1994 BMW 5 Series 530i 3.0L DOHC 32v V8 from North America

Summary:

Like a bodybuilder in a business suit!

Faults:

Thrust arm bushings needed to be replaced. Not too tough. Something that has to be done eventually on ALL '88-'95 5-series cars.

Steering has a bit of wander. Probably needs tie rod ends or a steering box adjustment.

Driver's front and passenger rear windows came off track. There are little plastic clips that hold the window glass to the regulator, and they break. Annoyingly, they are not available as individual parts from BMW (gotta buy a new regulator!). But they are available inexpensively as aftermarket parts, or you can get them used from a junkyard.

Power steering has slow leak. Common on the V8 cars.

CD changer worked intermittently. Just needed a cleaning.

Illumination bulbs in radio display work intermittently. Tap the radio, and they come on. Then they go out again all by themselves. Tap again, and they are back on.

Power headrest on passenger side quit. Required a simple adjustment.

Front seat warmers on driver's side work intermittently. Only the warmer on the seatback works on the passenger side. No easy fix for this. Gotta find some lower mileage seats!

Rear defroster didn't work. Just an old and melted fuse.

Cabin air filter badly neglected and clogged, so the fan would barely blow any air... even when on High. Probably the original filter. Put in a new one, and problem solved.

General Comments:

An absolutely wonderful car!

The car is VERY fast, fairly quick off the line, and handles like a fine German tourer should. It floats down the freeway, and does 100 MPH as smoothly and effortlessly as it does 50 MPH. BMW didn't bring the M5 to the US in 1994 because they reasoned the V8 530i and 540i WERE FAST ENOUGH. I think they were right. Mine is plain vanilla white, and feels like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Since the 282hp 540i was not offered with the slick Getrag 5-speed (until later), I feel the slightly lighter 215hp 5-speed 530i is the one to have. I have driven the automatic 540i, and my 5-speed 530i feels a little more athletic despite having less horsepower.

I have heard these cars are quite safe in an accident. Hope I never find out.

The little 3.0L DOHC 32v V8 pulls hard, and the exhaust has that throaty, distinctive V8 growl that every car guy loves. Merging onto freeways, tach-ing out the V8, and rowing through the Getrag's five gears is a joy! When you hit the engine's sweet spot (about 4500 RPM) the car feels like it is being silently shoved from behind by a speeding Peterbilt.

Build quality is extraordinary. No wonder this car cost $41,000 in 1994. Mine has 200k+, and there is nary a squeak or rattle in it. Everything has held up extremely well, inside and out. The doors still open like new, and close with that dull, reassuring, and uniquely German "THUD". The Napa leather is thick and soft. Aside from a few cracks in the seats (and the 20-year-old interior styling), you would think you were stepping into a new car. Even the floor mats are over-done. Later BMWs were not built to anywhere NEAR this standard.

The original 10-speaker AM/FM cassette stereo with 6-disc changer still sounds very good... even a decade and a half after it was made. Put in a Tool CD, crank up "Forty Six & 2", and FLY! The only downside to the stereo is that it easily drowns out all of the wonderful German engine sounds.

A/C is very cold, and heater is very hot. Climate controls still work as new, as does nearly every other electrical device. Seats exhibit the typical German firmness, but are very comfortable, and are 12-way power adjustable.

The "On-board Computer" is very nice, and very useful. Though a bit crude by 21st century standards, it will tell you the day/date, range until empty, average mpg, average speed, etc. You can even program it to ventilate the car by opening the sunroof hours after you park the car. By far the most useful feature, for me anyway, is the Max Speed Alarm. This alarm can be set for any speed, and will chime when that speed is exceeded. A message will also be displayed on the digital info display in the instrument cluster. On a car this fast, it's very, very handy.

Mileage isn't terrible for a 3500 pound V8 sports touring sedan. I get about 18mpg in town and 24mpg on the freeway...if I keep my foot out of it. But she ain't meant to be a Geo Metro.

Mine only cost as much as a Corolla of similar vintage and mileage would cost. About $2500. It was well-maintained, but not babied. For that little money, I am amazed that EVERYONE doesn't drive one!

Be careful of "The Nikasil Problem" that plagued BMW's V8 cars from '93-'95. Not much of a problem anymore, but be sure to buy the right car. Do some homework and know what to look for when buying a BMW V8 of this vintage. If you find one with a good service history and reasonable miles (by "reasonable", I mean under 1,000,000) then you can hardly go wrong.

Be prepared to drop some serious money at the dealership for parts or repairs... all this German automotive goodness doesn't get fixed for cheap.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 17th July, 2011

1994 BMW 5 Series E34 540i 4.0 V8 - Quad Cam from UK and Ireland

Faults:

Air con doesn't work and the viscous fan coupling failed.

General Comments:

The power is immense, and despite the weight, it handles well and stops on a penny, even with standard brakes.

The engine is a 32 valve quad cam 4 litre V8, but idles smoothly, quietly; you wouldn't know there was a V8 until a few revs in...

I've had many straight 6 BMW's, including an E36 328i, and despite the published performance stats showing the 328i quicker, it's definitely not...

I had an auto, and that is still a good car, but the engine needs a manual box to display its full potential. It drifts easily, but in a nice and controlled manner.

Parts from BMW can be surprisingly cheap, and after market parts such as drilled and grooved discs can be very cheap.

The fuel economy is poor, but you don't buy 1.5 ton car with a V8 for economy; the car does what it says on the tin, and can show many modern fast cars up.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 20th June, 2010