1990 BMW 5 Series SE 3.5 from UK and Ireland


Not as fun as a Carlton GSI 24v, but much better build quality.


Front driver's side shock leakage.

Handling is sloppy at 122,000 miles.

Radiator needed replacing.

Washer bottle sensor fault.

The head gasket needs replacing at nearly 124,000 miles.

Terrible petrol smell. Fuel lines were leaking and needed replacing.

Wiper tensioner system making strange noises from behind the dashboard.

Dash lights stopped working.

Needed new bulbs and a dimmer switch unit for dash.

General Comments:

A great performance saloon for not much money.

Se and sport models are best!

I find the automatic box responsive and tight considering nearly 124,000 miles on the clock.

The kick down in sports mode is a little sluggish at higher speeds compared to My previous Carlton GSI 24v.

She's a heavy girl and likes to drink the juice.

I'm getting about 23 mpg on average as opposed to the 14 to 16 mpg I was getting before I had the O'2 level adjusted.

If you are a perfectionist like myself, you may need to spend a bit of cash getting rid of those annoying niggles and get your 1990, 535ise feeling like new and into the new millennium.

As the handling was feeling sloppy I purchased a set of standard shocks and a set of Boge sports springs which dropped it by 35mm.

It now sits on a set of Breyton Magic 18" alloys and the performance has tightened up no end.

Looks a lot sexier too with a clear light kit and M5 boot spoiler!

I've had no rust problems as yet and the island green metallic body work is still as good as new.

The engine and exhaust I've kept standard as there is plenty of smooth pulling power already.

Just gave it a full service and sorted out those fuel lines and she's purring.

The engine has started to leak oil though and I suspect the head gasket will need replacing soon.

Leather tan interior looks very good for its age, but front seats are a bit to firm for long distances.

I've had My 535i for nine months now and I have to admit I'm missing the fun of my past Carlton GSI 24v and the comfort of my Senator 24v.

It's just a shame Vauxhall don't have a patch on BMW's build quality.

Thirteen years and still going strong.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th June, 2003

29th Apr 2004, 10:01

I have the same model and mine also is only doing about 15mpg.

20th May 2021, 16:47

Old, but excellent review. The E34 BMW 5 series is still a sharp looking car. Best looking 5 series in my opinion. I never had one, but want one now. They command high prices in mint condition. Boss had one back in the day and gave me a loan of it for a week, a 525i 1991. Loved it, SE model with leather, still one of the best cars I ever drove. The 525i is a balance of performance and economy, anything above 530i will do less than 20 mpg, but the smaller engined straight six's can manage between 20 - 30 mpg which is reasonable. Avoid the 4 cylinder 518i - how anyone can live with its slow performance is beyond me. Wasted in this car and is not great on fuel either so what is the point. But today in 2021 mint or good condition 520i and upwards are sought after. This car is not as reliable as BMW would have you believe though - lots of electronic issues, buy and inspect carefully especially at this age. Keep it as second car for weekend fun, definitely not a daily driver.

1990 BMW 5 Series 520i SE 2.0 petrol from UK and Ireland


The best car made


Only usual wear & tear stuff, nothing major.

General Comments:

We bought this beautiful Beemer in May 1999, in July of the same year we drove the car from London (UK) to Estapona (Costa del Sol Spain) in one hit i.e no over night stops, a distance of about 1650 miles. Absolutely no problems whatsoever. WHAT A FANTASTIC CAR!!!!!!!

We have it serviced in a local garage (not a dealer), this saves an absolute fortune. The local garage even uses genuine BMW parts.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 6th July, 2000

23rd Feb 2001, 10:40

A well kept Beemer will always be reliable and although dealer service prices suck they can retrieve a good resale value, hence other local garages can service the car just as good and I prefer a personal service myself.

The 520i is and excellent build and an economical executive to own, however at times it is nice though to have those extra horses under the bonnet. But if you're not a boy racer then hey, it's a lovely buy.

10th Mar 2003, 19:04

Dear Steven,

I was "surfing"the Web for Estapona when I came across your comments on your "Beemer".I purchased a 1991 BMW 525i in Los Angeles in 1999 and subsequently drove in on a LA-Vancouver-Toronto-Halifax-Saskatoon route. The car was an absolute delight to drive with plenty of power to tackle the mountains. Since then, I have used the car in Saskatoon and it has done yeoman's srevice even in -30C winter weather. Last year the car had a rather inexpensive general overhaul/no major problems surfaced/and now it is set to go for the next 100,000 miles. It is a great machine, absolutely reliable and fun to drive. I would have great difficulty for giving it up for a newer model of any make.

George p. Konok, Saskatoon, Canada.