1985 BMW 5 Series 535i 3.4L s-6 from North America


Fun, classy ride for the dedicated driver


Repairs needed when I rescued it from its former owners:

Frozen drive-shaft ($600)

Worn shifter bushing ($200)

Rotted windshield seal ($180)

Worn rear suspension bushings ($280)

Worn front suspension ball joints ($550)

Worn drive belts, oil switching valve ($300)

Expended catalytic converter ($300)

Heater valve ($35)

Slow oil leak (add a qt a month)

Rough engine idle (probably worn vacuum hoses, too many to worry about)

Repairs after I bought it:

Slow coolant leak (clamp tightened)

Finicky sunroof and rear window motors

General Comments:

I've had most of the major repairs listed done by now, save for the front and rear suspension items and the cat converter.

At this point it is a pure joy to drive 35 miles each way to work. The thing about these cars is that they can be had for so little money, even dropping $2k in initial repairs ends up a bargain in the long run.

The engine uses a timing chain, so with regular oil changes and tune-ups it's fairly bulletproof. Same for the shocks. All the things that do go wrong with this car are *extensively* documented on the internet so you know if you can fix something yourself or how much it should cost to fix. This also makes it a good car for the used buyer to shop for, because making a checklist to bring to a showing is a piece of cake, as is looking the car over yourself. Just do your homework!! (Note: make sure the weird original metric-sized rims have been replaced or expect to pay out the nose for new tires.)

Another reviewer lamented the poor acceleration for a 3.5l gas hog. What he doesn't mention is that this engine pulls from 1200rpm without the need to downshift. It takes on the hills of San Francisco at 1500rpm without a shudder. I've never wieFicnicklded such torque before in a car, and it's a different kind of appreciation than that for pure horsepower.

Not to say it isn't quick. Hang out in the power band above 3000rpm and it's a rocket. Then comes my favorite part... nothing sounds sweeter to my eats than this engine near redline, where it's just a pure, raw snarl.

Too bad your mileage drops to single digits when you do that, though. In the mostly highway commute life I give this car I get about 22 mpg. Drive around with some spirit and say hello to about 15 or 16 mpg. I would like another 80 hp for that sacrifice... but it's still worth it.

This car handles better than any other 4-door I've driven, especially with non-TRX 215 Dunlops all around. The balance is so perfect, so much better than any FWD is going to give you. Exit ramps just beg to be navigated with the throttle instead of the steering wheel.

I fully recommend the 1985-88 535i/535is to anyone looking for a relative bargain with lots of life left and a great time offered behind the wheel. This is definitely for people who like cars and <u>who have access to a good German specialty wrench</u>. If you want slightly more reasonable, but still fun point A-to-B transport, maybe a used 3-series is more up your alley.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th December, 2002

1985 BMW 5 Series 528i Sport 2.8 straight six from UK and Ireland


Big car, big miles, big fun


No rust on the body (aside from the odd stonechip spot), but there's some holes on the inside of the doors.

Boot refuses to unlock when central locking is activated on driver's door, however you can lock/unlock the whole car from the bootlock. Very odd.

The driver's seat has worn through on the side squab - this appears to be a common fault on 80's German cars. New material is still available from BMW - impressive, but not cheap.

Inspection light is continually on - batteries are dead on the Service Inspection PCB.

Front door panel cloth had shrunk at the edges - rectified by dismantling the door panels, stripping the cloth from the backing, stretching, and stapling.

Stereo is not mounted correctly, so it will pop out to meet the gearlever during hard acceleration.

Brake pad warning lamp is constantly on - suspected duff sensor.

Gearlever tends to vibrate in second gear, but there are no problems with shifting in and out, and it doesn't jump out of gear.

Car has recently developed a recurring misfire, and can be hard to start from cold - suspected duff HT leads, although I did spray the engine bay with Gunk to clean off the dirt, then forgot to cover the plug leads when hosing off. WD-40 sprayed around the plug leads appears to have helped, but the car still hesitates at around 4000rpm under hard acceleration.

General Comments:

A very rapid car, although thirsty (20-25mpg average), and handling demands serious respect in the wet.

My 528i is unusual as it's a manual, and has a Getrag close-ratio box at that. Reverse is where first is on a normal gearbox, and first is where second would be. There's no lockout for reverse, so you need to reprogram your brain before driving or you tend to take off backwards from the lights.

Car has M-Tec sports suspension (firm ride, but feels very solid on the motorway), sports front seats (comfortable, but driver's seat is worn), limited-slip differential, and an M-Tec steering wheel (great, but mounted too low, so you can't see the tops of the instruments).

Typical German engineering - car has 150k miles, but no interior rattles, minimal wear on steering wheel rim, pedal rubbers and gearlever. The car has a full service history, so I had no qualms about buying.

Roomy interior - rear seat resembles a sofa! Beige interior has cleaned up really well, rear seats and carpets are like new.

One potential downside - the car has the original TRX metric alloy wheels, so getting decently-priced replacement tyres may be difficult.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 20th April, 2002

18th May 2002, 15:05

I agree with the TRX dilemma. You are better off obtaining used 15" or 16" OEM rims, or aftermarket with correct offset. Then you'll have a larger selection on tires to choose from. The cost will be the same as if you decided to, but new TRX's on it.

17th Jun 2004, 23:48

I found the economy to be excellent as long as you werent stuck in traffic, but then I had the taller autobahn gearing and that was only when using a sensible right foot.

18th Jul 2006, 02:50

In the boot, there is an adjuster for the central locking.

Try to adjust, and the problem with the central locking will disappear..

27th Feb 2009, 23:57

I had a 1982 733i, USA model. Misfire at idle was from a leaky vacuum diaphragm. Cheap, unapproved, fix is to plug the 1/8" vacuum hose connected to the driver's side lower part of the intake manifold. (On my car, plugging the vacuum hose didn't seem to cause any other adverse side effects.) Another cheap, unapproved, fix is to increase the spark plug gap to .035" or .040". Also, virtually every hose on the engine had cracks in it, due to old age.