Back To The 80s: BMW 5 Series MKIII

Thu 20th Jun 2019

When we think of the classic eras of motoring we might cast our mind back to stylish cars of the 1950s, the muscle cars of the 1960s or the super cars of the 1970s. What might not spring to mind however is the motors which were produced in the 1980s - an era which certainly favoured practicality over power, style and sophistication.

But the cars of today owe much to 80s, it was decade which brought us turbochargers, multi-valve engines and hot hatchbacks, an era of the people-carrier and the rise of the SUV. Digital displays and electronic gadgetry, were the norm as designers pushed the boundaries of of what was capable in a production vehicle.

So let's celebrate the 80s, a period of huge change across Britain as a whole, and one which had incredible landmarks in the motor industry.

BMW 5 Series MKIII
Though the 1980s spawned two generations of the 5 series, it is the E34, MKIII, launched in 1988 which is widely regarded as one of the best production saloon cars ever made.

Development of the MKIII commenced the very year in which the MKII made its debut, 1981, with Ercole Spada and then Claus Luthe leading the project. Both designers were keen to maintain the German company’s styling traditions whilst at the same time ensuring that the BMW marque was ahead of the progressive curve. So we got those distinctive round headlights and the understated exterior in contrast to a sophisticated interior which was the requirement for a decade which saw the car become a major status symbol for a newly minted elite class.

Though the six-cylinder engines put the 5 Series up there with the more powerful sports saloons on the planet, the E34 also had an economical outlook with an impressive drag coeffecient of only 0.30.
The MKIII 5 Series saw a range of different styles and engine sizes in a production run from 1988 to 1996, including the groundbreaking M5, which gave the BMW M sub-brand a huge lift by delivering an ultra-executive sedan and in some countries an impressive estate.

In delivering the MKIII, BMW had finally found a motor which put it right to the top of the executive sector, a vehicle more than capable of matching German rivals, Mercedes and Audi.

“A beautifully built, great looking, fast and safe executive express,” says the RAC’s Used Car review. “Even the Touring is set-up to drive like a sports estate, rather than a softly sprung load-lugger. The bonus is that the Tourings have a competitively-sized load bay, so they make a lot of sense, whatever you want an estate-car for.

“The '5' was never the most spacious of cars in its class, particularly for rear seat legroom, but space is certainly adequate for four adults. If you really need lots of lounging room, you want to look at the bigger 7 Series.”

Manufacturer: BMW
Assembly: Dingolfing, Germany
Designer: Ercole Spada, Claus Luthe, J Mays
Did You Know?: A total of 1.3million were produced during its prolific spell.