1 Dec 1981
You had to look twice to notice the E28 5 Series, a seriously close evolution of the successful E12.
Launched at the Frankfurt motor show in late 1981, the E28 was larger, stronger, roomier and far more refined than its predecessor.
Among its achievements were the option of four or six-cylinder engines, a standard five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearboxes (the latter replacing the three-speed autos in all models from late ’83), the introduction of the iconic ‘M5’ high-performance sports sedan and even a turbo-diesel 524td – that Australians weren’t offered, but then we were also spared the 66kW 518.
The 528i Executive sedan arrived first, in early ’82 and featuring an improved version of the 135kW/240Nm 2.8-litre single-cam straight-six that was to last until unleaded fuel requirements forced BMW to abandon it in early ’86.
The 520i badge returned in 92kW/170Nm 2.0-litre straight six-cylinder engine guise in early ’83, offering much smoothness but not too much oomph.
January ’86 saw significant changes. BMW purists gasped when the 528i (and 323i) gave way to the 90kW/230Nm 525e, a low-revving, high-torque 2.7-litre single-cam ETA ‘economy’ in-line six-cylinder engine that the press soon gave a right pasting to.
Even the 136kW/290Nm 3.5-litre in-line six-cylinder 535i flagship couldn’t appease the disappointed, leading BMW to abandon the ETA models when the radical E34 5 Series replaced it in late 1988.
At least the wealthier clientele could enjoy the dynamic aptitude of the M535i, available locally from January ’86.
In all 720,087 E28 5 Series were made between 1981 and 1987.