1991 BMW M5
6-cyl. 3535cc/310hp FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
BMW’s M Division had already created several driver-focused masterpieces during the 1980s when they introduced their wonderfully enhanced E34-based sedan in 1991. This new car, dubbed the M5, featured chassis improvements over the base 5-series E34 that included different dampers, springs and thicker anti-roll bars, all fitted by hand in Garching just as they had been with the car’s E28-based predecessor. The powerplant used was the S38B36 3.5-liter DOHC I-6 that produced a turbine-smooth 310 horsepower, which was good enough for a low 6-second 0-60 sprint and 155 mph when chasing the horizon. Cosmetic changes included a different front spoiler and bright BMW “M” badges to differentiate this 5 Series from its more mundane brethren.
M Motorsport produced 12,254 M5s from September 1988 to August 1995, with 1,678 coming to the USA and Canada between model years 1991 to 1993. North American spec cars sold through September 1992 had unique 17” BMW M System I wheels with a center brake cooling fan insert that most find attractive today in spite of many journalists’ likening them to whitewalls at the time. The 1993 model year cars displayed more traditional M System II “Throwing Star” alloys that were nonetheless more effective at brake cooling.
A new 3.8-liter SB38B38 version of the I-6, now with 340 hp, was introduced in 1991 and went into cars for most markets except North America, which continued with the 3.6-liter version for the final year of its stateside availability. The same 5-speed manual transmission was utilized throughout production until the final model year in 1995 when the gearbox gained a cog, and these 6-speed cars command a premium today as do any of the 891 Estate Wagon examples that were built from 1992 on. Some special editions included the LHD Winkelhock and Cecotto cars as well as a RHD UK special edition that consisted of the final 50 cars sent to the UK importer.
The E34 series M5 enjoys an especially committed following today that supports them online and in the parts aftermarket with most issues being restricted to motor/transmission mounts and fragile timing chain tensioners that can be replaced with a later E36 unit as a common fix.