-roll bar but after 10/86 the shocks came from Boge and anti-roll bar was a beefier 25mm. Rear anti-roll bars were initially 14mm but soon upgraded to 18mm. North American cars had self levelling rear suspension, very odd.

The US M5 made do with 256bhp (30 less) and had a cat fitted to it. They all had the normal Federal bumpers as the body pack wasn't an option and had four sealed beam headlights which were all the same size, that's the law folks. All cars were black with Shadowline trim. American customers sued BMW for selling too many cars! 500 examples were promised but over 1200 sold, some buyers thought this would affect future values.

The M5 will always be beloved of BMW enthusiasts. It was the car on many small boys bedroom wall and was as big a legend in it's day as it is now. The mix of supercar performance and everyday practicality defined a new class of car. These M5 was made to be driven, not to be a garage queen. The lack of low mileage examples today it testimony to that.