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In 1991, my father picked up a stunning 1988 BMW 535i SE. The original owner was in fact the dealer, so it had very low miles, fBMWsh, and had a lot of options that I can’t seem to find on other BMW E34s. We had this BMW for a lot of years, and we would of kept it forever if someone hadn’t written her off.
I was young when I first got in this car, There was only one other car that made me feel special before getting into this one, and that was a 1984 735i. The way this car became my dads was quite funny really, he had a Range Rover classic V8 and that broke down about 6 times in the first month of owning it.
Reliability: Through all of the years we owned this car there were only just a few niggles.
The first strange niggle that happened was, we were driving the car to our holiday destination pulling a large caravan on the back. After about 400 miles her temperature gauge started to slowly go past the 12’clock mark, so we pulled over and waited a few hours for the famous yellow breakdown lorry to appear. The break down man and my father could see no issues, so dad continued on his journey (as he didn’t want to get towed home). After this point the car was perfect once again. As a precaution the cooling system was overhauled a month later. At the time it was still in the BMW dealer network so the price of fixing wasn’t cheap, but if you're like me and you can use a spanner, BMW parts are very reasonable. Cheaper than Renault at times! As a precaution when buying a BMW keep the cooling system in top condition, it's not expensive and it stops you cooking the alloy block, which is big money! Also check to see if the water pump has been done, I don't know why, but the blades in them are plastic, which go brittle and snap, which means they get into the cooling system. The Auto gearbox on these seem to be bullet proof.
After the 80,000 mile mark, when you started to brake hard there was a shimmy, this was down to the trust arm bushings going bad. This is quite common on the E34 and other large BMWs.
That is all that went wrong with this car, but that was down to having regular services. BMWs are very, very reliable if you maintain them, if you don’t care about the car then the problems will grow, and the smaller your wallet will be.
Driving: For such a large car this handled great, you could drive it quick and the back end would stay in line thanks to the traction control, great suspension, and wide tyres. She was the 3.5 straight 6 which was linked up to an automatic gearbox, so was fun on kick down. The quickist this car got to was 149 mph on a private road. The car felt so stable at this speed except for the wipers jumping about.
If you drove this car calm and slow she felt smooth and comfortable like a 7 series.
Interior and comfort.
I have owned so many cars, including a lot of BMWs, and the interior of this car is one of my favorites. It is extremely comfortable, the dash aims towards you, everything is in the correct position, every switch and panel have a high quality feel to them. It even had a mobile phone built into the center console which was handsfree. The room in the back was ok, I am six feet and could do with a little more foot room when trying to get out of the car.
Safety: This car I couldn’t rate high enough. Even though it is now an old car, this car protected my dad like a champion. Dad was cruising down a road when suddenly this Ford fiesta drove into the side of him. The car span twice and the front went straight into a large tree. The side was pushed in, (but you wouldn’t have known from the inside) and the doors still opened and closed. The engine was still in the same position, but the panels around it were crumpled. The interior was still in great condition. Unfortunately the car had to be written off with only 89K on the clock. The policeman said he was lucky to be driving this BMW or he wouldn’t be here.
The insurance on this car was pretty good, so my father used to say. It was a lot cheaper to insure than the Range Rover at only 350 fully comp.
I think these cars are nearly at the ‘classic stage’, so some of them are going to be free, when taxing them.
Parts on these cars are pretty good value. If you can’t afford the parts brand new, just go to the scrap yard, its a lot better to buy a OEM part than a pattern part. But if you are buying a safety part always buy new.
If you take a car to get repaired or serviced the prices won’t be cheap (remember running costs will still be for a £35K car) as it is a BMW
Fuel costs are ok for the age of the car, and the size of the engine. If you want a better all rounder you are better off with a 525i.
Tyres on these can be mega money if the car has the metric alloys. These tires I believe are made only by Michelin and Dunlop, and cost £150 each (a lot on a car that may of cost you £500). Many people change the wheels on the cars so the price of tyres will be a lot lower in price.
I've had many Beamers in my time (3,5 and 7) and lets face it, if money was no object I'd have a 730 any day. But money is a big object and the 3 is too wee (for me) so I would happily compromise (lol) for a 5 Series and the 88-96 model would well fit the bill. Having owned a 520, 525 and 530 versions and and older 'shark' style 1980 528I I have developed an affinity with the model.
One is immediately struck (or stricken even) by the quality of the thing. It has lovely lines and oozes an understated but bullet proof aire. My 525SE (a 94) was as fresh today as it might have been new, resplendent in light blue metallic paint. The standard BBS alloys set it off beautifully.
Inside the quality shines thru again. Materials are all high grade and the textures fit and finish present a most pleasant space in which to drive from one end of the country to the other. Equipment on Beamers is nearly all optional so buy carefully and get a fully loaded one for very reasonable money. No air-con on mine but thats not an issue for me. Everything reeks of quality. Even operating the electric windows or the lecky mirrors feeds back BMW's uncompromising attention to quality and detail. And we haven't even started it yet...
Firing up the engine it is clear that this quality and attention to detail applies equally to the mechanics. Smooth as silk, loads of kick and a lovely exhaust note to boot. Up thru the slick gears it flawlessly eats the road and has plenty poke in reserve to get you out of trouble.
The handling and ride of the 5 series is legendary and it must be the best in it's class. A total pleasure to drive, you'll want to stay in it and keep driving. With pretty decent MPG you can afford to use this as your main car but it's still smart and cool enough to use as your 'Sunday Car'.
My car is a 1992 BMW 518i. It just closed 10 years (from new) but the mileage on it is quite low as it was mainly used for long journeys twice a month. Actually this is what the car is designed for, long comfortable journeys. It's a big car and although very agile and easy to drive, could be a pain on the city. Parking is very easy combined with a short turning radius, but in the city you better aim for a LARGE parking space ... Durability is excellent as long service is not neglected.Parts and servicing are quite expensive. Interion quality very good ,expected to be even better though.. Fuel consumption ok for its engine size and refinement among the best. Seats supportive and suspension very nicely tuned. PAS is very light and even though great on low speeds, on high speeds needs calm hands. When combined with the very good grip can "trick" the driver to take easily a very sharp turn. This can result in oversteer. Beware that the car may seems light on the steering but is a heavy car. It's so solid on the road that you might think you driving with 30 while you're on 70! Stability on corners and high speeds is amazing. Feedback from the steering wheel is poor though as mentioned above. Avoid servicing to BMW try authorized garages or else expect to be ripped off. Driving position is very comfortable (2 way adjustments)even for tall drivers, room is adequate for 5 adults in total , boot lid humagus (i can sleep inside!). The brakes are amazingly good and progressive, switching gears is glitch free and fast. The clutch though is very light, engages in a strange way and has long travel. You have to get it used to. Biggest dissapointment the engine. At 1800cc and 115 hp the car needs 12.8sec from 0-60. Overtaking can be time consuming but engine its responsive even on higher revs. Safety features include airbags, abs , reinforced chassis, "submarine" desig
n for engine and zones of cotrollable distortion. Lastly, security is very good. I have fitted an aftermarket alarm though and bought a steering lock. I strongly recommend you to do the same thing because BMWs never go unnoticed! As a conclusion, this car is for the family man who needs a very comforable, reliable, stable and safe car. If trouble free journeys are your thing , and driving is one of your hobbies , this is the car. For people that need that extra punch , you better get a 520i or 525i. If you are a town person , you really don't want this car!
I have been “smoking” a Ford Mondeo Ghia X V6 for the last few months, until recently when I purchased a BMW 520 SE, 1991 H, 112,000 miles, White 4 door Saloon. I had never owned a BMW before, so I was looking forward to driving her. She turned up in the afternoon and I placed her in the rear courtyard to be cleaned and prepared. Shockingly, someone saw her there, asked if she was for sale, and then purchased her, unashamedly, and without any thought for my feelings! To say I was gutted is an understatement. However, the person, after keeping me waiting for almost two weeks, failed to turn up with the required funds in order to finalise the deal. This is a common occurrence in the motor trade, so I wasn’t too surprised or even upset for that matter, as I now got to put my Mondeo on the forecourt and drive my 5 series! THE COMPANY. BMW stands for Bayersiche Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), and was a partnership formed between two Austrian chaps and a Bavarian airplane engine company. That was back in 1916, and they produced airplane engines for a number of years after. In 1921 they produced their first motorbike, and not until 1928 did the first BMW car hit the streets. She was a Dixi 3/15 PS, built under license form Austin, and followed similar style to US Bantam and the Japanese Datsun. Many changes during the years to follow and a reputation for reliable, comfort and classic cars, kept the Bavarian Motor Works vehicle streets ahead of her floundering rivals, leading the European market and winning trophy after trophy in all the sporting marquis. 1972 saw the introduction of the 5 series, 1975, the 3 series, and 1977, the 7 series. 2003 should see the transition of Rolls Royce and Volkswagen badges to the BMW stable. That is just a quick insight into the company, for more info, please go to the following link. http://www.bmw.com/bmwe/pulse/heritage/history/index.html THE CAR White, big, sleek, sexy and very overpowering and as for the car……. As described at the start, she is a 4- door saloon, with a 1990cc engine. The 520 SE at some 15.4 feet long and almost 6 ft wide, is no small second car, nor is it a car to nip down to town in, more the cruisers car, where a subdued, relaxing feel is required. The handbook has the actual measurements at: 185.8 inches/4720 mm in length 68.9 inches/1751 mm width 55.6inches/1412 mm height APPEARANCE In my view, the best design of all the 5 series, with a long, sleek appearance. The White snow-like paint brings out the best of her looks, and the mat black grills and trim only add to her majestic poise. Colour-coded mirror housings camouflage well, the normally ugly protruding mirrors, and offer that extra protection against clipping other vehicles. The biggest disappointment to the eye has to be the wheels. A BMW without alloys is like a Pamela Anderson without……. Well, you get the drift. Plastic wheel trims, even with the BMW emblem in the middle make it look a bit tacky. If I owned her personally, I would buy a set of alloys to replace the wheel, that’s for sure. INTERIOR Of cloth origin, not leather. Although an animal lover, I like the look of leather on cars. What I don’t like is the hot summers and the sweaty feel you get after a while, so I would prefer my car to have the cloth interior anyway (salesman’s pitch coming into play!) The dark blue Hessian style seats are both comfortable and large. Almost like armchairs. I could lose my six-foot frame quite easily into her soft, but firm welcome. Staring out at the massive dashboard and steering wheel has me mimicking Scotty form Star Trek, “I canna d
ee it capin, I dinna have the pooowaaaa” Firstly the steering wheel has four buttons to press for the horn to sound, so I guess in a dangerous situation, the pedestrian would be run over by the time you decided which one you were going to press. Maybe if you put a sticker on one to say “Button of the Day” then you would know which one to use! The seat has three different handles for lumber support, angle and distance, so finding your ideal position is comparatively easy, even for us “middle aged people!” (Can’t remember who called me that, cow!) The dash has the normal speedometer, rev counter, tem and oil lights, ABS light, temperature dial, fuel level, and a digital display telling you distance travelled, distance to next service and other little gems of info. However, my favourite feature has to be the little hand below the rev counter that show you how many miles you are getting to the gallon. A Pioneer stereo takes pride of place in the centre console, next to an unused ashtray (11 days and I will have gone one year without a cigarette!) The sound system is a pleasure for the ears, and as I am a cassette man, I love to hear all my eighties tapes blasting out at me “Wild boys, Wild boys” INTERIOR SPACE Legroom in the front is unbelievable, and this is one of the few cars where I don’t have to have the seat all the way back to stop my knees rubbing against the steering wheel. Stretching out while driving is not a problem, as there are cushioned armrests, and movement is not restricted by handbrakes or cassette holders being stuffed into impossible gaps. I sat in the back to see what it felt like, and felt that I would have to shout at the if I wanted anything as he was so far away! It really feels like you are sitting on a sofa, and has more than enough room for two adults, adequate room for three. (I have
yet to find any car that can seat three adults comfortably on a distance journey) Headroom is no different, you almost feel like you could wear a hat. Even with the electric sunroof closed, your head does not come anywhere near the roof. Climate control is the icing on the cake, and makes the whole driving experience of this King of the City car, much more bearable on hot summer days. HANDLING AND PERFORMACE As you would expect from a Beemer, the handling of this car is superb. Hugs bends like a mother sending her son of to scout camp for the first time! No over-steer here, although I wouldn’t feel confident of cornering at speed with the massive frame behind you. Suspension copes with most road joints and potholes without you even noticing, and the steering wheel barely flinches as your cruising along. The 5 speed manual gearbox lets you control the speed, revs, and fuel consumption at your own leisure. If you want to give it some welly, it will respond, but so will the little needle on the fuel economy dial! Through first and second, she accelerates nicely, but not as quick as you would like, due to the sheer weight and size of her. Not what I would call sluggish though, more steady and bearable. Third and fourth however, produce a better purr form the engine and kicks into a world of her own, achieving an impressive time between 30-60 MPH. Fifth gear will keep you strumming along nicely at an average 70 MPH, returning almost 30 MPG for your patience. Otherwise, the fuel economy is a bit scary, but then no more frightening than what you would expect from a car her size. Around town you would be lucky to achieve 20 MPG, journeys, maybe 28 MPG, if driven right.
Being an accountant at a BMW franchise,when I decided to opt out of the company car scheme the make of car I should purchase was never in any doubt. The only decision to be made was which model? Taking into account the family needs and the finances available I choose a 1990 520i SE. The car is spacious, comfortable and although now beginning to be slightly dated still has style. the two litre engine has now recorded over 159,000 miles yet still purrs like new. BMW have a reputation for quality and reliability and this has been proven over the two years I have owned the vehicle. It has cruised through two MOTs, the bodywork is in very good condition and I have had no mechanical problems whatsoever. Although petrol consumption is fairly heavy, especially when driving in town (approx. 18 miles to the gallon )it comes into its own on longer journeys ( 30 miles to the gallon) It is on the longer trips that it really stands out from the crowd, it cruises effortlessly on motorways and youy arrive as refreshed as when you began your journey. For a large family saloon this is the car.......highly recommended
I have owned my 525i 24v for 4 years (1991) and nearly 40,000 miles now and have never regretted the purchase once. Reliability has been excellent one small brake caliper problem (£100 to fix) is the total repair bills for the car. Servicing is cheap (local specialist handles repairs etc.) and Oil changes are the easiest I have ever done. Economy is also excellent 30mpg + in day to day driving. The car is comfortable, smooth and the handling is superb. I have driven most of the larger modern mainstream cars mondeo, vectra, peugeot 406, laguna, Omega, Scorpio etc. and I have to say that the BMW is ahead in every area than all of these. I shall be keeping my BMW for a while yet and would only be tempted by ........ you've guessed it a newer BMW.